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The Favour

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Member Reviews

The premise of this book sounded brilliant and could have been a really interesting thriller. However, it just didn't live up to its potential for me. The book has a really slow start and for 30/40% of the book nothing really happens. It might be because the main characters goes on a trip to Italy to learn about art history and I'm not really interested in art history but to me as a murder mystery thriller, the murder kind of needs to happen before 40% of the book has already happened. I reckon the murder needs to take place early on in the book to grab the reader but this one really dragged it out. 

The rest of the book also felt really dragged out and there seemed to be lots of unnecessary parts. I did just end up skipping entire pages and flipping through some of it until I got to parts that might be important or interesting. My other issue was that none of the characters were likeable and there doesn't seem to be any development of these for them to become likeable. 

In the blurb it talks about discovering a 'far darker secret' hidden within the main character and I'm still not sure what exactly it was meant to be because I don't really think she learnt anything about herself. I gave this one 2 stars because there's nothing wrong with the way Laura Vaughn wrote. There were some lovely descriptions and did make me want to go back to Italy. However, because this is the first book of hers that I've read, I'm not sure if this book is typical of her or not but just from this one alone, I probably wouldn't come back to the author.
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To have the unpleasant central figure of a novel meet their comeuppance makes this entire rich novel of deeply portrayed and flawed (and unappealing, for the most part) characters in the rich setting of this splendid Italian city  utterly rewarding. In the great tradition of good novel writing, the denouement forces transformation for the person whose voice recounts the tale. Overlooking a crime, using knowledge of it to make a life ... perfect and almost classic (almost Jamesian) heights of achievement. Very impressive if slow going - but a necessary element to thoroughly become immersed in the proceedings - and forget the underlying focal point of motivation.
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I enjoyed the last 20/30% of this book a lot more than the first 70% as I feel like it was the only part of the book that gripped me completely. I read it in a couple of hours, whereas the first 70% took me 10 days. I found myself hating all of the characters due to their entitlement, and wanting Ada to succeed whilst also not wanting it.
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As a child Ada seemed to have it all, money, devoted parents and a country upbringing with a private school education.  At eighteen she feels entitled and resentful - her father dead and money worries meaning that she has to go to a local comprehensive and now she has failed her Oxford interview.  Her godmother offers to subsidise a 'gap year' adventure, a cultural tour of Italy and Ada is determined to fit in with the effortlessly rich clique that she tours with.  However when tragedy strikes at the end of the tour Ada sees a way to ingratiate herself into a society that she feels that she should belong to, even if it means telling a few lies.
There are part of this book that I loved and parts I hated!  Ada is a very unlikable character, manipulative and calculating, I wasn't sure if she had any redeeming features.  however there are few likable characters in the book, each has massive flaws and this makes the book difficult at times because as I reader I cared little for the characters.  However it does redeem itself by atmospheric descriptions, particularly of Venice, and a clever little twist in the tale
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The Favour is a character-driven drama where the people in it are not necessarily likeable but are nonetheless preoccupying. Set in Italy, the scenes that Laura Vaughan paints are beautiful, and made me want to visit the various different places that the students did to experience the sights for myself.

The story focuses on the central character of Ada Howell, who lost her father when she was thirteen along with the life she thought she would have. Ada's godmother gifts her an art history trip beginning in Venice and the reader follows Ada as she tries to fit in with the rest of her group; a privileged, sophisticated and cultured set, but one of them dies in suspicious circumstances.

Dark, immersive, and full of secrets and lies, I found The Favour a thoroughly enjoyable read. I didn’t foresee see the final twist.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Corvus via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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Apart from the wonderful descriptions of various Italian cities and the art collections therein, this book was turgid and borderline boring.  None of the characters were likeable, believable or interesting.  The main voice, Ada was particularly narcissistic and frankly a horrible social climber. The book is told in three parts:  part one and three are slightly better than two, which just seemed to go nowhere and only serve the purpose of the time lapse between one and three.  The finale was as lacklustre as the rest of the book.  I am awarding two stars for the art and Italian elements.
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An interesting portrayal of being on the outside, striving to get in. Entitled Ada is not a character you warm to but as things progress, the pathetic nature of her desperation to belong where she doesn't could bring a little sympathy. I enjoyed watching the plot unfurl and am still undecided as to whether the ending was satisfactory or not!
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The Favour is a wonderfully atmospheric, absorbing read which was completely different from what I was expecting.

