Initial reaction: This is going to be a difficult review for me to write because I saw what it wanted to do, but the sluggish pacing to build up to the point, alongside the weakness of the actual "favor" that was asked didn't convince me/put a full impact on me. Though I will say the underlying story of abuse, responsibility, and the toggle that went through this overarching story made it worth the follow. As per usual, Hart writes well and has developed characters to show, but I couldn't get past the story's faults with flow and some structure/believable issues.
It's been a little while since I've picked up a book by Megan Hart, and I think this was the first time I perused one of her general literature, non-erotic titles. It's worth emphasizing that this work isn't erotic at all, though there are some romantic scenes/self-pleasure scenes that don't go into too much detail, just in passing.
"The Favor" is the story of Janelle, a woman who returns to the place she once called home to care for her ailing grandmother, Nan, alongside her 12 year old son, Bennett. Janelle has a history of tough relationships, and it seems in this narrative that she flees from one bad relationship into another potential one, considering she has to contend with her past and present considerations with the family next door. The story unfolds in layers, toggling between the past and present. It unravels a rather tough past between Janelle, Gabe, and his brothers Andy and Michael. They're all adults in the present day, but tragic circumstances color their teen experiences and impact their current relationships to a fair degree.
The parts of this story that enamored me most were the relationships between Janelle and Nan, Janelle and her son, Bennett, and even Andy with his likable qualities following a tough event from the past that all of them have to come to terms with. At first I thought I would dislike Gabe for the entire narrative until I realized why he stayed in the same house with his father and disabled brother for nearly 40 years (it was guilt, and not without a fair share of substantial weight). Even with Gabe and Janelle's rekindled relationship, it still felt like I didn't see more of their intimate (read: character) development until more of the latter part of the novel and thus understood their attraction. It was difficult to follow in places.
There's an overarching theme of confronting the past, parental relationships, and moving forward in this novel that I really appreciated. I understood, in the whole of the novel, what Hart was doing with the eye to how Janelle and Gabe both had problematic parental relationships and struggles to either confront or let go of previous events in their lives. Each event accented their development in an interesting way, and that was what I gained from much of the novel's events and overarching notes.
I didn't care for the sluggish pacing, though. Even with Hart's beautiful prose and nice eye for character development and rounding, it still felt like this book lost me in places because it was a bit *too* slow to get to some of the major plot points and reveals, so they didn't nearly have as much impact for me as they potentially could've been. It's a slow burner. I think some may appreciate that slow burn and gradual reveal more than I did considering the events that unfold, but at the same time - I think for others it may take a bit of patience to get to that point, and even then the payoff may not sit well.
The other factor that didn't really engage me was the terms surrounding "The Favor". I wasn't really convinced of its foundations, though I'll admit the timing with which it was asked and executed set the motion for the horrible events of the "accident," which drove the relationships of all involved askew. Yet, I think this novel ended in a way that tied things up not necessarily in a HEA way, but at least enough to where there are some coming to terms.
It's not my favorite work from Hart, to be honest, but I thought it was worth the time taken to read. She's still an author I greatly respect for her eye to relationships and difficult issues, and I certainly will read more from her in the future.
Overall score: 2.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin MIRA.