I saw Nicholas Sparks being interviewed on TV the other day and this book was plugged. I immediately pre-ordered it on my Kindle and impatiently awaited its release. Sparks was inspired by a place called Black Mountain College which was an art school that housed many breakthrough 20th century artists. As per the norm for Sparks novels, this is going to become a movie and according to IMDb it is due out in February 2015.
I really liked how the two stories that unfold are that of a younger couple and an older couple. It shows a lot of similarities and it was nice to read about an relationship beginning and another of a sixty year marriage. This book was much better than I expected and I couldn't stop reading it. On the whole, I find Nicholas Sparks books to be a bit hit-and-miss. I adored The Last Song and The Notebook but The Best of Me bored me to tears. I think as an author of romance novels it's challenging to come up with an original story and avoid cliche.
Sophia is an arts student still facing problems with her cheating ex-boyfriend, and then she meets Luke. Luke is a bullfighter who risks his life in the hope to win big and be able to save his family's ranch. Sophia and Luke quickly and easily fall for each other and are soon inseparable. Meanwhile an elderly man called Ira is stuck in his car after he slid off the road and holds little hope of salvation as the snow makes his vehicle near invisible. Luke confesses to Sophia that he had a bad fall off a bull a couple of years ago and the bull nearly killed him. He was in hospital for months and a plate was put in his head. The doctors warned him that if he was thrown again, he would probably die. Sophia begs him to stop riding, and refuses to stay with him if he doesn't, but Luke refuses. Ira starts seeing his wife - who died nine year ago - and lives through with her the ups and downs of his marriage. His wife adored art and on their honeymoon they visited Black Mountain College and Ira bought her some art pieces. That was the beginning of their art collection. They bought thousands of paintings over the course of their marriage, and even though they are worth a fortune, Ira cannot bear to part with them as they remind him of his beloved Ruth. Luke comes back and sees Sophia and the pair stay in a cabin in the wilderness. On the drive, they see Ira's car and call an ambulance. They wait to hear news at the hospital and when they see Ira, he thinks that Sophia is his Ruth and gets her to read a beautiful letter that he wrote for his wife - as he did on every one of their anniversaries. Ira dies and as he organised, all the paintings are to be auctioned off and the proceeds given to various charities. Sophia asks Luke to come with her to the auction to see the art. The first painting up for auction is an amateur painting of Ira's wife done by one of her primary school students. It's laughed at, and then for four hundred dollars, Luke buys it for Sophia. The auction is cancelled and it is revealed that whoever bought the first piece gets the whole collection. The ranch is saved. Luke confesses to Sophia, that he won his ride and on the same bull that nearly killed him. The prize was a new ute and Sophia asks him where it is. Luke says he didn't want it and go the cash and bought something else instead. It's a wedding ring and he proposes to Sophia.