Firstly I’ve always loved stories set in Italy. There’s somethings so wonderfully opulent and exciting about books set in Italy with all of its rich history that I alway enjoy. This book was no exception and I loved following the characters on their adventures, living precariously through them.

The character’s in this book were great creations, who I wasn’t sure I liked. They are very privileged, spoiled people who I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy with though that might be down to jealousy. I both wanted to be like them and included in their group but I also didn’t as I think I would find them too annoying. The main character Ala wasn’t a likeable person and I found her attempts to fit in quite cringey at times. I found myself wishing she would realise how desperate she seemed and hoped that the others wouldn’t take advantage. It was interesting trying to work out what type of person everyone was. Whether they were here for their own gain or whether they were innocent and just caught up in the moment. I liked trying to guess who I thought had an agenda and who was trying to be a real friend.

The story develops nicely and I liked how the mystery part of the story wasn’t the only thread to the story as it gave me a chance to understand the characters more. The story develops at a steady pace and gives the reader time to get to know the characters better. I did guess part of the ending half way through but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment and I found I had to keep reading to discover if I was right. This is the authors first adult book and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and to Corvus for my copy of this book. I think this would be a great bookclub read as there would be lots to discuss.
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I have to say that reading The Favour felt like a bit of a self-indulgence, visiting three of my favourite cites, Venice, Rome and Florence, and detailing the beautiful architecture and works of art that I love to go and see when visiting Italy. However, The Favour isn’t all beautiful and shiny, with the rosy glow of the sunset on the lagoons, it’s a much darker read, about how far someone will go to ingretiate themselves into the world of the privileged.

It is very rare in a book where none of the characters can be described as nice, all in this book are pretty much narcissists, believing the world owes them their status of wealth. The main character Ada was brought up in a beautiful statley home in Wales, that had been in her father’s family for centuries, and enjoyed the status that this brought her. After her father’s death when she was thirteen, her mother can’t afford to keep the house so sells it and they move to a small house in London. Ada finds herself without the status she had before and living in a London suburb with little money is a shock to the system. When her Godmother offers to send her to Italy on an Art History course, she sees a chance to mix with those she feels should be her peers. Ada is a complex character in some ways, unable to accept the changes in her life, for which she blames her mother. She doesn’t make friends easily, feeling superior to those she meets at school and thus is a bit of a loner. In Italy she sees the chance to reinvent herself, be the person she thought she should be if she had stayed in Wales and her father hadn’t died. Her shalowness is mirrored in the other students on the course, all from priviledged backgrounds, all rich and all with an air of entitlement, and none particularly likeable. The mix of personalities sees tension rise, and Ada will go to any lengths to fit in and be part of their world, even if it means blackmail after murder.

Normally in books based in Italy show a more perfect side to Venice, Rome and Florence, capturing the beauty and atmosphere of these stunning cities. It was almost like a modern day Grand Tour that the rich went on in the eighteenth century, taking in the art and culture of some of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, Laura Vaughan shows a more realistic side, the faded and neglected Palazzo’s the cold and wet weather,the litter on the ground, the exhaust fumes and also the dog mess; not very appealing. In this book this less than favourable setting mirrors the characters and the plot line; all the characters look shiney and perfect but underneath all are hiding something, tarnishing this shiny exterior. Laura Vaughan really captured the dynamics of the group, the love interests, the clashes of personality, the resentment and Ada on the periphery, just watching and working everyone out. The plot flows seamlessly with plenty of twists and turns that reveal family secrets, and the ever changing loyalties and friendships in the group.

