BOOK CLUB: Starting From Scratch

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[Total: 3 Average: 4.7]

Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu is a rural romance with a conscience. It takes up the cause of climate change and the environment as well as dealing with addiction and the impact it has on families. Penelope Janu is an award-winning Australian author whose novels have an environmental focus and feature strong women.

Sapphie Brown has had a tough upbringing, losing her mother in an accident when she was a child and being estranged from her father. She finally feels that she’s found a place to call home in the country community of Horseshoe Hill.

Sapphie keeps herself terribly busy, maybe too busy, she teaches at the local school (living in the schoolhouse) chairs the local environmental committee, helps troubled teens at the youth centre and cares for ex-racehorses. She does much of this work at an old farmhouse which she has fallen in love with.

Unexpectedly an old childhood friend, Matts Laaksonen, appears. He says he’s here to warn her but suddenly he’s popping up everywhere. Sapphie and Matts were very close as children in South America and Canberra. It’s not evident at first what caused the rift between them but it is clear that Sapphie hasn’t forgiven him for a betrayal and doesn’t want to give him a second chance. Matts is a highly regarded environmental engineer and joins the local environmental committee. As well as the tension between them as the story progresses there is an obvious physical attraction.

The descriptions of the Australian bush are a feature of this novel, which given Sapphie’s environmental focus works very well. She also loves to create flowers from paper and has a very creative eye for colour – she doesn’t see just one colour but many shades so where most people would see yellow she sees “Saffron, lemon, amber and gold”. This recurrent theme throughout the book made me start looking at nature and considering the many different hues and shades in colours.

It was thought-provoking to read a rural romance that has such an emphasis on the environment. As a country, we must deal with the many environmental problems our beautiful country is struggling with before it’s too late Introducing these ideas through popular fiction is an effective approach, reaching people who might not normally read about these issues.

I enjoyed reading this novel and its focus on important issues only added to the story. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this enjoyable rural romance.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 978-1-4892-7878-4
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins

13 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Starting From Scratch

  1. Thank you for the chance to read Starting From Scratch by Penelope Janu.
    This is the story of Sapphie Brown who has made her home in Horseshoe Hill. She is involved in the environment committee, teaching, at the youth centre combining this with taking in ex-racehorses they all work with. She is incredibly busy and with all this if greatly affected by her childhood. She holds it all together until Matts Laaksonen from her past comes to warn her about her father, and takes a liking to her committee. He is involved in a similar area on the other side of the world and finds a place in her world. I loved how Penelope made the two worlds come together in their own way, as I initially didn’t think it would be likely. They face hurdles at stages and have to work out if they can overcome them.
    I loved that Sapphie makes flowers out of crepe paper and the imagery this evokes, especially the use of colours, which brings everything to life. The environment committee was an interesting way to introduce environmental issues to people.
    This was a good fit for a rural romance, with a twist to make it stand out a little – an interesting read.

  2. Great read, Penelope Janu’s ‘Starting from scratch’ is brilliant and puts this storyline in the backdrop of a charming rural community of Horseshoe Hill. Shame it is fictional as it would have been a nice destination to getaway! Sapphie Brown is the lead character in this book along with Matt Laakonen her childhood friend. Sapphie had a troubled childhood and thinks she can leave her past behind.
    It has depth, with interesting, complex characters and all the environmental themes weaved throughout. Penelope, the writer, educates readers about the destruction of wetlands and river systems, among other issues, without being preachy.
    I loved the setting of Horseshoe Hill, Penelope set a previous novel there as well. It was great to read a book that spends a few hours in a small town, with its quirky characters, including Sapphie’s students at the local school.
    However, the key to this story really is the chemistry between Sapphie and Matt, her childhood friend. But chemistry might not be enough; there’s a history there she doesn’t want to revisit.
    This was my first Penelope Janu novel, and I now understand why she’s so popular.
    My last book was by Karla Lane and this was quite similar!

  3. Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins for the chance to read “Starting from Scratch” by Penelope Janu.

    I really enjoy a good rural romance story & this one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the setting of Horseshoe Hill & thought that the characters were well rounded & interesting. The environmental aspect was really informative as well.

    My only little niggle was that I felt it hard to believe that a world famous environmental specialist from Finland would just happen to be appointed to a remote country town in Australia to do research. But if I ignored that niggle, the book was great 🙂

  4. An enjoyable read, it was great to have some background information on environmental issues and made the book not the standard romance novel. Easy to get into and enjoy.

