Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "A Simple Favor" by Darcey Bell, Served with a Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich

On today's TLC Book Tours stop, I'm reviewing the debut domestic psychological thriller, A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell and I'm pairing it with a simple and delicious Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead.

The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper (March 21, 2017)

My Review: 

I like a good psychological thriller and A Simple Favor came along at a good time for me, having just read a spate of World War II fiction--for review and for pleasure, I wanted something less sad and where I wasn't personally invested in the welfare happiness of the characters. In this book, similar to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train that the blurb compares it to, the characters are of the unlikable kind, making it easy for me to not worry overly much about them and just go along for the bumpy ride they are on. 

The story is told in three parts the first is solely from the perspective of single mother Stephanie and much is from her Mommy blog posts, in the second part, her missing best friend Emily weighs in, and in the third, Emily's husband Sean's perspective is added. Stephanie hides a lot of secrets behind her Mommy blog perfect persona--including one with a definite 'ick factor' that I won't go into here for fear of spoilers. I found Stephanie's chirpy and overly self-serving blog posts pretty annoying (Hah! I am sure there are people who think my blog posts are annoying) although they were useful in setting the stage for the story and the contrast with the sections of her private thoughts uncovers the big differences between Stephanie in real life and Stephanie online. Emily also has secrets galore and is, to put it mildly, not a very nice person at all--although definitely the most intriguing of the three main characters. Sean is basically an idiot and when Stephanie and Sean's relationship changes, it's hard not to want to wash your hands of all three of them, worry for the future for their young children, and be glad you aren't in their 'friendship circle.' Emily's chapters were the most interesting and added the most tension to the story--wondering what she would do next kept me going. Personally, I wanted the book to have a few more twists that I didn't see coming. Secrets were revealed, but there were no big surprises waiting for me or the solid (pardon my French) WTF? moment that I truly wanted.

 A Simple Favor is the debut novel for this author and I think she shows a lot of promise. Although it wasn't a total win for me, it is a quick read and it was a good diversion that kept me engaged. If you like this kind of mystery thriller that leans a bit toward secrets and darker side of suburban family life, it is worth adding to your TBR stack.


Author Notes: 

Darcey Bell was born in 1981 and raised on a dairy farm in western Iowa. She is a preschool teacher in Chicago. A Simple Favor is her first novel.
Follow Darcey on Twitter.

Food Inspiration:

There is food in A Simple Plan. Stephanie is a opportunistic vegetarian (for a reason revealed in her story) but cooks burgers for others and she succumbs to cooking and eating Sean's overcooked meat and potatoes dinners. There was mention of veggie burgers, a double bourbon, steak, beer, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, eggplant parmesan, Korean tofu stew, a well-done veal chop, pasta, microwaved baked potato skins at a hotel bar, white wine, a martini straight up, and a dinner of crusty perfect mac and cheese.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to combine a grilled cheese sandwich that Emily orders and Stephanie copies and guacamole--when he is missing his mom and fighting against Stephanie, Emily's son Nicky refuses to eat anything but guacamole and chips. I decided to put the guacamole into the grilled cheese for a tasty sandwich. 

This is a simple recipe that you can adapt to what you have on hand or what you like. I prefer a bit of spice and acidity with all of the creamy cheesiness and guacamole so I added a bit of cayenne or jalapeño to my guacamole, lots of lime juice, and used pepper jack cheese. 

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 1)

2 slices bread, I used seeded whole grain
1 to 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
2-3 slices of your favorite melty cheese (I used sharp cheddar and pepperjack)

3 Tbsp guacamole

Start heating a non-stick pan on medium-low. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on one slice of bread and place the bread mayonnaise-side down in the pan. Add the half of the cheese and spread guacamole evenly on top. Add the remaining cheese and
spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the other slice of bread and place it on top of the cheese, mayonnaise-side up. 

Cook the sandwich for a few minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to compress the filling slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

Notes/Results: If you like guacamole and you like grilled cheese, you will enjoy this sandwich. It is decadent comfort food at its best. I don't skimp on the guacamole so it is a bit messy but very good. I served mine with extra guacamole and some sweet potato tortilla chips. I would happily make this again.

I'm linking up this tasty sandwich to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup  

I'm also linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of the "A Simple Favor" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins, and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. I've never thought of putting guacamole into a grilled cheese sandwich but it sounds like an incredibly delicious idea! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. What a great sandwich inspiration! I want to try that now. Not sure about the book though, thanks for the honesty.

  3. What an interesting combination! Will have to try that next time.

  4. Ok I'm up for trying this one! Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  5. Like Heather, I have never ever thought of making a grilled guacamole toastie - but now that you've planted the seed, the next time I make a homemade gauc, I will give it a shot - it sounds all kinds of delicious!

  6. I've heard of using mayo on bread for grilled cheese but I so hate the white stuff I haven't been able to force myself to try it. But the grilled gauc and cheese itself sounds awesome.

    I've been meaning to read A Simple Favor -- I'll go in with reduced expectations.

    1. You can use butter of course. I use a garlic vegan (Just Mayo) that I like so it isn't at all sweet and just a light layer spreads on the bread so easily and makes it super crisp.

  7. I just sent this book to my sister, she likes this kind of read.


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