Rating: 4.25 stars
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Declan has been friends with Jake for years, of course he would go to Jake’s thirty-fourth birthday party. Declan just never imagined that he would encounter the most stunningly beautiful man there. The bomb drops when Jake catches Declan ogling and informs Declan that the man is Jake’s younger brother, Jeremy. His very younger brother. As if having a decade on Jeremy weren’t enough, Declan worries he wouldn’t be enough to hold onto someone as vibrant and free as Jeremy. But Jake gives Declan his blessing and encourages him to introduce himself to Jeremy.
Jeremy likes the miles of muscles he sees on his brother’s friend, Declan. It’s been a while since Jeremy hooked up anyone, but he would be willing to make an exception. Or he would if he thought this Declan guy wasn’t hugely turned off by Jeremy’s out-and-proud style. The guy can’t string two words together in front of a gay man, so Jeremy tries to put the kibosh on any fantasies. Unfortunately, Jake has roped Declan into helping Jeremy with a home improvement project. Jeremy is glad for the help, but he is wary of having a contractor he believes is homophobic come into his personal space. Which is why Jeremy is taken aback when Declan seems to want to be friends. The man even goes out of his way to protect Jeremy’s home and belongings during the contracting work. Maybe there is more to Declan than big muscles and side eyes, but it will take a little intervention from Jake to help Jeremy realize what’s on offer.
Favor is a short, sweet novella by Kiki Clark. According to the front matter, the original story was available via the author’s newsletter; this version has been revised and lengthened to about 30k. The book may be short, but it focuses on a small chunk of time and highlights a mixed-signals trope that eventually irons out into a get together, along with a bit of “opposites attract.”
First, Jeremy is younger and struggling to prove himself, which seems to have translated into fewer (or no?) one-night stands and throwing himself into his work as a narrator. While his actions speak to his desire to make good on being a productive adult, his demeanor feels very playful and fun. He overshares with his brother and seems to enjoy a bit of TMI that makes Jake squirm. When he speaks, Jeremy’s dialogue feels consistent and very much colored by his verve for life and things he enjoys. By way of example, once these two finally understand they each want the other, Jeremy decides to seal the deal by exclaiming Declan can “…go fuck my brains out…” I just liked how joyfully irreverent Jeremy seems. It’s a nice contrast to how serious Declan is.
Then there is Declan, who comes across as very shy and quiet. When he initially tries to chat up Jeremy, he gets completely tongue tied and cannot even make eye contact. True, it felt like a bit of a stretch for me that Jeremy takes the lack of eye contact and trouble speaking and adds in Declan’s status as total beefcake to unilaterally decide that Declan is homophobic…but it works well enough for the purposes of creating an obstacle for these two to overcome. And when Declan begins doing the home improvements on Jeremy’s house, he is sweetly naive about what their conversations are actually about. Specifically, Declan is under the impression that he is clearly making his interest in Jeremy known…all with the most G-rated “moves.” Meanwhile, Jeremy is weirded out by Declan suddenly offering to get a beer or hang out and thinks these invitations are insincere. The only downside to these interactions is that they are brief in length and few in quantity. Given these short, limited exchanges, however, it does make sense that it’s Jake who has to step in and get these two on the same page.
Clark also adds a bit of depth to both Declan and Jeremy. Declan isn’t just a socially reserved, totally ripped contractor. He serves as an emergency foster parent for kids. This gives readers a few extra scenes to observe Declan without always emphasizing his attraction to Jeremy. Similarly, Jeremy isn’t just Jake’s little brother, he’s got a sound booth at home where he can narrate audiobooks…but it’s in a house he had to buy with money he borrowed from his mom. Jeremy’s biggest concern is that his siblings (and there seem to be a lot of them, though Jake is the only one to get any real attention on page) will be jealous that the “baby” is getting a free loan. Personally, I thought Declan’s role as foster parent played a larger role in the story and was more developed than Jeremy’s financial worries, but that might just be because it involves other supporting characters. Nevertheless, Declan’s foster role provided a sweet little scene where Declan gets an emergency placement. I enjoyed how Jeremy reacts to finding out Declan is a foster parent; for me, it showed that the character may be young, but he’s not only accepting, but in tune with Declan’s life choices.
Overall, Favor is a sweet little read. I really enjoyed these two dissimilar characters and how they overcame an initial misunderstanding so that they could eventually become a couple. There are a few very spicy scenes that are sure to please readers who enjoy on-page intimacy. And the characters resolve their cross-communication about their attraction relatively early, so there’s a good chunk of the book that features them enjoying being together and learning about Declan’s role as foster parent. The epilogue cements the happily-ever-after, too.
Thanks for your review, Camille; this sounds appealing.