Nicholas Sparks, Author . Warner $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-446-52778-1

Sweet, accessible, uplifting and predictable, the latest love story from Sparks (The Notebook) leaves the reader with just one burning question: Why is this consummate beach book being published in the fall? The nearly thwarted but eventually triumphant romance of deputy sheriff Miles Ryan and second-grade teacher Sarah Andrews goes down as easily as marshmallow fluff and offers about as much real nourishment. Miles's high school sweetheart, Missy, was killed in an unsolved hit and run accident, leaving him to raise their son, Jonah, in New Bern, N.C. Sarah's politically ambitious husband, Michael, dumped her when her ovaries proved inactive, and she fled to New Bern to teach, and love, other people's kids. Miles and Sarah meet at a parent-teacher conference, and the sparks fly. But there's a fly in the ointment as well; an italicized voice threaded among the happy chapters alerts us that Missy's death was caused by someone whose identity, if revealed, could destroy Miles and Sarah's newfound joy. In Sparks's heaven, clouds exist to make silver linings look the brighter. As tough truth shadows their landscape, Miles and Sarah find depths within themselves, and their rekindled light illumines all. New Bern becomes a city of the reborn. Charlie Curtis, Miles's stickler boss, learns to bend; Missy's aimless killer morphs into a healer; and Jonah once again knows a mother's love. The opposite of edgy, with simple sentences and soft-pedaled sex, Sparks's plain vanilla morality will doubtless sell like ice cream on a steamy day. (Sept.)

Forecast:Major television and print advertising and an 18-city author tour will broadcast Sparks's latest from the rooftops; expect instant bestsellerdom.

Reviewed on: 08/27/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
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