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REVIEW: CB-The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed

Dear Mrs Reed,

FifthFavor.jpgSeveral people have recommended your work and this book in particular for our monthly contests. After reading it, I can see why. As Keishon said in her review of two of your books, the writing and characterization are stronger than most Ellora’s Cave books I’ve tried. I was most pleased about the plotting. With many romantica books, it seems like the reader is just getting a series of hawt sex scenes strung together on a threadbare plot. The Fifth Favor is much more like a standard print contemporary in that the plot is, well, really the reason for the book instead of a weak excuse. Plus you got a fantastic cover. Brava.

For whatever reason, I haven’t seen too many books about male escorts. Maybe authors aren’t called to write them or publishers don’t want to print them. I wasn’t sure what I would be getting with TFF and was pleased that you treat the subject with grace and dignity. As the hero, Adrian, explains to the heroine, Billie, he started out in the business to make money in a way that most 20 year old men can only dream of, by making love to wealthy and attractive women. What he never counted on, and what the cold proprietor of the ultra chic Avalon never told him, is that he would risk slowly losing his soul and his self esteem in the process. In the slightly naive reporter sent to interview him for an article about Avalon, he finds an acceptance he wasn’t even aware he was missing. And in the aftermath of the loss of his best friend, Billie might just be the source of a love that can save him.

I like how you explored both the highs and lows that Adrian has to face as his world changes around him. Plenty of times he says that he just wants every thing back the way it was before. And how many of us have not felt that way about something? It takes him a while to accept who Billie might become for him and even longer to deal with the betrayal that she unwittingly causes. Thank you for not rushing all that. I also like that he had a normal childhood and wasn’t carting around the kind of excess baggage that in the end of most romances turns out to be piddly and not worth a novel’s worth of angst.

As for Billie, I’m afraid she turns out to be a weaker character for me than Adrian. I just never could shake the feeling that she wants to mother him and “save” him. She also never comes off as the hard hitting reporter you set her up as. Maybe it’s because this particular story brought out her insecurities but we never “see” her in control, taking names and kicking butt. I also agree with Adrian’s opinion of her as a coward when she puts off telling him about unplanned publication of the story. But I think the biggest problem I have with the story is the basic premise that any owner of an escort service would want that business written up in a national magazine, especially if sex is part of the offerings. I can’t see the local police not beginning an investigation which would scare off most potential clients who wouldn’t exactly be eager for people to know they paid for sex from male prostitutes. That was a big hurdle that I just had to jump and forget about in order to concentrate on the book.

So, a hero I like and a heroine type (sweet, innocent who wants to save the hero) I don’t like quite so much, mixed with a good overall plot and tasteful sex scenes (I did like that you saved the consummation scene until after the characters had admitted to themselves and each other that they were in love) plus a great cover will give a grade of B- for you.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Charlene
    Jul 26, 2006 @ 19:50:39

    I thought this was a wonderful story, so I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. I liked A Fine Work of Art even more! Shelby Reed writes with wonderful emotion and insight. I’ll buy anything with her name on it.

  2. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2006 @ 21:09:15

    I’m very glad I finally took everyone up on their recommendations for it. I think it was mentioned in every monthly submission we’ve had. ;)

  3. Jorrie Spencer
    Jul 26, 2006 @ 21:56:41

    Hey, Jayne, thanks for your review.

    As for male escorts, I haven’t read another in romanceland (or perhaps elsewhere—the movie The Wedding Date doesn’t count). However, people keep mentioning Fallen From Grace and my curiosity will win out at some point. (By Laura someone-) I think it’s a risky premise, balancing the necessary hero qualities with the profession, without losing all sense of realism.

    Charlene, I need to try A Fine Work of Art at some point.

  4. Karen Scott
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 05:08:39

    This is one of my favourite EC books, and Reed is definitely one of my favourite writers there, A Fine Work Of Art was another good one.

    Which reminds me, I haven’t ‘seen’ Reed round the blogosphere lately…

  5. Jayne
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 09:56:30

    Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone. Yeah, that’s a good one. And I’m glad to see that the current cover (at Amazon which I tried twice to link to but the damn link won’t work! fucking bastards) is better than the hardback one I read with a Brat Pitt-ish zombie on the cover. Eww, that cover sucked.

    But wait! Here’s another one. Homebound by Bonnie Dee. Can it be? Is it possible? Could male prositutes be the newest and hawtest plot device out there? Whoo-hoo!

  6. Jorrie Spencer
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 10:09:43

    Could male prositutes be the newest and hawtest plot device out there?

    I toy with writing one. I won’t guess at the fascination I hold for this plot device. But I think it’s a little more common in m/m romances where the hero box is a little less rigid.

