I so wanted to fall in love with Jeffrey Stepakoff's debut novel, Fireworks over Toccoa. It has a gorgeous cover of two people dancing in a field with stars. Who wouldn't appreciate the story of a couple who find each other in a small Georgia town at the end of World War II? Me.
Lily Davis Woodward was the pampered daughter of Walter and Honey Davis. Walter was a Coca-Cola executive, who had the clout to get coffee even during the war. Honey was the ruling matriarch of Toccoa, Georgia. At seventeen, Lily married Paul Woodward, shortly before he went overseas, working for Coca-Cola throughout the war zones. She was young, impulsive, and is now nervously awaiting her husband's return. But, a pyrotechnician, Jake Russo, has also returned to the U.S. from the war, and he's now in Toccoa. Jake works for his family fireworks company, and he's getting the fireworks ready for Toccoa's 4th of July celebration. And, it's in the fields outside of Toccoa that Lily finds him, after following the fireworks.
But, Lily's granddaughter, Colleen, only discovers this story sixty years later, when two boys find a jar in an uncovered lake bed. When Lily says the jar belongs to her, she reveals a past that her granddaughter never knew. It's the story of a love, lost and found.
In order to do justice to a debut novel, I'll quote a couple of the blurbs. Dorothea Benton Frank said, "Literally explodes with life. I absolutely loved every character and hated for their story to end." Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, is quoted. "A terrific story - moving, whimsical, and original, a real page turner destined for the big screen."
Fireworks over Toccoa failed to move me. Here's my guilty confession. I loved Robert Waller's Bridges of Madison County. That was the romance that Fireworks over Toccoa tries to be, in my opinion. But, the characters in this book were too young and immature. Jake had life experience, but he never became a real character to me. And, Lily lacked the life experience to make this a passionate story. It's a story meant to be of contrasts. Lily's life was outlined for her. "Along with the charms of Toccoa came a very rigid set of obligations and rules," and she was expected to live by those rules. Jake lived by his father's comment, "A moment in the sky, forever in the heart." Stepakoff tries to build his story on these contrasts. It's meant to be a romance of lost love, "A moment in the sky, forever in the heart."
Try Fireworks over Toccoa. It didn't work for me. I found it lacking in passion and depth. I never felt the warmth or emotion in the book, and the theme of forbidden, lost love seemed tired. But, the authors quoted on the book must have felt otherwise. I'd love to know your opinions if you take a chance on a debut novel, Fireworks over Toccoa.
Addendum: Today marks the kickoff of the publisher's "sneak peek" campaign for Fireworks over Toccoa. Visit www.FireworksOverToccoa.com before March 30th for:
1) A note from author Jeffrey Stepakoff
2) An enormous online excerpt from the book
3) An audio excerpt
4) Crazy awesome sweepstakes (new info!)
a. 1 grand prize winner will win a romantic picnic basket for two complete with caviar, crackers & cheese, cookies, chocolates & truffles and MUCH more.
b. 300 runners-up will receive a copy of FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA
So, take a chance on winning the basket, or a copy of the book. Once you've read it, come back and tell me what you think.
Jeffrey Stepakoff's website is jeffreystepakoff.com
Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff. St. Martin's Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780312581589 (hardcover), 272p.
FTC Full Disclosure - My review copy came from the publisher, with hopes I would review it.