The Favour is like an artistic Tromp L”oeil, where nothing or no one is what they first seem. This is an atmospheric read, not only in terms of capturing the atmosphere of Italy but also around the group of students and their interactions. As I said its not often you read a book with characters that have a few redeemable qualities, and I found it quite refreshing not trusting or liking anyone. Laura Vaughan’s writing draws you in with her descriptive prose, character development and the sense of danger that under pins the plot. Stunning settings, murder and secrets make for a gripping and fascinating read.
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I am sorry but I didn't get on with this book at all. The descriptions of beautiful Italian cities and towns were fabulous but that's all I enjoyed. The characters were snobbish, spoilt and not endearing at all. It's just a tale of shallow rich young people filling in time Iin  Italy. I gave it 3 stars for the setting, beautiful descriptions but that's all. I do appreciate Netgalley giving me the opportunity to read and review this book but you can't like them all.
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Complicated story with a diverse group of characters.The whole story took a bit of unravelling and it lost me somewhere along the way.
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I received an ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review. I found the opening salvo quite interesting but was soon hopelessly lost in the maelstrom that was Italy. The characterisations were so similar that it was difficult to separate them out - I assume this was deliberate. However, not one of the characters really took my interest. moneyed individuals who believe they deserve the palatial life developed and an MC who was only a twisted, at times malevolent wannabe. Part 2 of the book was, in my opinion completely pointless, nothing happened, the characters were planted in barren soil. The 3rd and final part did answer some questions but I felt the twist was too banal for me.

From reading other reviews - I am in a group f just one with this opinion but this is not an author I would be tempted to pick up again.

  It feels contemporary, mystery - that is far from difficult to  solve  to me
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This centres around Ada Howell. Ada lost her father at the age of 13 and with it, felt that she lost the life she was destined to lead. At the age of 18 her wealthy godmother pays for her to go on an elite art history trip to Italy. She then finds herself among the sophisticated privileged people she feels that she belongs with. She does everything in her power to try and prove she belongs. One of the group dies in suspicious circumstances and she takes this opportunity to make sure she is forever bound to this group, but secrets have a habit of coming out.

I loved the fact the book was set in beautiful Italy, and loved the detailed descriptions of the scenery and the art. It took me back to when I visited Rome. 

I have seen mixed reviews about this book but I personally enjoyed it. It was quite slow to start but I think it was important to learn the background of Ada’s character and more about the group she was with before one of them was killed off! I was trying to guess who it would be all the way through but didn’t get it right! Once it got going it was full of intrigue and deception and I felt invested in the plot. The characters aren’t particularly likeable but I’m not sure they are meant to be. Ada is the master of deception and quite cleverly establishes herself in the group. 

I also loved the ending as I wasn’t expecting it, always good when you don’t see something coming! This book has been compared to Cruel Intentions and I can see why, full of deception, betrayal and conniving characters. A really enjoyable read for me.
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This is a book with no middle terms,  you can love the characters or hate them with all your heart. They are horrendous, deceiving and sociopaths, they only believe in their own profit, anything or anyone else is not important. Welcome to “The Favour”.
There’s one beautiful thing in this book, the art, the author explains in detail while our characters take a luxurious trip to Italy, where one of the travelers dies, and the plot will get much darker…
I am used to read books with vile characters, but I think this one takes a step further and makes you wonder the profundity of the word “vile”, because I have to say that no one in the story seems nice, they all want to succeed in their motivations no matter the price, specially the main character Ada Howell. She wants to be one on the top, no matter what, so when she thinks she can use the secrets she knows for leverage, she doesn’t hesitate to start taking profit from it.
But, don’t get me wrong, the characters are horrible and this makes the book more addictive, you don’t like them or their behavior but deep inside you want Ada to succeed, to have all the things she wants, at any price, of course. This is a slow paced story, told with full details, so well plotted that you can start feeling the thoughts like they are yours, making it more dangerous and scary than ever. Because, if you, a mere reader, can “understand” the worst desires, what can a cold and calculating person do to succeed in their Machiavellian plans? There’s one certain thing, anything in this book is left to luck, everything is calculated in detail… Be prepared!
Ready for “The Favour”?
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The Favour is a reflection on art and beauty and truth (lies), pain and loss and grief. It is also about class, privilege and the things you can get away with if you have enough money and entitlement.

