Indie Book Review: Without Benefits by Nicole Tone

I have a confession to make. Well, a couple of confessions.

First, the illustrious Nicole Tone is my cousin. I did buy my copy of Without Benefits, though, because I am a staunch believer in supporting authors I know by contributing to their sales.

Second, Without Benefits is definitely not my typical read. Women’s Fiction, is not really something I am all that familiar with. I am more of a fantasy, science fiction, horror chick, so as a result, I am not confident that I fully ‘get’ this story.

Alright, confessions are done and so without further ado, here is my review of Without Benefits.

Emma is living a life she doesn’t quite fit in with. She has a job that she’s good at, a boyfriend, Connor, who seems to dote on her and a comfortable apartment in a posh neighborhood in Seattle. She’s convinced herself that this is the life she wants, but there’s still something just at the edges of her dream come true that haunts her. After 9/11, Emma moved from NYC to Seattle to attend school at the Conservatory. Her real passion is playing music, something that she hasn’t touched since graduating ten years previously. Her decisions in life are all thrown up in the air with the sudden re-emergence of her college crush, Owen, and his request for her to play with him in the Symphony.

Now, I stated before that this was not my typical read. There were some things that I didn’t quite understand as far as Emma being in the upper reaches of middle class. The feel of the story was different than what I am used to and I liked it. It was an intriguing window into a society that I am not at all familiar with. It was a page turner because Nicole did a good job at generating a sense of investment in her characters. There were some things I hoped she’d go into more detail with like the interactions of Emma and her friends, the decision to partner with one of her friends on a project, and so on.

One of the downfalls of this story is that I don’t quite understand why the main character made the decisions that she did. I can safely say that I would not have made those same choices, but that is also the beauty of getting into another person’s point of view; it makes you re-examine yourself and your own reactions. The character of Emma had some interesting thought processes to hook the reader, but some of her reactions to other characters caused a few great moments of built up tension to fizzle. These moments left me feeling a little unsatisfied. At the same time, some of the lack of a reaction was what drove me to keep turning the page; there had to be a bigger reaction to all of the drama at some point. As a fellow writer, I further confess that there were some plot points that felt a little forced to me, still this may be a result in a differences in story-development styles.

I have conflicting emotions about the ending of this story, but in the spirit of not giving away too many spoilers, I will not address them here. Get your copy of Without Benefits on Amazon and tell me what you think of it! We can have a book discussion! Also, check out my cousin’s website at