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REVIEW: Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail


Christmas is the perfect time to start from scratch

Lieutenant Sully Jax saved his unit during an IED attack, but he couldn’t save his marriage. He can’t even remember it. Recovered from his injuries, he’s come home to the family and friends he knows—and an ex-wife who’s a stranger to him.

Lucy Crabtree was heartbroken last Christmas when Sully announced his plan to go on one last tour of duty, and devastated when he asked for a divorce after he awoke in the hospital with no memory of her. She’s finally moving on from her hurt and from losing the man she loved more than anything, and her cookie-baking business is taking off just in time for the holidays. But now Sully’s back, and she can’t deny she still loves him. But how can she trust her heart to someone who breaks it every time she sees him?

Sully might not remember Lucy, but something inside won’t let her go. With every bite of her cookies, he finds a new love for Lucy, and he soon realizes he wants to rebuild his life…with her by his side.

Dear Ms. Gail,

I’ve mentioned in other reviews that amnesia books usually give me hives because they’d done so poorly. KONK – memory lost. 2nd KONK – whew, I’ve got it back now! just when the plot demands it. So my skeptical self picked out this book just to see if I’d be able to get through it. And to see if you could pack all this book into a category sized book. When I realized it’s actually a novella, I thought, “No way in hell can she do all this and make me believe it in 36,000 words.” Well, I stand corrected. The hell you certainly did.

Starting from Scratch by Stacey GailThe book is packed with well drawn characters. True, some of them don’t take up as much story space as others but I get a clear picture of them all and would love to meet some of them including the owners of the bakery where Lucy creates tempting sugar yummies to her best friend growing up with whom she has grin inducing dialog.

When Lucy gripes about not wanting to celebrate Christmas this year – understandable given the story – Coe shoots back that every time she says that, one of Santa’s elves explodes. Coe also has an awesome Christmas wish list. How can you not like someone who asks Lucy to get him a ukulele, sidewalk chalk and a light saber pen just because he knows it will take his friend’s mind off the horrible memories of her last Christmas? I hope you have further plans for Coe. .

And speaking of horrible memories, Lucy certainly has more than her fair share. But at least she has them while Sully seems to have none of her. Their separation before his last deployment – where he suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and now has Retrograde Amnesia – was horrible for both but when Sully came home in a coma and then not only didn’t remember anything about Lucy but actively screamed at the sight of her, then wanted a divorce – that would about kill me too.

Poor Lucy’s heart has been breaking for a year now and just when she thinks she might be coming to terms with the ashes of her life, Sully arrives back in their hometown from his rehab. Talk about awkward meetings. Right about when I’m about to throw things because I hate how much she’s sacrificed as a military wife only to not lose her husband to death but still lose him due to the amnesia anyway, you toss in casual reminders of how much Sully has lost – not only mentally but physically as well. He truly is a wounded warrior. Life has not been kind to either of them though only Lucy remembers the awful secret he dropped on her without warning before he left on his deployment and how terribly she reacted.

There is a lot to process here including background information on the people, the town, the circumstances, military life and a bit about the type of therapy the doctors recommended for Sully. Yet I never felt info overload or that I had missed something important. Wow, seriously well done.

Yet could these two find some common ground or better still was there a chance for Sully to regain what he’d lost? I had my doubts at times as to how you’d pull it off or if it could be done in a way to satisfy me. And hot sex – would there be any physical stuff? You managed it all even if the denouement came down to the wire. Is there a happy amnesia ending? I think as well as could be with hope for more. Is the sex smoking? I thought so. Does Sully manage to make up for all the hurt he – even inadvertently – caused Lucy? Gawd, that letter had me crying as I read it, never mind fictional Lucy. Do I wish I’d read this in time for it to be a November rec? Sure do! But it will be a recommended read anyway and might just make my end of the year Top Reads as well. A-



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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Faye
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 12:22:56

    I’m partway through this now, and while some things are really well done, the infodumps about military life and the couple’s back story are driving me crazy. I’m skimming whole conversations.

  2. library addict
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 13:01:15

    I bought this one when it released (in the Gifts of Honor anthology with Rebecca Crowley’s Hero’s Homecoming).

    Did you read the first book in the series, too? I’m wondering how this holds up as a stand alone (though knowing me I will read them order).

    Also, there is an epilogue to this story on the author’s website. I’m not normally a fan of having to go to the author’s website to get extras, but I just copied and pasted to a word document and used Calibre to make an ePub so I can read it directly after the actual novella.

  3. Inez Kelley
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 13:15:39

    *1-click buy*

  4. Jayne
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 17:35:37

    @library addict: No, I haven’t read any other books in the series so I think it holds up well on its own.

  5. Jane
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 18:16:37

    I think I was the only one that didn’t love love love this. I did enjoy it quite a bit but I really thought the hero was kind of a jerk. He didn’t have any memory of their time together but she did. I felt like he didn’t give her enough appreciation for her situation.

  6. Kaetrin
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 19:10:08

    @Jane: No, I gave it a B. I enjoyed it but I felt there was a lack of “courtship” between Sully and Lucy. I knew why Lucy loved Sully but I didn’t quite get why he pursued her so relentlessly. He didn’t remember her and when he’d seen her before, he hadn’t felt that way. So, what changed? I get that he’d be attracted and curious but I didn’t see why he fell in love with her all over again. That was what was missing for me. Otherwise it would have been an A because I love an angsty story.

    That said, I enjoyed the writing style and I’m definitely going to read more from this author.

  7. Kaetrin
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 21:41:27

    @library addict: Oh dear lord – I went and read the epilogue and THEN I read the deleted scene of the letter Sully wrote to accompany the Christmas presents he sent to his fallen comrade’s children. Cue the tears!


  8. Writing for Carina Press = Dream Job - The Contemporary Romance Cafe
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 03:01:41

    […] It’s STARTING FROM SCRATCH, and it was a “Recommended Read” at both Harlequin Junkie and Dear Author.  It’s also wound up on two “Best of 2013” lists, Blogging by Liza and Jayne’s list at […]

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