Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff – Book Review

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.”
-Page 160

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.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
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21 comments to Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff – Book Review

  • Phew! A book I can cross off my list. I don’t do well with romance either. There have been very, very few romances that I’ve enjoyed and thus I tend to stay away.

  • I’ve read romances that were well-done, but I don’t think any of the ones that I’ve really liked were the love-at-first-sight variety. Your post reminded me of a book I read last summer where a woman starts having vivid dreams about people 200 years in the past, and after one night, she is already so in love with this man she has only met IN HER DREAMS that she is taking sleeping pills so she can fall asleep and dream about him more. I had bigger problems with Fireworks than the rapidity with which they fall “in love”, but it did engender a little bit of eye-rolling on my part, too. :)

  • I’ve filed this under “Books Jen read so I won’t have to,” as I don’t do the romance thing, either. I’m not a mushy person, and I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy into the cheese factor, even in a well-written story.

  • I do read romance, but I don’t really think was one as it didn’t meet one of the basic criteria. No doubt it was a romantic story, but for me, it was at times over written, but then other times you could almost tell that it was being written by a screenwriter as you got more of a picture of what was going on rather than the depth that I usually associate with a well written novel.

  • I enjoyed this novel for what it was, and I agree that the plot is similar to Sparks.

  • We both came up with the same feelings and conclusions on this one. Romance is just not my genre.

  • I’m still going to give this one a try, if only because I’m really curious as to what my reaction will be!! I’ve read so many good/bad things about it, I want to see for myself. I have a distinct feeling that I will have the same reaction as you.

  • yeah, I felt the same and I like romance. I just like romance that is somewhat believable. If this book hadn’t been set in Toccoa, I would have had no use for it. It did make me long for beautiful North Georgia, though!

  • This one just didn’t work for me either. It might be the same reasons you mentioned above… or not.

  • I have seen this book everywhere lately. It doesn’t look terrible, but I don’t think it is my kind of read. Especially after reading your post!

  • Well now I don’t feel so badly about my take on romance in books. Maybe we’re just looking for that author that can really articulate what goes through the heads and hearts of people that go on 12 hour first dates!

  • I have a feeling this won’t be the book for me either.

  • Love at first sight is a pain in the ass. Meaning, it happens!

    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

  • Yeah, I have a hardened heart when it comes to romances of that nature (although my courtship and yours sound an awful lot alike!). I like my romances to have just a little bit of an edge I think.

  • Your review had me giggling. I enjoyed this book, but I absolutely don’t read romance, and this book was telling me the same thing. Although I rated this one high, (I had never read Sparks), I decided I will not be going in for any more mushy romance. I did however find their romance believable, but only because the author didn’t make it a “happily lived together” ending. Then I would have cringed. But I do think you can make yourself believe that you have a good romance going within mere 24 hours of meeting someone with whom you just clicked. Whether or not it lives to be a success – that’s debatable and possibly improbable, in my opinion.

  • iheartromance

    I absolutely loved this book. For all of you who say you can’t believe the love at first sight aspect of this book, that for me is the point of a book…to open your mind to another possibility. I love romance and have read a lot of books that have things that would never happen in real life…(Twilight anyone???) but that’s what’s so enthralling about reading. It brings you to another world other than reality where you can imagine anything happening, even falling in love in 24 hours over a fireworks display.