When confronted by raging fires or deadly accidents, volunteer fireman Taylor McAden feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives. But there is one leap of faith Taylor can't bring himself to make: he can't fall in love. For all his adult years, Taylor has sought out women who need to be rescued, women he leaves as soon as their crisis is over and the relationship starts to become truly intimate. When a raging storm hits his small Southern town, single mother Denise Holton's car skids off the road. The young mom is with her four-year-old son, Kyle, a boy with severe learning disabilities and for whom she has sacrificed everything. Taylor McAden finds her unconscious and bleeding, but does not find Kyle. When Denise wakes, the chilling truth becomes clear to both of them: Kyle is gone. During the search for Kyle, the connection between Taylor and Denise takes root. Taylor doesn't know that this rescue will be different from all the others, demanding far more than raw physical courage. It will lead him to the possibility of his own rescue from a life lived without love and will require him to open doors to his past that were slammed shut by pain. This rescue will dare him to live life to the fullest by daring to love.
Denise Holden's life is a fragile mix of luck and hard work. A single mom of a speech-delayed son, Denise makes ends meet by moving to the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, and working the late shift as a waitress. When Denise crashes her car and her son Kyle flees the accident and disappears into the storm, her only stroke of luck is the quick arrival of Taylor McAden, a volunteer fireman. Taylor's got a knack for fixing people, and he can't help wanting to be involved with Denise beyond the initial rescue of Kyle.
As Taylor helps Denise recover from the accident and get to know the town, they discover a sweet bond and a magical chemistry that pulls them closer and closer. Though Taylor fits perfectly into Denise's family, he's unable to open his heart to being loved by her. As Taylor struggles to understand his conflicting desires, Denise questions the wisdom of gambling with Kyle's and her own emotions.
Author Nicholas Sparks has found a loyal audience for his stories about the internal battles that accompany the arrival of love. His heroes may be truck-driving manly men and his heroines emotional swamis, but it's easy to overlook the traditional roles when the complexities of human relationships are so beautifully described. Sparks has found his forte, and this novel is sure to be as popular as his earlier works. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien