Dear Mrs Reed,
Several 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.