From Scratch, Rachel Goodman
From Scratch, Rachel Goodman
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
** N.B. possible spoilers**
I like these kind of second chance, southern town romances – usually – but there were things in this that were too much to ignore. For me it was a potentially good story let down but the issues that irritated me.
I guess the first thing that struck me was this is a romance…so why do we only get very fleeting glimpses of Nick until almost halfway through? There were a couple of passing moments where they saw each other, and muttered a few words and then we actually got him for a few pages, but we didn’t really meet him until halfway through. Even then I didn’t really get a sense of the man Lillie loved, I couldn’t see what it was that made him the one for her. I know they had a childhood close connection, but people change as adults and when she was – in her words – crying herself to sleep every night, barely seeing him, and in the final conversation she says they’ve not really spoken for a week, he refuses to talk about his problems, his work, never asks about her day, how she’s feeling and they don’t go out or take any time for each other and I just wondered – What is it that she sees in him? He just seemed like a selfish jerk, taking out on her his frustrations because he’s too cowardly to face up to his parents about his career choices. By this time he must be 26-27 or so, so its not like he’s a teen….and Lillie quite rightly has enough one day and leaves. I had to stretch my belief a bit to get her from someone in a place where she knew no-one, had nothing, no job, no place to live and yet was in the running for partner 5 years later…but I accepted that. When she came home though – well, that confident lady seemed to go – to become once again that downtrodden girl that everyone walked over, talked over and when even her best friend who knows the whole story blames her for leaving it made me furious. What could she have done – she tried talking, he wouldn’t, she tried to find out what was wrong but he said everything was fine. She couldn’t stay there unhappy as she was, and no one can make another person happy, so the change had to come from Nick, and he wasn’t budging. I couldn’t see what else she could do – if she’d left him but stayed she’d have no doubt been bullied back to him, she had to get right away.
Then when she comes back everyone knows things she doesn’t, she’s still treated by so many as someone to just bully into doing what they want – even her dad does it. Career going great after all her hard work, boyfriend back there you love – you’re happy Lillie – but none of that matters, we think you should come back! Arrgghh… With friends and family like that who needs enemies, as the saying goes. Then there’s one of my pet peeves, common to so many US books. Baby. What is it that makes grown men, women and parents call grown children/lovers Baby??? ( and don’t get me started on the m/m books when two hot alpha males call each other Baby….) It sounds so demeaning, so artificial – it died out in UK back in 60’s thankfully, and it makes me cringe every time. Here its almost symptomatic of how everyone treats Lillie – as a child.
Those are my biggest problems, but I’ve another short rant – something that crops up too often books and in real life. Lillie’s friend parks in a disabled parking spot, saying she’s “only going to be a few minutes”. WELL, THAT DOESN’ T MATTER – ITS THERE FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED IT, AND THAT’S NOT YOU!! So many times I’ve struggled to park while able bodied people run out nimbly and jump into their car, speeding away. You can walk, so park elsewhere and leave these places for people like me who need them. If you want my space – well, I’d love for you to have my disability too….OK that rants over I’ll move on.
What I did like – and there was plenty. Lillie’s dad had done a superb job bringing her up, and didn’t bad mouth her mum who left them when she was so young. Lillie herself who was such a lovely lady, ready to help everyone, though I felt they took advantage of that. The small town politics, that’s always fun to read and made the story and characters feel very real. Lillie, when she moved away – her strength to do that, when she was heartbroken. Yet she pulled herself up and moved on – she thought she was happy and maybe she would have been in her new career, though cooking seems to be her true calling and where she feels happiest.
I hated the way everyone seemed to steamroller over her, the town ladies who organise everything, her dad, her friends and at the end even Nick. Then she started taking all the blame herself – Noo Lillie, it takes two, you couldn’t force Nick to talk, make him change, only do what you did – and you go girl. If she’d stayed they’d have become a bitter, unhappy pair IMO and she did them both a favour by leaving. I like women to show strength, to do what’s right for them and not what’s easiest or what everyone else thinks is right. It seemed like the whole town – even her dad – treated her as though they knew best for her, and her opinions were irrelevant. As it happened things worked out, but I think they needed that distance. By the end I’d got to like Nick, understood him more and even though the rest still seemed to blame Lillie for everything, he understood and accepted he was wrong too – very, very wrong. I like to think they’d be a stronger couple because of it, that he now knows Lillie isn’t a doormat but an equal, and needs equal respect.
So overall a mixed review – there were parts I really enjoyed, seeing the town in action, the cooking, the trivia nights, the charity events, and of course the chemistry that had never left Nick and Lillie, but the bits that annoyed me won over – that’s a shame, but as ever its a personal view, and everyone sees things differently. Maybe its partly that its set in small town US, where life is so different to UK? I don’t know…Though I live in a small village I’ve never had that kind of close connection with childhood friends into adulthood, and we don’t have on-going village events where everyone joins in and knows each other.
Stars: Two and a half, there were parts I really enjoyed and if it wasn’t for Lillie being blamed, and taking the blame I’d have gone higher but I just couldn’t get past that bit. Nick wasn’t blameless and yet it appeared everyone else thought he was – I think its a dangerous message to give.
ARC provided by Netgalley and publisher