The Longest Ride is Nicholas' Sparks latest warm, fuzzy, and addictive romance novel. Thankfully, I didn't need the tissues like I did for The Guardian and Dear John. If you love a down-to-earth man in cowboy boots, you'll devour this story!
Told in alternating narratives, The Longest Ride is comprised of two love stories of couples who are brought together by fate. Ira and Ruth are an elderly couple who have had a lifetime of happiness and heartache, while Luke and Sophia are young and just starting out. Much like Safe Haven, there's a small supernatural twist on the plot, which gives this romance a little something extra.
In typical Nicholas Sparks' style, girl meets boy and in spite of coming from completely different worlds, they fall in love. They question whether or not they can make it work, a jealous ex causes problems, and life nearly ruins it all, but in the end, love wins out. The story is a little predictable, and I never teared up; it's commute-friendly! It's not his most powerful novel, but Sparks never fails to put a smile on my face.
I really only have two complaints about the book. Firstly, Sparks doesn't write a convincing female character. Sophia is a senior in college, a sorority girl, immature, dramatic, and above all, stereotypical. Sparks has been long out of the university scene, so I know I can't blame him too much for this, but I'm surprised his editor didn't help mould Sophia into a more believable heroine. The sorority house, her relationship with her jackass of an ex, etc. made no sense for her character.
Worst of all is Sophia's admitting to having suicidal thoughts after she and her ex break up the first time. The relationship doesn't warrant the reaction. It's unrealistic, which undermines the seriousness of the subject. It would have made more sense in a book like Safe Haven, where the character is exposed to abuse, but not in a story of a healthy, happy university student.
Secondly, Sparks hit my biggest pet peeve of them all: an unrealistic medical emergency. (I have training; I'm allowed to complain!) Ira spends most of the book trapped in a crashed vehicle, injured, and slowly dying. Given his age and injuries, he should have died of shock, if not from exposure, around the 24-hour mark. This is standard first aid knowledge! Yes, I know it's more dramatic to keep him alive, but it cheapened the story for me. And I don't see Nicholas Sparks as a cheap romance writer; he's one of the best! I'm saddened by the lack of substantive editing in both instances. Sophia's suicidal thoughts were not congruent with her characterization and clearly were thrown in for shock factor, and there clearly was no basic medical research performed to see if a major story arc would work. An elderly, bleeding man, who is dehydrated and trapped in cold car in the winter does not equal a survivor.
Regardless, The Longest Ride is an endearing and heartwarming story of couples that love each other, through thick and thin. Luke is a heartthrob in cowboy boots, and Ira's love story is as sweet and timeless as Noah and Allie's in The Notebook. A great book to warm up to this winter, but it'll also make a great beach read. This is a wonderfully written romance that will sweep you off your boots!