As World War II comes to a close, a young woman finds her soul mate, while waiting for the return of her husband from the front lines.
Stepakoff, a screenwriter and producer (The Wonder Years, Dawson’s Creek) brings his considerable polish to this debut novel of star-crossed lovers. It is 1945, the boys are coming home and Toccoa, Ga., is throwing a celebration party. Lily Davis Woodward is expecting her husband back, a husband she married at 17, lived with for two weeks, and has only honey-colored memories of. A Coca-Cola executive that worked under her father, Paul Woodward is just the kind of man Lily was expected to marry: handsome, traditional, dependable. But Lily has an interior life no one suspects—beneath the Southern manners and frozen smile Lily is an artist and free spirit, unsuited to the straight-laced company life she’ll soon lead with Paul. Into the picture comes Jake Russo, an Italian-American, just back from the war, and in Toccoa to set up the fireworks display for the town’s celebration. Lily and Jake meet by chance, share a meal in the field Jake is placing his fireworks in and experience the kind of connection neither expected. For Jake, the attraction is simple; for Lily it is life-shattering: reject a house, husband and respectable future for true love with Jake. After a torrid night of sex in a kudzu-covered cabin (the lengthy, puffed-up description of which will set many a teenage girls aflutter), Lily returns to the home she is preparing for Paul, unsure of who she is. The entire story of Jake and Lily is framed as a flashback—octogenarian Lily is subtly warning her granddaughter Colleen against the path of least resistance: Colleen’s rigid fiancé. Who did Lily choose? Did fate intervene in unexpected ways? Although there are surprises, too much relies on a predictable sentimentality and the ho-hum adage that hovers above the novel: Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
A formulaic romance, yet undoubtedly destined for big things.