From Scratch: Review
From Scratch is the story of Sea Port, a tiny town, nowhere near the sea, that is in economic decline. To combat that decline, the Mayor offers low cost housing and advantageous loans to people willing to open a business in the town. Mary Woods, a college professor miserable with her current life, takes a leap of faith and moves to Sea Port to open a bakery. While she doesn’t have any formal baking training or business education, she does have her grandmother’s recipes, the ability to research and work hard, and some very dedicated friends. Taking some donuts to introduce herself to the police force, she meets a police officer, Miguel Santos, and the fire chief, William Knox. Santos and Knox know each from their time in the Marines, where Knox was Santos’ Sergeant. Knox convinced Santos to take a job in Sea Port. The three are obviously smitten with each other and quickly form a polyamorous relationship.
From Scratch is a novella, and its pacing is a bit slow at the beginning as the author takes her time introducing all her characters. Mary is a large woman. (This is one of the few times I could view the cover model as the main character. It's a really well-chosen cover.) She’s finding herself again after losing who she once was under the stress and pressures of academia. The Mary she rediscovers is decisive, sexy, and a good communicator. Miguel Santos is a caretaker, empathetic, and has a strong sense of responsibility. William Knox is nurturing, charming, and honorable. Knox had a traumatic childhood, and I don’t think the novella was long enough to give the reader enough for that. It reads more like an easy way to develop emotional intimacy in the relationship.
Still, the characters are mostly well fleshed out, particularly Mary, but their relationship is a bit too quickly paced. It would have been better if the relationship and plot had developed simultaneously with the characters' introductions, but the beginning is dedicated solely to introducing the characters and then having them bump into each other. The middle of the book is covers the growth of their relationship. The end is just drama tacked on that I don’t feel fit into the novella. The off pacing keeps this book at three stars, because the characters and their relationship are a solid, adorable four.
Since this is a book about a baker, I’m gonna use a baking analogy. From Scratch is whipped cream. It's light, smooth, sweet, and satisfies a particular craving. Jackson goes out of her way to let the reader know that this isn’t going to be a narrative of Mary trying and failing to choose a man, or that Santos and Knox are just going to reluctantly share Mary. It's explicitly made clear that this is a healthy poly relationship, with everyone in love with everyone and happy about it. The chemistry between the characters is very well done and believable. The sex scenes are kept simple enough that the reader can figure out what’s happening, but explicit enough to be quite steamy.
I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t mention my two favorite parts. Mary has a cat. The cat’s name is Cat-leen Cleaver. I laughed aloud when I read that. My other favorite thing is that Mary has healthy, adult women friends. Leah, Keisha, and Dominique only appear in the story over the phone in two different conference calls, but they are a clear influence on Mary. Too often other women are only in romance novels as competition or sisters, so I was thoroughly pleased to see actual friendship in From Scratch.