bitter spirits

Title: Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties #1)

Author: Jenn Bennett

Read by: Amy Landon

Published: May 14, 2014 by Tantor

Genre: Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Audible

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…

Bitter Spirits is not perfect. Like too many romances, it falls into cheesy and melodramatic, repetitive, and just a bit too lust-filled. And the sex scenes didn’t make me blush  – and good ones should, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, this is not one I’d want my 14 year-old to read, but it wasn’t as spicy as it could have been.  And that’s part of the problem with listening to a book, rather than reading it. You can’t skip over any of the “oh my, he’s so sexy, but I can’t,” or the “oh my, look at all of her freckles,” again. And yet, not a single freckle on the cover.

Aida and Winter are a good couple. She’s independent and unafraid, a modern woman for the 20s. He’s a bootlegger, but of course has a good heart. They each of scars, literally and figuratively and have to work through their feelings. Aida doesn’t believe in love, for a silly reason if you ask me. Winter feels unloveable, I think, and had a bad experience with his first marriage. Together, though they work. The sparks are there, but they also work well together. They each have their own strengths and they’re both needed.

There’s a mystery going on too, obviously. Who put the curse on Winter? Is it the same mysterious necromancer who might be trying to take over the liquor trade in Chinatown? There’s a fair amount of danger involved but Aida isn’t a shy flower who passes out at the first sound of gunfire. She accepts Winter’s job, understand that he may do unsavory things, and lives with it. Of course, it helps that he has a soft side, is loyal to a fault, and wants to protect her. I like that he needed her help, and even when she’s in a scary situation she keeps her wits about her. She does need rescued, but I can’t fault her for it. She just trusted someone she shouldn’t have.

I like the supporting characters too. Winter’s sister is an adorable young woman, a bit headstrong and spoiled maybe, but fun and flirty and a good friend for Aida. She’s obviously interested in Bo, Winter’s right-hand man, but we’ll have to see where that goes in a later book.

Amy Landon did a good job as narrator. For 20s San Francisco, she actually had to do a lot of accents, from Chinese to Swedish, and I thought she did well with them. She especially nailed Aida. I know I shouldn’t, but female narrators I automatically associate with the main female character, and in this case she sounded like Aida to me, her voice fit my picture.

I loved the 20s setting- the descriptions of the clothes, the feel of the streets and the clubs, the way the cars looked. I appreciated all the details Bennett included.

Romance, mystery, ghosts – it definitely kept my attention. I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. I’m looking forward to the story of Winter’s brother who is coming home in #2, Grim Shadows.

About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is the author of the RT Reviewers’ Choice-nominated Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series, the Roaring Twenties historical paranormal romance series, and upcoming young adult contemporary romance from Macmillan. Born in Germany, she’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the U.S., and the Far East. She currently lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs.