Format: paperback galley proof 260 pgs
Characters: Lily Davis Woodward, Jake Russo, Andrew Woodward
Subject: love, duty, relationships, fireworks
Setting: Toccoa Georgia 1945, 2007
Source: Advanced Review Copy from St Martin's Press (Thomas Dunne Books)
Married for just a few weeks before her husband Drew left to go overseas during the war, Lily Davis Woodward, daughter of a wealthy Coca Cola executive, has waited three long years to take her place in society. Now just a few days before his scheduled return, she meets Jake Russo, war veteran and pyrotechnic engineer. He is preparing a huge fireworks show to honor the returning servicemen.
When they meet, love happens-- slowly, tentatively, tenderly and then with same explosiveness of Jake's fireworks.
In understated, elegant, exquisite prose, Stepakoff presents us with a painful, tragic, gorgeous, affirming love affair. The character development of Lily and Jake, as well as the presentation of Lily's parents and other supporting characters, gives us a picture of longing, duty, relationships, and heartbreaking honesty. Lily's dad for instance says to her when he suspects she's conflicted about her husband's return:
"I have been married to the same woman at least five times. Marriage comes in phases. Some good, some not so good. But you work through things, and you grow, and you change, and you stick by the decision that you made, even when you were seventeen. That is your duty." (pg. 178)
The searing anguish of these star-struck lovers reaches its peak when Lily must choose whether to leave her home and roam the world with Jake shooting fireworks, or stay with her husband. The resolution of her dilemma is heart rending but almost inevitable. I will not spoil it for other readers.
This is simply one of the best love stories I've read in my adult life.