A meaty gap yah whodunnit, but in the most macabre way. Really masterful misdirection and suspense. Great twists. I recommend.
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Have you ever done someone a favour for purely selfish reasons? Have you ever kept a secret for someone with self interest being your reason? We probably all have to some extent, if we really think about. Ada definitely has. She wants the life that her father’s reputation would have given her, the one that she wasn’t destined to get now he had gone. Enter stage left fairy godmother Delilah with the offer of a lifetime. A trip to Italy – oh I’d have loved that at 18, just before going to university. And this trip changes Ada and her life.

I didn’t know what to make of Ada. Over the course of the book, she changes. She starts out as this innocent introvert teenager but as the story goes along, she becomes manipulative and bitchy, a self confident young woman but borderline arrogant which I personally started t dislike. Her relationship with the other Dilettantis also changes over the course of the book but I don’t want to go into that too much #nospoilers.

This tense thriller played out over a number of years shows the determination of one individual trying to maintain a friendship through secrets. Will Ada be found out? Will her loyalty be worth it? As I followed Ada through this, I wasn’t sure which way I was going to be led. I felt like I had a vague roadmap to the end but with each chapter my roadmap changed before my eyes with the landscape altering. Was this Ada’s doing through her actions or was something at play? Vaughan’s first step in to adult fiction is an interesting one. I was gripped to find out where my ever-changing route was going to lead me and it was not a destination I would have guessed!!
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Class divide never seems to disappear no matter how far advanced we seem to think society is. What if you felt you didn’t belong , that where you wanted to be was with the wealthy, the entitled, the connections the grand old houses that went to decay in the countryside. This was Ada, her famous author father dead, her Mum glad to have sold the Welsh mansion house and relocate to London. Yet Ada was not happy, as Vaughan made that very clear as she portrayed a teenager who felt wronged, uprooted and basically denied a life of privilege in the higher echelons of society.

Vaughan did not make it easy to like Ada, and I am not sure I actually did. It wasn’t that she was wholeheartedly horrible and nasty, more manipulative, watchful, aware of what was happening around here and generally being in the right place at the right time.

The art trip to Italy was her opportunity to wheedle her way into the rich, privileged lives of her fellow students. Vaughan placed her everywhere as she worked out who was the most approachable, who was the easier to attach herself to. Her golden moment was the death of one of their group, she acted, protected and held the power as they left Italy and got on with their lives.

We followed Ada through the following years, through the parties, the good living until Vaughan gave us the moment it fell apart, and I actually started to feel sorry for her, to like her. At last, I thought Ada had finally seen the superficiality of her so called rich friends, left them behind, and got her life together. But oh no Vaughan had other things to surprise us with, an about turn of events, an ending that perfectly fitted the time and themes of the novel.

A story of privilege, of jealousy, of entitlement The Favour was a hugely enjoyable, intelligent first novel.
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When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.

In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.

But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she's been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined...

I’m drawn to any book based in the beautiful cities of Italy, but I was also drawn by the premise of Ada’s inability to accept a change in circumstances after the death of her father means selling off the family’s ramshackle mansion in Wales. I felt that I might understand someone struggling to fit in between social circles having come from a working class family then through my 11+ ending up at a very middle class grammar school. However, Ada was in another league altogether, totally unable to accept the life her mother had created for them. A period terrace in London and the local secondary school are not enough for her, nor is a stepfather with an ordinary, dull name like Brian. Her plan to study at Cambridge, at the same college as her father, falls through when she fluffs her second interview. It looks like she might have to accept her more humble lifestyle, but the along comes her godmother’s offer of a modern grand tour with Dilettanti Discoveries.

