My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: I haven’t read a lot of paranormal romances done in the way that T.L. Haddix does “Firefly Hollow” – but it was a rewarding read for me. The biggest critique I would give is that it took a while for this story to get going, but once it did, the payoff was worth it. I really enjoyed the focus on the developing relationship between Sarah and Owen and the familial focus alongside some difficult issues in the mix. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where the next book goes.
I’ll admit I was charmed and enchanted by “Firefly Hollow”, though it took a bit of a slow burn for me to really immerse in the experience. This novel is set during the 1950s and 60s, and if it were a little more evocative of that period, more immersive with the paranormal elements, and ironed out some problematic elements I probably would’ve given this a full five stars.
The story depicts the relationship between a reclusive young man (Owen) and the girl (Sarah) and her family that lives next door to him. Owen is a shapeshifter with a troubled past and a rather complex history to him, with a family torn by his inherited abilities. He lives on his own property and has rules about people trespassing there, for fear of them discovering his secrets.
Sarah works as a librarian, has gone to college and is trying to care for her family after her own loss. She meets Owen in a rather awkward first encounter after he catches her trespassing on his property, but in truth, Owen already knows that Sarah’s been on the property because he saved her life in the guise of a wolf when they were younger. The story ultimately shows the two falling in love with each other over time. I loved the slow burn of the romance, the bit humor, and the overarching rapport between them. I also loved the focus on their families and how the tough events in their lives shaped them. It gave a nice rounding to their characters and realism that I usually love in stories like this.
There were a few caveats though – I’ll admit that the beginning narrative where the two were kids took a little while to hook me completely because it was a slow burn to get to the meat of the narrative. Also because I don’t think the period was directly addressed (apart from a few instances) in cases, so it was difficult to picture some of the surroundings and variant social attitudes of the time and place. I followed the narrative well for quite some time, and then hit another block when I realized what the ultimate trial of Owen’s relationship with Sarah would be when he didn’t communicate with her for quite some time, due to his own issues and secrets (as well as a misunderstanding). I guess for me it was a bit of a rocky conflict that could’ve been easily prevented/resolved (and Sarah is a little too quick to forgive him), but I think ultimately the coming to terms of their relationship was worth the road taken for me.
This was a romantic read that will stay with me for a while and I usually love these kinds of stories with a careful eye to the histories, personalities of the characters alongside an eye to family and to the unfamiliar. I would certainly recommend “Firefly Hollow” to those who like developed characters and romances with a touch of paranormal. I thought it was well written, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Streetlight Graphics Publishing.