Starting From Scratch by Penelope Janu. (2021).
**Thank you to Harlequin Australia for sending me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review; published 6 January 2021**
After a troubled childhood and the loss of her beloved grandmother, Sapphie finally finds somewhere to call home – the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill. The locals love Sapphie because she never gives up – as chair of the environment committee, with children in her class, the troubled teens at the youth centre, the ex-racehorses and the neglected farmhouse she wants to own. Sapphie gives second chances to everyone except Matts. An impossibly attractive environmental engineer, Matts was her closest childhood friend and is here to deliver a warning but now he doesn’t want to leave. Sapphie just wants to forget their past but together they discover an attraction. Can they recapture what they lost so long ago or will long-buried secrets tear them apart?
Ah, what is a true rural romance without a bit of a dramatic backstory and a little taste of drama…the synopsis of this one includes the following line which really is a perfect summing up: “Misunderstandings and injured pride stand in the way of true love…”. Sapphie is a strong, intelligent woman who is all about second chances after having a tough childhood with a drug addicted mother who died young, and a controlling father. Matts is a blast from her past who brings all the memories and emotions back when he visits her to warn her about an issue related to her father. It is clear they are attracted to one another but there are also some long standing complexities to sort out. Included in the storyline are some interesting environmental issues as well as exploring the benefits of having regular activities available for local youth in a safe place, particularly troubled youth. This is an easy read with likeable characters.
Overall: if you enjoy rural romances, give this one a go for sure.