Nicholas Sparks,
At First Sight
(Time Warner, 2005)

Nicholas Sparks has written many romance novels. His books are always part story, part self-help guide. He knows how to tell a story, yet he will often add in bits of advice in the guise of dialogue. In At First Sight, Nicholas demonstrates how men and women view relationships differently and have varying expectations with their interactions. Nicholas also likes to intermix (what I assume are his) religious beliefs. Since the viewpoints are presented by fictional characters, the ideas are not offensive as they are not forced upon the reader as the only valid truth in the world.

At First Sight continues the story of Jeremy Marsh and Lexie Darnell, first introduced in True Believer. In the earlier novel, these two meet and fall in love right away. After less than a week, they know they are right for each other. As At First Sight begins, Jeremy is leaving his life in New York City behind to move permanently to Boone Creek, North Carolina, to marry the woman he loves. It just so happens that Lexie is also pregnant -- the result of their love-making the week they met.

Life at first appears to be peachy for the newly engaged couple. It is true that Jeremy started experiencing writers' block when he left the energetic city up north for a sleepy Southern town, but this writer has several articles in reserve to last him half a year. So he doesn't feel pressure yet. Instead, the couple works towards their wedding, refurbishing a house (which Jeremy calls a money pit) and otherwise preparing for a family.

This romance takes a turn towards mystery when Jeremy starts getting unsolicited e-mails that point out that during a prior marriage it was determined he was all but sterile and thus highly unlikely ever to have children. Is Lexie still having a relationship with an old boyfriend? Clues seem to point in that direction. Jeremy has to work through his own issues of trust as he and Lexie get closer to their wedding date. Lexie has to learn to be more open as omissions of truth can be as bad as lying.

Old issues will be resolved and the book looks as if it is heading towards a "happily ever after" ending when the audience will be thrown for an emotional curveball. This is the most emotional book from Sparks that I've experienced to date. Let me simply caution that pregnant couples be warned before diving into At First Sight.

My experience with Sparks' works have always been in audiobook format. In this case, the unabridged book was read by David Aaron Baker. You might recognize him from the television shows Sex & the City or Spin City. He has also appeared in many Broadway and off-Broadway productions. He is a decent reader in that the listener will not be confused as to what voice belongs to which character. However, I did have a problem with his accents, or lack thereof. For the most part, none of the New Yorkers sounded like they were from the city. On top of that, David's southern accent is generic at best. Having lived throughout the South and being able to hear regional differences with ease, I can definitely say that David did not get the North Carolina twang right.

At First Sight can definitely stand on its own. However, for a more complete story regarding the characters of Marsh and Darnell, the listener might start with True Believer if he hasn't already. Nicholas is a better than average writer and his moral teaching points could be considered good advice for many people. Most of his books are aimed at women and those men who enjoy romance novels. However, there is enough crossover for folks who enjoy a good, yet light, drama.

by Wil Owen
11 March 2006

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