Swansboro, a small town in eastern North Carolina, is the setting for the novel. How does this setting help Julie and Mike fall in love? How does it hinder it? Could this type of story have happened anywhere? Why or why not?
Julie, at the beginning of the novel, has recently suffered the loss of her husband. He has, however, provided her with Singer, a Great Dane, who arrived unexpectedly as a gift on Christmas Eve. How does this gift affect Julie? Would this have helped you heal in the same situation, or would it have had the opposite effect?
In chapter one, the novel opens four years later, and Julie has moved on with her life, at least in part. Is she really doing okay, or is it more of an act? Is four years long enough to grieve, or is it too long?
Mike Harris is in love with Julie as the story opens, but Julie is hesitant to reciprocate the feelings because he is her best friend and he’d been her deceased husband’s best friend and the best man at her wedding. Does Mike feel guilt in the same way that Julie does? Why or why not? Is this something that’s likely to happen in real people’s lives? If you were Julie, how would you feel? Would you be willing to risk the friendship?
The novel has many minor characters, including Mabel, Andrea, Henry, and Emma. What role does each of these characters play in the lives of Julie and Mike? Why were they included in the novel? Of these four characters, who was the most important to the story? Why?
Richard Franklin goes out on a couple of dates with Julie before she decides it isn’t working out between them. Her reason is simply that it didn’t seem to "click," even though she had a good time on her dates. Is this realistic? Did Julie suspect anything amiss with Richard, or was it that she didn’t want to lead him on? How would you have reacted to receiving unexpected gifts and notes on your doorstep after the first and second dates?
Richard becomes obsessive about Julie, despite the fact that he barely knows her. How much, if any, of this was Julie’s fault? How would you react in a situation like this?
Jennifer Romanello doesn’t appear as a character until halfway through the story, yet she becomes one of the major characters by the end. Could the author have written her character into the story earlier in the narrative? Why or why not? Her partner is Pete Gandy, who is portrayed as a less-than-competent officer. What do you make of Pete by the end of the novel? Do you like him?
In the latter half of the novel, the pace of the novel quickens dramatically as the story shifts from a love story to a thriller. Did you notice this change as it was happening? When did you realize Richard was dangerous? Did you have any idea how far his obsession would lead?
What did you make of the novel’s ending? Was it a surprise? If so, in what ways?