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REVIEW:  The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed

REVIEW: The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed

TheFifthFavor

Dear Ms. Reed,

Originally 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 all over it – it is, after all, a manwhore book.  And I do have a weakness for manwhore books.

“Adrian” is the premier escort at Avalon, a high class escort agency for wealthy women, based in Washington DC.  He is gorgeous and skilled in bed (of course) and his calendar is always fully booked.  He charges $1,000 an hour (but how much of that he gets to keep is unclear – I know he does very well out of it financially).  Avalon’s owner, Azure Elan (an alias if ever I’ve heard one surely) keeps a close eye on all her escorts and Adrian is her biggest earner.

Billie Cort , a 33-year old reporter for Illicit magazine, is given an assignment to write an article on Avalon and its services and, lucky her, she gets to interview Adrian as part of the package.

One of the other escorts is Luke DeChambeau – known as “Lucien” at Avalon – all the escorts are “rechristened” by Azure.  Luke and Adrian are best friends but Luke has been caught by the lure of drugs and, apparently, rough sex.  He regularly turns up at Adrian’s apartment with bruises and whipmarks on his body but he will never say who is lover is.  Luke has falled in love with Adrian but the feelings are not reciprocated and this has caused a schism in their friendship.  Adrian is very concerned about his friend’s continuing downward spiral and is devastated when Luke commits suicide.  (This all happens very early on in the story so I don’t believe it is a spoiler.)

To the story’s credit, I think it is the combination of Luke’s death and meeting Billie which has Adrian questioning his life.  It is apparent that for some time he had been less than enthused about his job but lacked sufficient motivation to get out.  These two life-changing events are the catalyst for self-reflection for Adrian and what follows from it.

Because: reasons, the police suspect Adrian having a murderous part in Luke’s death and, seeing her prized possession moving away from her influence, Azure uses this to keep Adrian on her string. This was the least effective part of the story for me.  Some of the things which formed part of this subplot made no sense to me and stretched my credulity to breaking point.

The main story really, is the romance developing between Billie and Adrian.   Billie sees, because she is looking at him as a person and not just as a pleasure toy (I make no judgments on those who frequent male escorts – in the book this was the way it was presented), something vulnerable and familiar in Adrian and she longs to know the man beneath the mask.  She is fascinated by him from the first moment they meet – of course she is attracted, but she wants to know him, not just his body.

Billie shifted to see his face, found it somber and watchful. Under the standard silky disguise of a courtesan lay an intensity and vulnerability far more exciting. His emotions ran deep, his sensitivity even deeper. Not so very different than herself, she realized with surprise. Something about the man under the mask was strikingly familiar.

Adrian for his part, sees in Billie, if not his redemption, then perhaps a reason to seek it.  The pair move back and forth from attraction and some consensual, non-transactional, sex* to pushing each other away because of course it could never work between them.  Adrian believes he is incapable of deserving Billie, and Billie is afraid of getting her heart broken. When I said “non-transactional” that was kind of wrong.  Billie never pays for sex with Adrian but there is a “favor for a favor’ in the story (hence the title) but I felt that was more of an excuse to move things along than anything else.

Also, the sex they have for most of the story is not penis-in-vagina sex.  That kind of sex is a metaphor in the story for a deeper intimacy.  They certainly do get pretty intimate prior to that kind of sex though.  I tagged the review “erotic romance” but I felt that the steam level fit within the contemporary description – sure,t the male protagonist is a prostitute, but there isn’t any particularly surprising or exotic sex in the story.  I think the book is marketed as erotic but the line between erotic romance and contemporary romance is a bit blurry for me these days.  YMMV.

Adrian approaches sex with his clients in a fairly businesslike fashion.  I got the impression he’s very good at his job but it’s not about pleasure for him and it’s not really about intimacy with his clients.  What he experiences when he is with Billie is a different thing altogether and he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with life as an escort.

When had satisfying a woman become a treasure? When had the entire, sensual routine gone from mere product to something of value? He hadn’t seen its potential, hadn’t been aware of the gossamer threads that bound carnal fulfillment to pleasure of the heart.

It terrified him. It moved him. It dislodged his beliefs like a vast puzzle upended and falling into a million irretrievable pieces.

I found some of the writing to be lyrical in its descriptions and I believed that Billie represented something wholly new to Adrian and that being with Billie was not the same as being with a client.

It came to him then, permeated his disjointed thoughts. Billie was teaching him—him—how to make love. With a jolt of surprise at the crashing irony, Adrian realized he hadn’t known how until now. He, the consummate lover, so renowned for his sexual skill, so proficient and controlled and practiced, had only played at making love, where Billie . . . God. Clearly, it was all she knew. Pretense just wasn’t in her spectrum of capabilities.

