I initially read this book in December 2012. It was about one month after my mother passed away. I didn’t write a review at that time. I couldn’t. (If you’ve read the book, you know why. If you haven’t, you will.) It did not mean that I didn’t like the book. That’s so far from the truth.
Instead, like pretty much every book I’ve read by Georgia Beers, the writing, story, and characters hit me in just the right way to expose so many emotions. So, yeah, I put that review to the side.
I recently drove from Chicago, IL to San Diego, CA to attend my high school reunion. Between August 2 and August 10, I drove close to 4,500 miles (via Route 66). That’s a lot of driving time. I think I clocked around 80 hours. Needless to say, I had some time on my hands. So, I listened to some audio books. Starting From Scratch (Brisk Press and Dog Ear Audio) was one of those audio books.
My name is Avery King and I’m probably a lot like you. I’m a 34-year-old single lesbian and my heart belongs to my rescued mutt, Steve. I work as a graphic designer and my life is quiet and comfortable. I have a handful of very close friends who mean the world to me, and my beloved Grandma King is my only family. Her apartment is a hop, skip, and jump from my place and we spend a lot of time together baking and drinking tea and talking about life. All in all, I’m a pretty regular girl and for the most part, I lead a pretty regular life.
Things I look forward to: baking goodies and then sharing them; spending time with my grandmother; reading anything I can get my hands on; enjoying dinner with my friends; a quiet evening and a glass of wine; hiking new trails and exploring nature with Steve. Things I’d like to avoid at all costs: in-depth discussions with my ex; dealing with children; online dating; babysitting; falling for somebody’s mom; taking my perception of myself all the way back to square one.
See that list of I’d like to avoid? Yeah, guess who’s going to hit every single one of them this year…
Beers sure knows how to write a romance. She hits all of the correct variables in the romance formula – expertly, I might add. In case you haven’t read one of my reviews before, let me emphasize something here: I love the romance formula. I mean, isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why we love romance? We’re guaranteed that the protagonist will “get the girl” in the end and live happily ever after. That’s what we’re looking for. When we don’t get it, we’re sorely disappointed – and we often make that disappointment known. So, yeah. Beers writes using a formula. But her novels are never formulaic. Each has a uniqueness that avoids the stereotypical or unoriginal. C’mon. You know you’ve read a book by an author and thought, “Huh! That was basically [Title of some other book by that author] – just with different character names.” Isn’t that annoying? Fortunately, I never worry about that with a Beers novel.
Starting From Scratch is written from the first-person point of view. I’ve often found this point of view to be rather uneven. I think it’s difficult to really get to know all of the characters when first-person is used. Thus, I find the characters to be two-dimensional and character development is nearly non-existent. Beers, however, provides the added dimensions and development through the main speaker’s attention to detail: descriptions are clear and precise; conversations are revealing without being “information dumps;” and inner thoughts are relevant and revealing. By employing these tactics, Beers is able to show the character arc for those other than the main speaker. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Beers pulls it off.
As I read this novel, I was struck – as I usually am when reading a Beers novel – with how “real” the story is. I mean, it’s not a real stretch of the imagination to believe that what’s happening could actually happen. Thus, in my humble opinion, lending more credence to Beers’ status as a fantastic romance novelist. For me, contemporary romance needs to provide me with people and situations that are possible. I know these people and can identify with them – either because they are like me or because they are like people I know. The thought that these people could inhabit the same world isn’t a strange one – the setting and the circumstances make sense. The secondary characters fit in the main character’s life in ways that are appropriate and believable. All of this keeps me inside the story and simply adds to my enjoyment.
Beers also provided the narration for the audio book. As someone who taught the performance of literature, I understand how difficult it can be to successfully narrate a story. It becomes especially challenging when there’s nothing visual – we can’t see facial expressions or changes in body language. It’s all words and voice. Beers did very well narrating Starting From Scratch. Listening to her voice for just over 7 hours was not unpleasant. The characters were distinct without becoming caricatures. Beers conveyed humor, despair, anger, passion, and so many other emotions with clarity and ease. In short, the audio book was quite delightful.
So, whether you read the paperback or Kindle version of Starting From Scratch or you listen to the audio book, you’re sure come away from the experience satisfied.