Mini Reviews 

Since I have so many books waiting to be reviewed, I have decided to write shorter reviews for books that are not part of scheduled blog tours.  While the full book reviews supplemented by  multi-media that I normally write  are more comprehensive, they also take a long time to compile, sometimes up to 8 hours.  So I’m adding mini reviews as another way that I can highlight more books and briefly share my thoughts with you.

Selling Scarlett (Love Inc. #1) by Ella James

Book CoverBook Description

Elizabeth DeVille doesn’t belong at a party like this—one where the gowns cost more than her Camry and cigars run higher than her grad school utility bills. Dragged out of seclusion by her best friend Suri, Elizabeth is merely playing dress-up, rubbing elbows with a crowd that banished her troubled family years ago.

Hunter West is tired. Tired of parties, tired of pretending, and tired of trying to right a wrong that haunts him every day. Bourbon heir and professional poker player by day, by night Hunter is gambling with his life in a high-stakes game of crime and blackmail. 

When Elizabeth stumbles into Hunter’s den of vices, she’s a light in the darkness, a flame in the void. And, just like everything he touches, Hunter mars her in a record time. To rectify the damage done, Elizabeth needs money she doesn’t have, and she’s come up with a foolproof way to get it.

Follow Elizabeth—code-named Scarlett—to the lush Nevada brothel where she’ll auction her virginity and risk the only thing that’s not for sale: her heart. The highest bidder is a familiar face, with wicked hands and the devil’s mouth. And a secret so dark that it could cost her life.


Mini Review  red half size

I didn’t plan to read this book, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t think I would like the plot, but I was wrong.  Stories centering on the unfettered world of the uber rich don’t usually appeal to me, and I wasn’t compelled to read about a professional gambler’s life of excess and a woman’s unconventional approach to get her V-card stamped.

I was interested in the plot of the second book in the series, Taming Cross, and thought I could read it as a standalone based on the book’s description on Amazon. A few pages into the book, I realized that I needed to backtrack and read the first book, Selling Scarlett, so I could fully understand Cross and the fallen man he has become. Technically, the book can stand alone, but I recommend starting the series at the beginning so that you can fully appreciate the complexity of the plot and the changes that Cross undergoes in his journey toward redemption.

Scarlett is a young woman who is kind and loyal to her friends. However, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around her idea to visit a brothel and sell her virginity so that she can use the money to help her friend, Cross. That just seems a bit extreme to me. Why can’t she just hold fundraisers?  I think it’s unfortunate that people are in such a hurry to get rid of their virginity, and see it as a “problem” that is holding them back in their personal lives. She has the choice to wait and share herself with someone she loves; instead, she’s going to engage in an intimate act with a stranger she knows nothing about. I think it’s a regrettable action especially since she doesn’t even take the time to find out all of the details. She just wants to know when and where the auction is and how much money she can expect to get.

It also took me a while to warm up to Hunter and Elizabeth as a couple.  I didn’t feel the chemistry between them. It was just established that they were attracted to each other. They don’t even know each other well enough to be considered acquaintances, but for a long time Elizabeth has had a huge crush on Hunter. Meanwhile, Hunter is being blackmailed by a porn star, Priscilla, and in order to protect his secrets, he engages in Priscilla’s masochistic sexual fantasies.  Does he have to do this? I don’t think so. Hunter is tormented on so many levels that I can’t help but wonder if he doesn’t think Priscilla is all he deserves. The antagonists in the book are shallow, one dimensional characters who are easy to despise, and their behavior, at times, stretches believability to its limits.

Overall, though, Selling Scarlett was an emotionally-gripping read with a richly developed protagonist and heroine who become entangled in an intricate plot involving deception, betrayal, and sexual objectification James does an excellent job in drawing out the sexual tension between Hunter and Elizabeth as the stakes keep rising and the secrets get darker.



Add to Goodreads

Purchase on Amazon:

Published: April 13, 2013

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Source:  ebook purchase from Amazon (Currently priced for $.99 )

Related Links

Legalized prostitution is one issue brought to the forefront in Selling Scarlett.  Scarlett spends time at the Love Inc. brothel as she prepares to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder. During her stay, she befriends some of the full-time escorts who love on the grounds.  The owner of the establishment touts the benefits of working there–employees get to set their own prices, choose their clients, purchase stock in the company, and received health care benefits.  Scarlett observes, “The place has a job-satisfaction rating comparable to Google.”  It is hard for me to accept that someone can thrive in this line of work and not suffer some form of psychological damage. Here are articles for further consideration:

“Legal Prostitution in Nevada”

Las Vegas Review-Journal:  “Outlaw Industry, Ex-Prostitutes Say.”  