Unlike in Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone, where the hero was also a prostitute, I felt Adrian had choices and could have walked away at any time if he had wanted to.  Unlike Ryan (the hero of Fallen from Grace), Adrian was never trapped and was at no risk should he choose to leave.  Thus I felt Adrian was a bit “poor little rich boy” at times and I wasn’t always all that in sympathy with him.  There was a thing which happens near the end that Billie does which make me very cross – she does redeem herself in not too long a time but I felt she lacked honesty then and she needed to do a lot more groveling than the basically none she did.  The last part of the story felt a little like authorial manipulation to me to add to the angst-factor and as I said above, the subplot involving Azure and police suspicion of Adrian regarding Luke’s death made me raise my eyebrows on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining read and some of the writing was beautiful.  I did believe in the feelings Billie and Adrian shared and I thought they would make a happy life together.  I give The Fifth Favor  a B-.

regards,
Kaetrin

 

 

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REVIEW:  Move the Sun by Susan Fanetti

REVIEW: Move the Sun by Susan Fanetti

MTS

Dear Ms. Fanetti:

I saw Jane tweeting about your book and immediately went to Amazon to buy it. I love biker books (as evidenced by my obsessive reading of Kristen Ashley last year) and your book sounded right up my alley. In doing a little digging around about your book to write this review, I’ve discovered that it is Sons of Anarchy fan fiction. Since I don’t watch Sons of Anarchy and had no context for the book, it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all.

Lilli Accardo has just moved to Signal Bend, Missouri. The town itself is run down and has an extremely small town feel. It suits her purposes perfectly. As she pulls up to the realtor’s office to pick up the keys to her rental home, three Harleys roll by. Lilli quickly discovers that the power in this town belongs with the Night Horde Motorcycle Club, which acts as protection to the town. The President of Night Horde is Issac Lunden. Big, brawny and incredibly hot, Lilli is immediately drawn to him, but her reason for being in Signal Bend may prevent her from involving herself with the highest profile man in town. Her first night in town, Lilli heads to the local watering hole for a beer, and finds herself flirting with Issac. He’s attracted and she’s interested, but is naturally wary of any involvement. A bar brawl breaks out, and Issac is blown away by Lilli’s ability to defend herself. She’s much tougher than her willowy frame looks. He begins a single-minded pursuit of her, knowing that when they get together, it will be incendiary.

He’s right. They have incredible chemistry, and he begins to think the unthinkable, that perhaps Lilli is The One. But she has secrets she’s unwilling to share, and when he has his tech guy dig into her past, they find that it’s very obviously made up and that there is an impenetrable wall around digging further. Issac worries that Lilli is gunning for his town and his Club. While she assures him that she has no interest whatsoever in the protection that the Club provides for drug sellers, he remains suspicious of her unwillingness to share what her purpose is in moving to his tiny town where no one ever willingly moves. Even as he worries about Lilli, Issac’s town and his Club are threatened by a big time drug lord looking to set up shop in his territory, bringing a very real threat of death to his own people. He’s fighting for his town’s life and well-being and fighting for his love, whose secrets he still doesn’t completely grasp.

This book was such a pleasant surprise for me! First, the town is vividly drawn, and while I felt like the Motorcycle Club aspect of it is probably toned down for the readers, it was still believable. I really liked Issac, which is no surprise because for all his gruff looks, he’s a total Caregiving Alpha. He respects Lilli a ton, knowing that she can protect herself and that she’s tough and possibly a killer. But he also spends a ton of time taking care of her. Comforting her, and loving her. It’s very clear almost from the beginning that he’s falling in love, which I really liked. Even more, I loved Lilli. She’s definitely got a tortured past. She’s incredibly smart, and driven by demons. But she’s kind and when she finally allows herself to fall for Issac, it’s incredibly moving and sweet. I referenced their chemistry earlier in the review. The sex scenes between the two are erotic, emotional and inventive. In this case, the couple is having relatively rough sex, but as the book progresses, it becomes more and more emotionally charged as they fall more deeply in love.

If I had any complaint about the book it’s that Lilli’s purpose for being in town takes a long time to be revealed. I did like the judicious use of flashbacks to tell her backstory, but by the time I hit the 40% mark in the book, I was more than ready to understand what she was doing in town. You also used the word “growl” in relation to the hero 29 times in the book. I  kept waiting for him to turn into a werewolf. I actually tweeted about it because it became a bit like a drinking game for me. “Hero growls with pleasure” DRINK! “Hero growls out words” DRINK! Not a big deal, but certainly distracting for me as a reader.

All of that being said, this was a really enjoyable read that does not, in any way, read like a first novel, nor a self-pub. It’s polished and reads very smoothly. I predict big things for you. I know I for one can’t wait to read more of this series. Move the Sun gets a B+ from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

UPDATE: The author contacted me: “I did notice that you said MTS is fanfic, and that’s not accurate. It’s all original content. I cut my fictional teeth writing SOA fanfic, but there’s no Sons of Anarchy in MTS.”

 

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