Julie Barenson becomes a widow at 25 when her new husband Jim dies of cancer. After his death, a puppy is delivered to her house with a backdated note from Jim saying he wants her to be happy. She names the dog Singer and tries to move on with her life in a small coastal North Carolina town.
Years pass and Singer grows into his Great Dane frame. Julie tests the dating waters with Richard Franklin, a consultant new to town. Jim's best friend Mike realizes he loves Julie, but must watch from the wings as she goes out with Richard. After a few dates, Julie breaks up with Richard and Mike gets the nerve to tell Julie how he feels.
However, Richard isn't ready to let Julie go. A budding relationship between Julie and Mike is strained by Richard's obsessive behavior. Even Singer is suspicious of Richard and asserts his role as The Guardian.
Fans of Nicholas Sparks may be surprised by this departure from his usual tales of everlasting love. The author notes at the end of the novel that he wanted to write a piece that added "elements of suspense and peril" to his usual love story. Much of The Guardian concentrates on Richard's dangerous behavior while the romance between Julie and Mike is on hold.
Sparks maintains a good level of suspense and moves the story along at a decent pace. Much of the drama comes from the characters' inability to act on their suspicions. The conclusion is easily predictable from the beginning of the novel and Sparks' tendency to italicize key points for emphasis lessens the mystery of what's to happen in the coming pages.
Still, Sparks is to be commended for branching out to suspense fiction. He rises up to his own personal challenge to find the right balance between love story and thriller. Small criticisms aside, he definitely pulls it off with