Title: Bitter Spirits
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Roaring Twenties (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Format: Paperback, 317 Pages
ISBN-10: 0425269574 (Berkley/Penguin)
ISBN-13: 978-0425269572 (Berkley/Penguin)
Reviewed by: Steph
There’s a big curse in little Chinatown…and it’s not Prohibition.
It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…
Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.
Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her.
On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…
Quick & Dirty: When spirits begin chasing Winter Magnusson, spiritual medium Aida is his only hope. As their attraction for each other deepens, it becomes clear that Winter’s business – and Aida – are in danger. Will they survive long enough to see where their attraction will lead?
Opening Sentence: Aida Palmer’s tense fingers gripped the gold locket around her neck as the streetcar came to a stop near Gris-Gris.
I’m a huge fan of Jenn Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, so I was very excited when I found the first book in her new series in my inbox for me to review. While I did end up enjoying the book, readers going into this looking for something similar to Arcadia Bell are going to be disappointed, as this is much heavier on the romance aspect of the story rather than the on the paranormal. Once you let those expectations go though, you’re in for a very fun ride.
Ever since the Great Fire, Aida has been able to see (and banish) ghosts. She makes her living working in speakeasies as a spirit medium, calling spirits into her so they can communicate with their loved ones who are in the audience. One night, she is unexpectedly called down to the speakeasy on her night off. There, she meets Winter Magnusson, one of the top three bootleggers in the area. Winter has a problem: someone’s put a curse on him, and now he’s being chased by every ghost who sees him. Aida banishes the ghost and helps remove the curse, but Winter’s troubles don’t end. It becomes obvious that someone is determined to put Winter out of business, and they’re willing to use his growing affection for Aida against him in order to achieve their ends.
It took me awhile to warm up to Aida. During the first part of the book, she came off as rather hypocritical. She becomes very angry with Winter for not sharing his past with her, but at that point, she hadn’t shared everything with him either. It was very frustrating for me as a reader. Then, I began to see more to her character as her past was revealed. She’s very independent and has had to work hard for every dime she has, qualities that are very admirable in a heroine.
I loved Winter right away, although his obsession with Aida’s freckles seemed a bit over the top at first. That’s the only negative thing I can say though. Winter is haunted by a car accident that left him disfigured and his parents dead. His relationship with Aida begins to bring back the old Winter, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. Their chemistry is evident from the first moment they meet. They work so well together, and it’s a joy to watch their romance unfold.
On the negative side, the book starts off really slowly. It didn’t really pick up for me until the 40 percent mark. Once it did though, I didn’t want to put it down. Fans of paranormal romance might be a little disappointed, as the paranormal side of the story takes a backseat to the romance. If you’re looking for a romance with a little bit of suspense thrown in though, you’re in for a treat!
“And you’ve forgiven me?”
“‘Forgiven’ seems too strong a word, especially when I’ve been so unhappy since you dumped me here five days ago and seemed to forget I existed.”
“You stormed off – I didn’t dump anything. And I tried to forget your existence, believe me. I tried very hard. I made it my top priority. All I could think about was how I was trying not to think about you.”
“That sounds taxing.”
“It was. And we can argue about who stormed off and who dumped whom over dinner. I know you’re off tomorrow night, because I called Velma and she told me your schedule, so you can’t use that excuse.”
“And you have a new coat. And a new gown, though you don’t have to wear it if it reminds you of that afternoon. It was a lousy afternoon.”
“Yes, it was.”
“And I’ve missed you ever since.”
She stilled; her heart was beating far too fast. “You have?”
“I’m not sure why. Last time I saw you, you made it clear that you hated my guts.”
“I don’t hate you.”
“You certain about that?”
He nearly smiled again. “I’ll take what I can get. Eight tomorrow night, right here. I’ll pick you up. I’ll even promise to keep my hands aboveboard if you do the same.”
Roaring Twenties Series:
2. Grim Shadows (June 3, 2014)
FTC Advisory: Berkley Sensation/Penguin provided me with a copy of Bitter Spirits. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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