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Review: Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties #1) by Jenn Bennett
Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance, Ghosts
Mass Market Paperback $7.99 (336 pages, BERKLEY)
Ebook $5.99

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…

Author Site: website

Speakeasy Spirits & All That Jazz  (4 stars)

I've been waiting for an author to hear my silent prayer for a paranormal romance set in the roaring twenties. I've always been fond of the era with its iconic fashion and there are fewer times in history that seem as fun to drop a paranormal plot in than one already plagued by prohibition. Enter one of the very small handful of authors I pre-order without reading blurbs for, the sharp and sagacious Jenn Bennett.

While the blurb for BITTER SPIRITS does a very wonderful job of presenting the basics of what you'll be reading I realized right away that as a reader of her urban fantasy series first I was mildly disappointed. I'm just so used to her voice without the romance as the central plot that it felt slow to take off. Once it did though, I struggled to put it down. A thorough researcher and quite impressively able to blend unexpected things together, Bennett made the odd mix of Chinese and Swedish characters and cultures truly immersive. I hated to be pulled away to scenes with just Aida and Winter—and mercy do they have chemistry!—simply because I was so invested in the world.

When I was able to let go of the plethora of unique and enjoyable secondary characters long enough I really enjoyed the romance itself. Aida and Winter are a great couple, the sort you root for from the instant they meet. They're both a bit wounded and plagued by things they're not ready to tell one another which keeps them from falling in love too quickly. When they come together intimately it's scorching but not gratuitous, something I very much appreciated considering the era.

By the time I finished BITTER SPIRITS I had run a gamut of emotions, become very fond of some secondary characters I hope get their own romantic tales later in the series, and decided I had to pre-order GRIM SHADOWS. It's not as thick on the paranormal elements as I'd love—what can I say? I'm addicted to monsters—but it's a ferocious romp with ghostly elements I think both paranormal romance readers and historical romance readers should give a taste.

Notes: ARC received via author.

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