Chicago Tribune News: “Nevada’s Brothels Get Tough Look”

I welcome your comments and feedback about the book or the controversy over legalized prostitution.

Mini Review of Selling Scarlett (Love Inc. #1)

Review of Taming Cross

TC BT banner

Taming Cross (Love Inc. #2)  by Ella James

Book Description

Book CoverFor twenty-three years, Cross Carlson was a playboy. You know the type. Tall, dark, and wealthy. Blue-eyed. Charming. He seemed to have it all so easy. But Cross was harboring a terrible secret – one that helped ruin the life of an innocent girl and almost ended his own.

Finally out of the hospital, Cross is flailing, scarred in both body and mind and stifled by the weight of the secret he still keeps. The only way to absolution lies in a Mexican convent, and going there could cost him everything.

If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to screw up big time, it’s Meredith Kinsey. Just a few years ago, Merri was an ordinary girl with a job at her college newspaper and white picket fence kind of dreams. Now she’s holed up in a Mexican convent, hiding from a drug lord who thinks he owns her.

What happens when the only way out of hell is with the son of the man who put you there? They say love conquers all, but does it really?

Book Review

Taming Cross is the second book in the Love, Inc. series and the book’s description on Amazon indicates that it can be read as a standalone.  However, before I even finished the first chapter, I began to feel uneasy about continuing with the story. Although the narrative summarizes significant details from the first book to show the connection between Cross and Merri, the information was too vague to satisfy my curiosity about the events that took place earlier to land these two characters into their current situation. I decided to backtrack to the beginning and read Selling Scarlett before I went any further with the second book, and I’m so glad I did because it enriched my reading experience.

Taming Cross features Cross and Merri’s love story, and the plot continues two months after the end of book one. In both books, the story is presented in present tense that establishes sense of immediacy about the events occurring and intensifies the action. Even though I enjoy stories that are narrated in the present tense, I’m also wary of this technique because I’ve read works where the tense was inconsistent, with the author inadvertently slipping into the past tense which interrupts the flow of the story.  I’m happy to say that James is successful in creating a vivid story where the action seems to leap off of the page.

I also appreciated having the story narrated from both Cross’s and Merri’s points of view. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have been able to like either character. Cross in a minor character in the first book, and I just didn’t connect with his seemingly easy going lifestyle. Although we don’t meet Merri in the first book, it’s easy to understand why Cross doesn’t like her. Rumors indicate she was a mistress of Cross’s father, and Merri’s relationship with this man of prominence makes her a target for the emotionless, despicable villains who kidnap and sell her into sex slavery in Mexico.

Although Cross thinks Merri is a prostitute, blackmailer,  and his father’s whore, he feels guilty that he didn’t tell anyone about his knowledge of and his father’s involvement in her disappearance. Because of the trauma he’s recently suffered, he can now empathize with her plight. Because he has evidence of his father’s illicit activities, his life was almost destroyed.  As a result, he is determined to find Merri and bring her back to the U.S. no matter how he feels about her.

James has done an excellent job in creating realistic, complex characters who struggle with their pasts. She shows how their histories, their vulnerabilities, and their mistakes have shaped them into the characters we meet in this book. As I read, I could feel the intense and raw emotions of each character as they sort out their feelings for each other. Their relationship is awkward, it’s painful, and it’s ultimately healing.  I was mesmerized by their perilous emotional and physical journey to escape the demons following them.  James does a great job in tearing down the playboy and prostitute façade and revealing two imperfect characters who truly deserve happiness.

Rating – 4.5 suns


About the Author

I’m a Denver, Colorado author who writes teen and adult romance. I am happily married to a man who knows how to wield a red pen, and together we are raising a feisty two-year-old who will probably grow up believing everyone’s parents go to war over the placement of a comma. My books have been listed on numerous Amazon bestseller lists, including the Amazon Top 100 and the Amazon Movers & Shakers List; two were listed among Amazon’s Top 100 Young Adult Ebooks of 2012. To find out more about my projects and win prizes and swag, find me on Facebook at Questions or comments? Tweet me at author_ellaj or e-mail me at

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blogger Button

Purchase the book

Amazon:  Taming Cross (Love Inc.)


Related Reviews

Mini Review of Selling Scarlett (Love Inc. #1)

Related Links

Human Trafficking

NPR:  “Human Trafficking: Slavery of the Modern Era”

Watch Sex Slaves a documentary that investigates the