With eight movie adaptations under his belt, all of which garnered millions of dollars at the box office, author Nicholas Sparks is a hot ticket in Hollywood.

2004’s The Notebook, starring then-newcomers Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is still his most successful, and adored, work with a perfectly executed mix of idyllic romanticism and poignancy.

Since then, audiences have been treated to Channing Tatum in Dear John, a buff Zac Efron in The Lucky One and now, Fergie’s other half Josh Duhamel in Safe Haven.

With this latest story, Sparks has altered his winning romantic-drama formula somewhat, adding in thriller and mystery elements intended to have audiences on the edge of their seat.

The film opens as a bloodied young woman runs from her Boston home, jumping on the next bus out of dodge, which happens to be to Atlanta. On a whim, the mysterious Katie (Julianne Hough) decides to hop off at a sleepy seaside town in North Carolina, a decision that was perhaps influenced by the dazzling good looks of the local grocer Alex (Josh Duhamel).

Alex is a widower and father of two, and is instantly drawn to Southport’s latest blow-in, but Katie is much more guarded and reticent, hinting at her troubled past.

Love eventually blossoms between the two, however, it’s not long before a blast from Katie’s past arrives in the erstwhile peaceful village and threatens to tear their lives apart.

The mystery surrounding Katie’s previous life is fairly successful in ramping up the tension as scenes of her burgeoning relationship with Alex are inter-cut with a hard-nosed Boston cop’s attempts to track her down.

What doesn’t work quite as well is the onscreen chemistry between Julianne and Josh, the pair just don’t have the acting chops to really draw viewers in and make them empathise with their characters.

An unintentionally laughable plot twist towards the end further undermines the story and will leave many open-jawed in disbelief.

All the usual Sparks elements are in here, including a sudden rainstorm, pretty, sun dappled scenes of nature and impossibly gorgeous actors, so this is sure to be another hit at the box office, despite what the critics might say.

Sarah McIntyre