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Review: Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

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Bitter Spirits
Author: Jenn Bennett
Reviewer: B.
Rating: A-

What I’m Talking About:

I’ve been especially fortunate lately in discovering several “new-to-me authors” that I might not have otherwise chosen for myself by reviewing books. These stories have surprised me for a variety of reasons, oftentimes simply by drawing me thoroughly into the narrative from the very beginning when I had no idea what to expect. Bitter Spirits certainly falls into this category, immediately delving into several things that I’ve always enjoyed reading about, most especially the 1920’s, an impossible romance, and a good mystery.

The main characters are unique as well as being a puzzle in and of themselves. Survival has made Aida independent and headstrong, while it has turned Winter into something of a controlling recluse. He bears the weight of misplaced guilt and a responsibility to care for those in his household and employ, while she refuses to be indebted to, or dependent on, another. At first glance, they are opposites in every way, which is, of course, a recipe for disaster as well as romance. Yet, Aida and Winter are remarkably well suited for one another, despite their mutually frustrating inability to acknowledge their own feelings. They are both scarred, inside and out, each finding a way to go on living, even if they aren’t being very honest with themselves. They are misfits, in more ways than one, and it is pleasantly obvious, once they allow themselves to enjoy it, that they actually fit together very nicely.

Aida and Winter are also very sexual creatures who have yet to find a good match, neither of them fitting society’s definition of what a “desirable” lover should be. Aida’s independence is filtering its way into her sexual desires as it has already done in all other aspects of her life. Having been left disappointed and uncertain by her previous, inept lovers, she’s found contentment on her own. Winter, on the other hand, has gotten used to being pitied or feared, rather than desired, thanks to his scars, but the attentions of women who want him only for his fortune have made him resentful and numb. Together, however, they discover what they’ve been looking for, and don’t waste a single opportunity to make up for all they’ve been missing.

Ms. Bennett is very good at crafting all her scenes, painting each one with rich descriptions, using everything from colors and textures to detailed geography, and even specific scents and lighting. No element is left out, from jars on the shelves in a store to the delicate pattern of embroidered silk. Following Aida and Winter along on their journey is easy, given the wealth of details provided and the quick pacing of the story.

Far from being overloaded with too much slang, nearly all of the phrasing used in Bitter Spirits that was specific to the time period was used with a sparing nonchalance that was very comfortable to read. While a little more jargon would have been believable, the dialog itself didn’t require any research on my part in order to follow along. Still, I was very happy that there were plenty of things for me to look up in regards to other important aspects of the story, ranging from history to fashion.

Bitter Spirits is a fun, exciting story about love and murder in the 1920’s. It is part ghost story and suspense, part historical romance, but Ms. Bennett makes it all work, weaving everything together into a satisfying whodunit with an erotic twist. With two determined, yet likable, main characters, and plenty of memorable secondary characters as well, it is a solid beginning to a promising new series, and one that I hope will continue for some time to come.

Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot

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About the Book:

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.

Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Roaring Twenties #1
ISBN: #978-0425269572
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Format(s): Paperback (336 pgs), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley/Publisher

Purchase Info:
Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties #1)

  • Jessica

    Great review! I also love finding those “new to me” authors 🙂

    • B.

      Me, too! I’d never read her before, but I definitely will again. Finding new authors is always fun. Thanks so much!

  • Jennifer @ The Book Nympho

    Everyone seems to love this book. I have it on my NG pile and hope to read it next month.

    • I’ve been hearing the same buzz and was thinking maybe I should pick it up to read!

      • B.

        I thought it was really good! I’m a sucker for the 20’s, though. Aida and Winter are great, and I absolutely did not see the mystery working out like it did. Guessing is what makes these so much fun!

  • UnaReads

    This sounds really good, I’m adding it to my TBR. Thanks B, great review!

    • B.

      Thank you, Una! It was a fun book all around. I’m ready for the second in the series now!

  • Rummanah

    Wonderful review, B! I’m really looking forward to reading this one soon. Definitely a good book to cuddle up with on a bitter cold night!

    • B.

      Thanks, Rummanah! it was a good read, absolutely. All the characters had well-defined personalities and the details of the homes and clothing, etc., were fun to read … It was a good balance. Hope you like it!

  • Pingback: Review: Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett | That's What I'm Talking About...()

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