top of page

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”  — Jack London

NYC BBA WIN 20 WEB Logo.png

Reviews of The Measure of Ella


Kirkus  Reviews    
Reviewed   12/06/2019


KIRKUS MAGAZINE    2/15/2020 Issue

"THE MEASURE OF ELLA has been selected by our Indie editors to be featured in the indie section of the magazine. Congratulations of the feature! Less than 10% of authors are selected."   – Tatiana Arnold,  Advertising & Promotions Assoc.  KIRKUS MEDIA LLC


A compelling, fast-paced thrill ride.

Jones’ debut novel tells the story of a woman who finds herself on a criminal adventure on the open waters of the Caribbean.


Ella Morgan is ready to move on. Her father died a year ago, leaving her without any parents, but she’s about to realize her dream of opening her  own restaurant in the Florida Keys, far away from her childhood home in New England. She just needs a little help. She was counting on money from selling her father’s tugboat, which turns out to be junk. And just before finding this out, she hears that Davis, the drug runner that she’s been seeing, has been killed by pirates during a raid. Seeing no other choice, she accepts an offer from Rich, her fellow sailor, to help him pull off a drug run of his own. 

Ella goes on to battle storms, startling betrayals, pirates, and her own conscience— but she eventually finds herself more than willing to torch a boat in the name of revenge. She also discovers that Davis had some secrets, as do other people around her. Jones knows how to hook readers and keep the action flowing. In the very first scene, for example, she shows how capable Ella is and how treacherous sailing can be when a client’s son is nearly lost in rough waters. 

The prose is detailed but straightforward, as in this passage, during the protagonist’s first tussle with pirates: “Ella faced south toward the sound of the approaching boat and slipped her hand into her pocket, gripping the cold metal of the gun, trying to suppress the panic running through her and anxiously scanning the pitch black sea.” The text sometimes gets bogged down by sailing jargon, but it’s definitely something that Jones knows a lot about, having delivered boats herself.

Cinematographer,  Michael Chapman
Taxi Driver, Ragging Bull

“A page-turning thriller set in the murky underworld of the Caribbean. The sailing life is beautifully rendered. A must for all who wish to enter an exciting new environment for an adventure." 

Midwest Review of Books 

Credits: D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer  – 12/06/2019 

The Measure of Ella is not just a murder mystery or the story of a young woman's journey, but a rare breed of seafaring adventure whose nautical roots embrace a young woman's life changes.  Women who look for strong, believable female protagonists and blends of seafaring adventure with personal growth will relish The Measure of Ella for its intrigue, its ethical conundrums, and its realistic protagonist whose life choices propel her into dangerous waters.

READER’s FAVORITE  — 5-Star Review  August 2020

Reviewed by Gobi Jane for Readers' Favorite

THE MEASURE OF ELLA  by Toni Bird Jones is a mix of crime, romance, and adventure, a story that follows a strong female character in her pursuit of the dream of her life. Having lost her father a year ago, Ella Morgan is ready to realize her dream of opening her own restaurant. Selling her father’s tugboat is the one thing that will help her. Alone and away from her home in New England, she is determined to succeed, but the tugboat turns out to be junk and Ella sees her hopes dashed. But she won’t give up. Davis, a man she’s been dating, gets killed by pirates during a raid and when Rich, her co-sailor, makes her an offer to help him pull off a drug run, she sees an opportunity to make quick money that will contribute to her plans to start the restaurant. But things quickly turn bad and she finds herself fighting for her life in a deadly world of pirates and drug lords. 

This is a beautiful story and I loved the way the author crafts the characters. Ella is a sophisticated character, a sailor, flawed in many ways, which makes her relatable. She’s suffered loss, she is an orphan, and she has a strong determination to succeed in starting her restaurant business. It is a motivation that is at the heart of the conflict, for she will do anything to raise funds for her business. The plot is filled with adventure and those who enjoy the high seas will love it. The author demonstrates a unique understanding of the underworld of drugs and crime and allows it to come alive in the narrative. The Measure of Ella is an engaging story and Toni Bird Jones’ characters are compelling.


Amy Holden Jones, screenwriter/director
The Resident, Mystic Pizza, Indecent Proposal

THE MEASURE OF ELLA is a spanking good read, beautifully done." 

Latitude 38 Magazine  – November 2019

"The Measure of Ella — Ella Morgan is a sailor crewing on deliveries in the Caribbean. She has a good heart, a dashing boyfriend, and a dream-in-process of owning her own seafood restaurant. It all goes to pieces in a hurry after her father dies and her boyfriend is shot dead in a smuggling scheme gone bad. Against everything she's ever been taught, Ella agrees to do a drug run with a skipper she trusts. Until that goes south, too. For us, the measure of good fiction is how long past our bedtime it keeps us up. On that count, The Measure of Ella had us bleary-eyed (in a good way) for several mornings in a row."


Nina Schuyler, author, The Translator, The Painting

“Toni Jones is a true storyteller, weaving a tension-filled tale of Ella, a savvy sailor who risks crewing on a drug run to fund her dream. Set in the islands of the Caribbean and South Florida, it’s a high-stakes adventure of crime, love and deception that puts her moral code to the test against a cast of dangerous characters.” 

Vigilant Reader Book Reviews   — December 13, 2019


5.0 out of 5 stars — Genre – Action/Adventure, Thriller
An exciting sea adventure with exemplary action.


My Impressions: Excellent sea story with smuggling, murder, and betrayal
Ella Morgan counted on funds from the sale of her dead father’s tugboat to make her dream of opening her own restaurant a reality. She is devastated to learn the boat has fallen into extreme disrepair during her father’s last years and is now worthless.

She has served as the ship’s cook and deck hand on boats being delivered to their owners. Along with the news of her evaporated inheritance, she learns Davis her lover had been murdered by pirates as he was sailing a boat back to the U.S while smuggling drugs.

Unfortunately for Ella, she is naive and trusting and doesn’t recognize the danger of the people she had made friends with. When Rich queries her about joining him on a drug run, she adamantly refuses. But then she has second thoughts; her dream of owing an upscale restaurant causes her to ignore the danger and agree to make the drug run.
Ella quickly learns the dangers involved in multimillion dollar drug smuggling and glimpses the extreme betrayal committed by people she thought were no threat.


The accounts of the crew’s experiences during major storms are well written and exciting.
The editing and sentence structure are excellent with only minor issues.
Character Development is clear and detailed.


The story’s plot is detailed and weaves the writer’s past experience and research into a gripping, action filled tale.



Adventure Fiction     

Clive Cussler Award
CC Award Winner Seal 3x3 (2016-09-10) 30
Killer Nashville.png
00:00 / 12:20
KIRKUS Interview
2020KBA-Winner MysteryThriller.png
20 ipa logo Gold.png

Chanticleer  Award 
Suspense Thriller

bottom of page