A Favor for a Favor, by Nat Chelloni is a 279-page contemporary romance novel. It is written from a third-person POV, multiple-sided (kind of, I’ll explain this more below).
The author reached out to me and asked me to review her book and I’m always happy to take requests. She came across as very polite so I’m honored to provide a review.
You’ll see this book is highly rated in both Goodreads and Amazon and I was questioning my sanity on if I read the same book as everyone else. I want to say writing a book as an independent author is scary and difficult because an author put a lot of work into it and it’s sharing a piece of yourself to the world. So I’m all about supporting indie authors. That being said, let’s get started.
I also need to mention the triggers in this book taken from Book Trigger Warnings:
- Attempted rape
- Death (including teen and spousal)
- Gang rape (mentioned)
- Gun violence
- Miscarriage (mentioned)
- Sex trafficking
- Sexual assault
Spoilers Ahead ***
One of the things you’ll note in my reviews (especially when the story lacks it) is character arc. I love a good character positive or negative character arc. I’m not generally a fan of flat unless they are side characters, but my two protagonists? I want there to be growth. The story starts off in a disturbing way, from the POV of a thirteen year old boy witnessing a crime, then getting killed himself.
When I first read that I wasn’t sure what to expect from the rest of the book. To me, the scene didn’t add value to the overall story because the kid, Frankie, didn’t survive. The value add is many lives were impacted by his death, I just don’t think it needed to be done from his POV. That being said, I prefer POV’s to be primarily done from the two protagonists in the story. I do not like multi-POV’s. I feel like there’s enough going on in a book that I don’t need to read and understand five people’s emotions and feelings. That’s just me though.
It opens to Julia who is a young widow to someone who was in the mafia (she herself is a mafia princess, which you learn later in the book) who owns and runs a corporate designing firm. I’m not sure what her overarching goal in the story is other than she mourns her husband.
Then you’re introduced to Domenico who belongs to a defunct faction of the mafia and was never a ‘made-man’, but still has loose ties to the families in Boston. You learn that the kid in the beginning is his cousin and everyone believes Julia’s husband, Ricci, is the one who killed him (though Ricci died trying to protect Frankie).
Their meet-cute…is not cute. Julia goes to extricate her cousins from Dom’s night club and Dom essentially propositions her and says she has to sleep with him to get her cousins free. Okay, so that isn’t an uncommon trope, but the approach was a little cringey. Dom corners her against a wall, which is normally pretty hot, but Julia is saying no and he doesn’t stop trying to assault her. That does not really put him high on my list of redeemable. He eventually backs off, but reminds her of the agreement and Julia is free to take her cousins and scram.
There are a few more meetings like this and all of them really forceful. The struggle I had with believing their relationship is there was never a development of their relationship or an opportunity for their feelings to grow. It was all the same, Dom trying to force himself on her and Julia saying no. This is an okay tool to use once, but not three times. Most readers get annoyed with it after it occurs twice.
- The author has a lovely author voice. You can tell she’s trying to be thoughtful of how her characters come across
- Her dialogue tagging is good. I struggle with this myself
- Sex scenes are what I’d rate as subtle. I appreciate they weren’t superfluous, but if you’re looking to read a book with detailed sex scenes it won’t be found here
- This book needs editing:
- There are times when incorrect words were used, fiancé instead of fiancée
- Phrasing and dialogue is awkward at times, “Why don’t we carry this on uh in a sitting position…” instead of, “Let’s have a seat”
- POV floats into omniscient, it’s Julia’s POV, but dialogue tag for Dom is, he had difficulty swallowing
- The pacing was off in the book. There were some chapters that were seven pages long and others that were seventeen pages long
- The chapters, particularly toward the end, felt sporadic and disjointed because there were multiple POVs within a chapter with really short scenes. You’d get Dom’s best friend, then his mom, then Julia, then Dom
- There were also scenes that didn’t make sense why they were there, particularly when it went off on Dom meeting with various mafia families. They didn’t make sense to me because I didn’t see how they tied into the the character development of either Julia or Dom.
- The author used the same tool to bring Julia and Dom together in both the beginning of the book and the climax of the book, which was him getting shot
- Also, character emotional development was lacking…I get instalust in romance. It has to be there on some level, but there was no development of feelings with Julia even wanting Dom, then all of a sudden she’s like, “I love you” because he was shot? She just spent 30% of the book hating on him and not once did she say, “maybe he’s not who I think he is” nor did they spend any kind of valuable time together for either of them to see another side. The first time they really hung out is when Dom bought her a house after ONE time having sex with her…which is really coming on strong
In summary, I give this a 2.5 out of 5