  5. Thank you for this most awesome read, love the back drop of the country life with a mix of adventure. Paternal drama everyone would be able to relate to in some form but was good to see that it was solved with some help. The mental struggle that is also present in this book was overcome with each community member keeping an eye on each other without evading someone’s personal space so they are able to face problems face on, with also the help of professionals. Was good to see that farmers are starting to wake up to the environmental impact of farming & I hope that we are able to move forward to bring back how our country once was. Hope to read the other books that this author has to offer.

  6. This was a rural romance but also a little bit more. There was a strong environmental leaning and I really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of native flora and fauna.

    I felt that the story could have done with a few less characters as keeping track of how they related to the main characters detracted from the plot.

    While the outcome was predictable, the journey it took to get there kept my interest. A little bit of a mysterious back story played out till the end which was a nice touch.

  7. I was lucky enough to read this great Australian outback romance book
    The Author Penelope Janu does a great job of explaining everything in such detail it was easy to picture everything in my mind especially were it takes place in the small community of horseshoe Hill
    I loved the all the different characters that the author brings to life . I also liked the environmental issues which is great by adding this in the story line .. I really enjoyed reading the book from beginning to end.

  8. This is a romance story of Sapphie and Matt and is set in a place called Horseshoe Hill. Sapphie is a strong female lead with good character and has faced many hurdles in her life. Matt, is a childhood friend who has returned to the town and the two have history together. However the story adds more depth as the characters are bound through an environmental issue surrounding the use of wetlands in this rural town and the impact this has on the community and the farms nearby; something I didn’t expect! Not having read any Penelope Janu novels before I wasn’t sure where this would lead but it really does add a depth to the story.

    Thanks Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins for the chance to read this novel.

  9. Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu is beautiful, warm hearted with fabulous characters and a great storyline.

    Sapphire Brown, now known as Sapphie lives in Horseshoe Hill, working as a teacher helping troubled kids who she can relate to as her childhood was unsettled. She was also chair of the environment committee being very devoted to causes she believed in; especially rescuing horses that she incorporated with equine therapy to help teens in need.

    Sapphie’s life is comfortable until her former best friend Matts Laaksonen a globally environmental engineer who she grew up with arrives in town bringing sunken memories to the surface, with a message from her estranged father. They must work on their past emotions to see a better future not only for their relationship but also the environment.

    Starting from Scratch is a wonderful read; the story is heart-warming with beautiful characters that take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride, rooting for the best outcome for all. This novel is beautifully written to the point of the way Penelope describes things you can vividly conquer up images in your head. The environmental issues were great touch to the storyline.

    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins AU for the opportunity to read and review.

  10. 3.5 stars
    Starting from Scratch is the story of Horseshoe Hill’s Sapphie Brown, teacher, chair of the environment committee, volunteer youth centre coordinator and carer of ex-racehorses. Sapphie gives second chances to everything and everyone, except childhood friend Matts Laaksonen. As well as a childhood friend, Matts is an attractive environmental engineer who travels the world to see Sapphie and to deliver a warning. The story centres around a secret which has the potential to destroy the lives of people around Sapphie. Will Sapphie forgive Matts for the past?
    This is the first novel I have read by Penelope Janu. I really enjoyed the references to the environment – especially as someone who is an ecologist and works with dams! It’s not often that I have read fiction which is so relatable to my professional life.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  11. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins, I was given the chance to read ‘Starting from Scratch’ by Penelope Janu.

    We return to Horseshoe Hill for Sapphire and Matts story, I did read ‘Up on Horseshoe Hill’ and l enjoyed it but felt this book was not as good. It was still well written but I felt the back stories of Sapphire and Matts were a bit over the top and not believable. I also found it a little hard keeping track of the story. I did enjoy reading about the environmental element.

    Overall I was a little disappointed, but I did love the first book ‘Up on Horseshoe Hill’ so I think I had high expectations for this one. You don’t have to have read the first book to read ‘Starting from Scratch.’ I look forward to reading more books from Penelope Janu.

  12. Thanks to Beautyandlace for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful rural romance.
    I always love a good love story specially when it’s set on a rural environment ad it has got that old school charm and values.
    I loved all the characters specially sapphie as she feels so relatable. I loved the fact that they had environmental issues embedded to it.
    The story was very easy to follow and the book was hard to put down once started overall a great read.

  13. Starting from Scratch, Penelope Janu.

    I have read numerous books written by author Penelope Janu and have enjoyed all of these. Penelope has the ability to embrace the reader and bring them into her imagination, describing the beautiful rural setting, the smells of the fresh air, garden and treats from the kitchen. Penelope describes the complex characters and the even more complex emotions & traumas they have experienced, clearly having done a lot of research into important environmental issues and the experiences of the troubled teens from the local youth centre, all of which make for a very interesting story.

    This is a beautiful rural romance story and a pleasure to read. Thank you to Beauty & Lace Bookclub and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read such a lovely story.

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