    Though I don’t think that’s the only problem. There’s the reality problem and the not-judging problem. I’m sure there are some sex workers with fantastically well-adjusted lives, but a lot are just tragedies—which Reed shows with Adrian’s friend. I balked actually at that plot development, because I don’t really like guys tragically in love with guys, but Reed handled it well, even if she almost lost me there.

  7. Karen Scott
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 10:18:19

    Jorrie, I actually enjoyed the unrequited love angle with Adrian, I think it fit perfectly with the book.

    I would like to read more romances where at least one of the protagonists is a prostitute, I can do what I did with Pretty Women and suspend disbelief, as long as it’s written well.

    Let’s hear it for the hos!

  8. Anya Bast
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 10:18:49

    I’ve been meaning to read this one for so long. I hear so many raves about this author.

  9. Keishon
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 16:45:36

    I’ve bought Ms. Reed’s backlist and I get excited everytime I read one of her books because her characterizations are very strong and no doubt the sex is hot (that’s always a good thing), so in my estimation, I think Ms. Reed is one of the strongest authors I’ve read at EC thus far and next would be Anya Bast. I agree about Billie not being the stongest character in the book, she was the stock character who was nice, understanding yet pushy when she needed to be kinda gal. Why he fell in love with her I have no clue only that I liked this story more for Adrian’s character. Glad you enjoyed it Jayne. Is this an author your willing to read more of in future?

    I did enjoy A Fine Work of Art but it has it’s own subset of problems but not enough to detract from the story.

  10. Pam Champagne
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 18:07:36

    As a former crit partner of Shelby’s, I would recommend all her books. Plus being a fantastic writer, she’s a wonderful person and a true friend. I think these qualities shine through in her writing.

  11. Jayne
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 19:22:37

    Karen: I enjoyed the subplot with Adrian’s friend as well. I do wonder why he would have sent his suicide note to the brothel owner as well as taking a swan dive from Adrian’s balconey. Subconsiously, was he trying to hurt Adrian by these actions?

  12. Jayne
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 19:25:00

    Keishon, yes I would be willing to read more of Reed’s work. I did read your review of “A Fine Work of Art” so I know already that there might be some niggles about it for me.

    Have you read any of her other books? Are most of them at EC?

  13. Keishon
    Jul 27, 2006 @ 21:38:39

    Jayne, I’ve only read the two titles that are favorites. I plan to read more of her work soon and do reviews. She is the learder of pack when it comes to strong characterization with hot love scenes that are somewhat well balanced.

  14. Shelby Reed
    Jul 30, 2006 @ 21:40:13

    Hi Jayne,

    Thanks for the really thoughtful and honest review! And thanks, too, for everyone who commented. It’s so helpful, and so often rewarding, to see people’s thoughts on my work. While an editor can catch my errors and advise me on how to strengthen my story, a READER’s feedback is even more important to me because you are the ones I so want to please. I feel really encouraged to keep growing in my craft, I’m so proud to be a romance author, and I’m rolling up my sleeves to start the next one as we speak. (Can you tell I just got home from RWA National? LOL!)

    Thanks again, Jayne. I feel so honored to have been reviewed at!

    Best Wishes,

    Shelby Reed

    P.S. I’m still alive, Karen! Just recharging batteries. Pam Champagne, I love ya, gal!

  15. Jane
    Jul 30, 2006 @ 22:49:37

    I just read this book over the weekend and thought that Adrian was to die for! I agree with Jayne that Billie wasn’t quite the heroine for him, but thought the writing was excellent. I’ll be looking for more Shelby Reed books, that’s for sure.

  16. Jayne
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 08:07:11

    OK Shelby, you have to tell us if you had a place at the tables for book signing and did you stay in your seat the whole time? My blogging partner gets peeved at authors who leave their seats. ;)

  17. Shelby Reed
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 09:36:59


    I DID have a place at the booksigning, and I’ll admit, I was dying to run around and see all the famous faces and even more than that, the other Ellora’s Cave authors whose work I so respect. But I was mostly good, I stayed at my seat and was absolutely delighted to meet people who have read my stories (there’s no bigger joy, I’m tellin’ ya) and to talk shop with them. I’d have to say that booksigning was one of the best nights at EC!


  18. Karen Scott
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 14:52:54

    P.S. I’m still alive, Karen! Just recharging batteries.

    I’m glad to hear it Shelby! I’m looking forward to your next book!

  19. REVIEW: The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 11:02:13

    […] published by Ellora’s Cave in January 2004, this book was reissued by Berkley Trade on 5 November this year. When I read the synopsis I was […]

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