I didn’t just want him to believe in me. I wanted him to think the worst and protect me anyway.Amber Lin’s no-nonsense and unapologetic approach to mixing prostitution with suspense and romance is unlike anything I have ever read. It’s gritty, angry and violent mixed with hope and the quest for freedom, acceptance and love. If you thought Giving It Up was really good, Selling Out is, in short, amazing.
Selling Out takes place almost a year after Giving It Up. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the first book in order to follow the events and characters in this story. It managed to stand on it’s own. However I would recommend reading the series in order for the full experience of Ms Lin’s extraordinary writing.
Shelly Laurent is trying to make good on her promise to leave her life as a high-class escort behind her, starting with a normal job. But she soon realizes that turning over a new leaf isn’t as simple as it sounds. After betraying Philip, her benefactor, to the cops he threw her out. Luke, the one man Shelly has fallen for is a cop and their worlds are too far apart to bridge the gap that divides them. When her past shows up on her doorstep, she’s given little choice about the new course in her life. Despite her better judgment, she finds herself once again under the thumb of her pimp, Henri Denikin.
What should have been a routine job quickly gets out of control when Shelly decides to help Ella, a feisty teenager, get out of a dangerous situation. But no one gets away from Henri that easily. Wanted for multiple homicide by the police and by Henri, Shelly turns to the one person who can help keep her and Ella safe, Philip. Then there’s Luke, the man she wants but who won’t have her back. Will he help her or sell her out? In their mission to clear her name and take Henri down, secrets will be revealed that will either make them stronger or tear them apart for good.
This is Amber Lin’s second published novel, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s at the top of her game with this latest installment in the Lost Girls series. When you see the labels prostitution and romance, your mind may take you automatically to Pretty Woman (Touchstone Pictures, 23 March 1990). If you think this series is anything like the Hollywood cinematic fairytale, you couldn’t be more mistaken. On a side note, how ironic is it that I am writing this post on the same date that Pretty Woman was released 23 years ago? Shelly wants to change, but she doesn’t know how. Shelly wants a white knight to save her, especially if it’s Luke. He’s not a billionaire CEO, but a cop. She’s a hooker with a powerful and dangerous clientele. She may not have much, but she has her smarts, and she’ll have to rely on cunning and gut instincts if she’s going to try and gain her freedom. It would be too easy to pass judgement on her for her choice of profession, however a key point of the plot deals with those choices, or lack thereof. Underneath the beautiful exterior, the sexually insulting humor and self deprecation is a woman who actually does care a lot about others.
Luke would be the obvious hero in this story because it seems as if he has the cleanest vest of them all, or perhaps it’s because he’s on the side of the law. The more we get to know him, the more secrets are revealed about his past that will just break your heart.
As a couple, Luke and Shelly seem to be doomed from the beginning. It’s a testament to the author’s writing skills that she made Shelly so darn likeable; I didn’t question how any man could want a relationship with a woman who had sex for money. Shelly put Luke on a pedestal because of his profession, and Luke put her on one in spite of it. But again, I felt all of those issues were cleverly addressed as the story unfolded. And if you think this story is full of sex, it really isn’t. I like to think this is about a lot more than that.
Honestly, Amber Lin’s plots scare me, make me feel ill, make me cheer for the main characters, and they give me hope. She has created some very strong characters with a plethora of issues. The drama always felt believable and true to the protagonists. We’re fed stereotypical assumptions only to have some of them broken down bit by bit. One thing I noticed and liked was at the end of a chapter when Shelly was about to find herself in a spot of trouble, the next chapter would open with her retelling of some past experience and the (tough) lesson she learned from it in an almost clinical, matter-of-fact voice. That made my heart drop to the pit of my stomach a time or two, let me tell you. The dialogue was refreshingly open, honest, humorous at times and raw. There were so many great conversations between different characters that moved the story along.
In the end, I was happy with the conclusion, but long after I had turned the last page, it got me thinking. When someone mentions a hooker, I think of the bedraggled women standing on shady street corners whose pimps are usually drug dealers and small fish in the grand scheme of things. When someone mentions high-class escorts, I think of something completely different. Their clients are usually rich, wealthy men who would stand to lose a lot if their extracurricular activities were ever to be brought to light. CEOs aside, the thought that really bothered me was judges, lawyers, law enforcement, etc. People who should be upholding the law, not undermining it. It’s no wonder that Shelly felt she had no where to turn. Who knows what reality looks like, but it’s a frightening thought nonetheless.Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This review and more can be found on my blog