Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff
For Lily Davis, being the daughter of a Coke executive has its rewards. For one, she and her family are treated almost as royalty in Toccoa, Georgia. For another, her father is able to pull some strings so that her husband Paul can go participate in World War II as a Coke man bringing refreshing, American goodness to the troops instead of going to battle himself, making it all the more likely he will be able to come home to her. And, in fact, he is going to be coming home to her in just a few days, a prospect that Lily is not entirely excited about. Lily and Paul were married when she was 17 and were only man and wife for a few weeks before he went to war.
Now, though, Lily is afraid that both she and Paul have changed, and she is not at all sure that she wants to spend her life as Toccoa royalty. And then she meets Jake. Jake who is putting on the town’s fireworks display, Jake who is the son of immigrant fireworks makers, who worked as an explosives expert during the war, whose father was held in a camp by the FBI for being Italian. Lily meets Jake by chance in a field when she stops to watch his fireworks and in the blink of an eye they fall deeply in love. Now she must decide whether to follow her heart or her duty.
I picked this book up in spite of comparisons to Nicholas Sparks because it had blurbs from other (non-romance) authors. As far as plot goes, this comparison to Sparks was apt, the modern framing of the story and some je ne sais quoi quality reminded me of “The Notebook” (or at least the movie, since I’ve never actually read one of Sparks’ books). That being said, I don’t think it had the same emotionally manipulative quality that the books and movies the flow out of Nicholas Sparks’ brain seem to have, which I appreciated. I also thought the story was well told, over all.
That being said, I think that “Fireworks Over Toccoa” has confirmed my belief that I just can’t read romance. I was excited about it, went into it with an open mind, but I simply can’t buy the love story. I can do romance on film, because the medium often cannot go as deep into thoughts, feelings, and emotions as books can. In a book, though, I cannot accept that they just sort of magically fall in love when they know nothing about one another. And really, they knew almost nothing about one another (all quotes from an uncorrected advance copy, they may have changed):
“I lost my brother in the war,” she said evenly.
He sat up, a little taken aback by this. “You didn’t tell me.”
Of course she hadn’t told him, they had known each other a mere 24 hours at this point! It seems ridiculous to expect that they would have the easy level of intimacy in this amount of time that she would have told him something like that.
Of course, I think this is more me not being able to suspend my disbelief for the romance genre than a flaw in this book. Even I, who had a 12 hour first date with the man who is now my husband, and who spent probably 40 hours with him in the first week we were dating roll my eyes at some of the professions of love and inability to live without the other.
If you like romance novels – or at least can suspend your eye rolls long enough to buy into love-at-first-sight romances – you might really enjoy this book, but it didn’t quite do it for me.