Now she has to find a way to fit in with the Lorcans and Annabelle’s of this world and she has a plan for that. Ada knows all the right lingo to seem like one of the group - using the phrase ‘we had to sell up’ is a distinctive one for people of a certain class. It has the scent of ‘distressed gentry’, people who have had to sell off the family pile due to death duties or renovation costs  on their large country houses. She talks about Garreg Las as the family’s smaller home, hinting of a more distinguished stately home belonging to her father’s family in Ireland. One by one, as they stalk art galleries and churches, Ada tries to ingratiate herself with the group. Will they accept her story or sniff out the truth of who she is and where she belongs? These are deliciously awful people and there isn’t a single one I’d want to spend time with. They had an air of entitlement and superiority, but it was hard not to enjoy their witty, self-assured conversation. There’s a certain polish and charm that makes them alluring, but it’s all surface. Oliver seems suspicious of Ada, and Mallory has also been picked out as an outsider, being American and Jewish. However, Mallory’s attempts at friendship are shunned by Ada, who desperately wants to belong. To ingratiate herself with Lorcan, Ada reveals a secret; she has seen Lorcan’s half-sister Annabelle in a romantic clinch with one of their tutors. She agrees to keep the secret between them, to place herself at the centre of the group. Then, a terrible mix-up has deadly results, and Ada is not just at the centre of the group, she’s at the centre of this crime. She makes a decision to grant one of the group a favour, something you might barely notice, but it furthers Ada’s quest to belong. If one of the group owe her a favour, surely she becomes accepted? I didn’t even think about what it could mean going forward, but that’s how clever the book is. You are captive, watching each consequence of Ada’s decision opening up in front of you, one after another, like a set of Russian Dolls. 

Meanwhile, in the background, Vaughan creates a beautiful backdrop of art, architecture and soft Italian light. I could imagine what a beautiful film this would make as these intriguing characters stroll through formal Italian gardens, along the Arno or in the twisty, labyrinthine lanes of Venice. All the reference points Vaughan touches upon - such as Ada glimpsing the same fountain where Lucy Honeychurch witnesses a passionate fight in Room With A View - were my own source of inspiration for visiting Italy. Of course the upper classes prefer the more refined Florence, whereas I’ll admit my lower class allegiance to Venice. This revered circle of friends have so many niche rules and in-jokes it’s impossible to negotiate them all, without tripping yourself up. Just like a valuable renaissance painting, being one of the elite is very difficult to fake. In these beautiful backdrops there are constant hints of fakery and disguise: the trompe l’oeil frescos of the country houses; the maze of laurel hedges; the association of Venice with carnival and disguise. Even the example of Room With A View has it’s plot of a well-to-do young girl on her own Grand Tour, trying to keep secret her love for a distinctly lower class clerk she meets at a pensione in Florence. All of this imagery and reference to facade, disguise and things not quite being as they seem adds to the atmosphere and intrigue. It’s like seeing a beautiful bowl of fruit, that at its centre, is rotten to the core. This book will make a great book club read, not only to discuss these awful characters, but to ponder on what we might have done in the same circumstances. As the years roll by, what price will Ada pay and how long can she maintain the facade she has built?
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The Favour was a novel I fell into, it moves slowly but surely through an ever changing character driven drama where the people you meet are not always likeable but always utterly compelling.

Ada, our main protagonist, feels a lot of entitlement, her family having fallen from grace, she broods internally about how therefore to achieve the life she feels she deserves. An impromptu trip to Italy seems to offer Ada the connections she so craves, an in with the elite of the world she thinks she truly belongs in, but her machinations may not end well…

Italy comes to life under the pen of Laura Vaughan who writes with a vivid immersive quality that is a joy to read. She sets the reader up beautifully, letting the characters speak and their actions resonate, until the pitch perfect, unexpected finale hits home.

I loved this. It is a literary page turner with a mystery twist and one of those books where the characters will stay with you long after you turn that final page.

Highly recommended.
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This is a very well written book, with evocative descriptions, particularly of Italy.
The main character, Ada, is very definitely a social climber, but one who thinks she belongs in that echelon. Having been adopted by a member of the landed gentry and been loved dearly by him, Ada was devastated when he died and her mother moved on. When an opportunity presents itself for Ada to join a course in Italy for two months she jumps at the chance. She is desperate to become part of the privileged few on the course, not just for the duration of the course but for life. None of them are particularly likeable!!
The story is told in three parts with surprising conclusions,
Three and a half stars for me!
Many thanks to Netgalley/ Laura Vaughan/Atlantic Books for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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