In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided an advance readers edition of this book by St. Martin's Press to formulate my opinions. I received no other compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.
I read something you haven't read! How do I know this? Well, unless you read really fast, that statement is true. Fireworks Over Toccoa that I finished a little while ago was only released today.
I love reading, and historical fiction is one of my favorites. While this book isn't set quite as far back as what I freuqently read, it was a supremely interesting book on life during World War II in a small town in Georgia.
It is ostensibly a romance, and this was written by a man, which I foun to be interesting. Most romances aren't written by men, but Jeffrey Stepakoff does a great job with this book. It does have a different feel from your traditional romance type book, however, and I'm ok with that.
I will admit that - for me, at least - the book started somewhat slowly. Admittedly, this might be partly becuase I was only able to read the first fifty or so pages in bits and snatches. However, those pages also introduce four different timeframes and perspectives of four main characters. It took me awhile to get into the story and really enjoy it.
Once I got past those first fifty-six pages, I rather enjoyed the book.
Lily Davis is a twenty-year old war bride in Toccoa, Georgia, finishing up preparations on her house as her husband is due home from the war in three days. On the surface, she has a perfect life and the perfect husband, from her mother who is the queen bee of the town to her father, a 1940s version of the high-powered executive. She is pretty and wealthy, and her life has turned out just the way it should.
And of course, that's where the conflict of the story comes in. Interestingly, the main action of the story is set over just those three days while waiting for her husband to return. While over two hundred pages being dedicated to such a short timeframe might sound too much, it isn't.
Jeffrey Stepakoff is a very detailed writer. He paints pictures of every scene and person that really makes you feel that you were there, helpful for those of us who weren't alive in 1945. He is equally detailed in sharing his characters' thoughts, which helps create a real sense of connection with them. You understand their motivations and empathize with them, even though you may not always agree with them.
I don't want to give away too much of the book, as I hate spoilers for anything I am going to read or watch. Obviously, with the majority of the action taking place before Lily's husband returns from war, there is a man that Lily meets and develops a deep attraction toward. This is treated well and provided as an object lesson for scenes set in the present time.
Don't think that this is a formulaic book, however. The characters stay true to themselves, which provides for some interesting twists without feeling like things are being forced for the sake of the story. I enjoyed not feeling like I knew exactly where the book was going and instaed simply following where it took me.
The real proof for me? As I finished the last pages of the book, I was trying really hard to keep a tear or two from falling. While not the best book I've ever read, I did enjoy it - and now I need to go do some google research to see how much of the story and history is true.
This is Jeffrey Stepakoff's first novel, although he has a great deal of professional writing under his belt - he wrote for The Wonder Years, Major Dad, Disney's Tarzan, and Dawson's Creek (where he was the co-executive producer. I will look for future efforts, as I think he'll have a bit more polish in the future. He definitely has the imagination and character development to create some memorable books.
Want to learn more? Visit his website here. Or go buy your own copy of the book.