Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Bitter Spirits

BITTER SPIRITS
Roaring Twenties #1
Jenn Bennett
Paranormal Historical Romance
317 pages
Berkley Sensation
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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…


MY THOUGHTS
Bitter Spirits is a strong start to a new series, Ms. Bennett delighting not only with witty, sensible characters but also with a time period not as frequently seen in historical romances, the combination of which ensures we're held riveted from page one to three hundred. We're immediately tossed into the thick of things when Aida's services as a medium are required to help a strapping, scarred bootlegger rid himself of an unwanted spiritual companion, and from that moment on we find ourselves equally entranced by both the progression of their relationship and the slow unraveling of a perfectly complex mystery. With some mysteries we're meant to know the culprit from the beginning, the joy of it then coming from figuring out the why rather than the who, but with Bitter Spirits we're made to guess the identity of Winter's malevolent magic wielder, and attempt to guess we do.

Aida is a woman easy to like from the beginning, her tension-filled banter with Winter bringing a smile to our faces and the flutter of butterflies to our stomachs. She proves herself throughout to be someone who thinks before she acts but blessedly doesn't overthink, finding happiness with Winter after a nice build without questioning her every reaction. She admits her attraction to him with little hesitation, never one to play coy but also never one to pretend to be more than she is either, admitting her limited relationship experience upfront just like she owns up to everything else about herself. She's not the type of person we have to worry about hiding something monumental that will eventually cause an irreparable rift between her and Winter, and when she learns a few things about Winter (because he's not quite as forthright as she is) she deals with any hurt or jealousy with relatively little fanfare, taking time to sort through it while being honest with Winter about how what's she's learned has made her feel.

Winter, while more guarded than Aida, isn't one to intentionally withhold information either, and the two of them tend to have small disagreements that feel genuine for two people trying to get to know one another rather than epic blowouts with lots of drama and angst. He wants to help Aida make her way in this world given she has no family and is on her own to make a living, but he never attempts to exert his not inconsiderable will, instead fully understanding how important her independence is to her. They each have baggage they bring into the relationship, and while they have brief moments where said baggage temporarily blinds them to the truth of the situation, neither of them is too stubborn to take a step back and reevaluate to see if there's perhaps something they've missed while their focus was solely on the extent of their own hang-ups.

Overall, Bitter Spirits is successful on a variety of levels, romance and mystery blending seamlessly to give us a well-rounded story rich with characters who have us loving every moment we get to spend with them. The next book moves from Aida and Winter to Winter's brother Lowe, and I can't help but hope there's a book for Winter's sister Astrid in the works as well, as the entire Magnusson clan is a group who will never fail to keep life interesting.

Rating: 4/5

*Update: I wrote this before I knew there was in fact going to be a book for Winter's sister, so YAY!
  
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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

30 comments:

  1. I have this on hold at the library! Number 4 of 5 people---I must wait *sad panda*

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    1. I think you'll find it worth the wait Felicia, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Winter and Aida are fabulous:)

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  2. This sounds great, Jenny! I'm excited to read it. Aida and Winter sound absolutely wonderful together. I've heard that the chemistry between them. I also like how each book is a companion. Great review, Jenny. I'll be sure to check it out when I go to the bookstore!

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    1. I'm really excited the next books are companions too, I was so pleased with how everything wrapped up for the two of them, I wouldn't have been too thrilled if their story was then going to be dragged out in subsequent book. And Winter's family is awesome, so I can't wait for their stories!

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  3. I've read a ton of great things about this story and, with your lovely review, am adding it to my TBR. I will go meet Winter (love the name, especially for a guy). I want to root for the romance!

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy this one Mary. Winter for the win.

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  4. This is a new-to-me book and I really enjoy historical fiction, but when you combine it with paranormal fiction, it's usually something that I end up loving. Plus, it sounds like the mystery in the book is pretty great as well the relationship between Aida and Winter. I will definitely be adding this to my TBR list. Fantastic review, Jenny!

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    1. I just loved it Christina! I felt both the romance and the mystery were really well done, and I just can't wait for more from Jenn.

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  5. I keep hearing good things about this one! :)

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it!

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  6. Ooo! I've been hearing such wonderful things about this book. It seems like the loveliest mix of genres and elements that I like, and along with your positive response to it I think I'm going to enjoy this one very much! Thanks so much for the review. I need to get my hands on this ASAP.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. I hope you have a chance to read it Wendy! It was such a nice break from the YA I'd been reading (not that I don't love YA, I do), the romance was lovely and I didn't figure out the "who" of the mystery until everything was revealed to me:)

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  7. I've heard lots of great things about this book. The characters sound like great fun, and I'm always up for a historical fiction with paranormal elements. Can't wait to read this one!

    Kris @Imaginary Reads

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  8. I loved this one too, Jenny, and I can't wait for more of these characters and this series! I adored Winter and Aida and the world-building to this universe was fantastic as well. Bennett's books always work for me and I can't wait to read more of her work! :)

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  9. Sounds good! I love this area and glad to see that they are more books on it. I read another YA series similar to this. Great review Jenny.

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  10. Before I comment on your review, I LOVE what the woman is wearing on the cover =) Plus, I adore twenties so, YAY!!!!!! Who doesn't like good banter? Like seriously.. Anyone? Yeah, good banter is always a plus in my book. " She's not the type of person we have to worry about hiding something monumental that will eventually cause an irreparable rift between her and Winter, and when she learns a few things about Winter (because he's not quite as forthright as she is) she deals with any hurt or jealousy with relatively little fanfare," Oooooh, I'm already a fan of hers:) Eeek! I'm so happy that this mystery is spiced with romance and you have yet again introduced a new series to me. Thank you so much for sharing, sweets!

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  11. I am so delighted you enjoyed this Jenny and yes Astrid is the third book..squee!

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  12. Oh, good! I am so very relieved to see that you liked this! PNR usually gives me allergies, and not light ones either, but with Jenn, everything works out perfectly.
    I've been thinking about Astrid's book ever since I read this, and I'm thrilled that she's getting one after all. At first, Jenn said MAYBE somewhere down the line, but now that it's certain, I feel like celebrating!

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  13. I didn't know there was going to be a book with the sister. Way fun! I liked this one so much as well. Aida and Winter are great characters and I loved seeing them come together flaws and freckles and all!

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  14. I love Bennett's Arcadia Bell series but I was a little unsure of this one at first because I don't always enjoy HR.

    I shouldn't have worried. Her excellent writing and characters carried over to this genre and I ended up loving it.

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  15. Wonderful review, Jenny! You know I loved this one, too! That bathtub scene or the postcard scene: Yum! I can't wait for the next books in the series and I'm thinking of picking up Jenn Bennett's Arcadia Bell series as well. :)

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  16. You, Heidi, Keertana, al recommend this one so I think I'll just go ahead and get it. I'll get to it soon enough. I've been skipping around so much lately, schedule smedule. Gotta be in the mood!

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  17. I hadn't heard of this book before now, and it sounds like my kind of book. I am very curious about Aida, I feel like I would like her spunk. I am happy to hear that she's not a push over and can confront Winter when he does something she doesn't appreciate.
    Thanks for the review Jenny,

    ~Sara @ Just Another Story

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  18. Yay! I SO enjoyed this one too! I also felt like their arguments and what-not were more misunderstandings and they were resolved quickly without a bunch of angst and drama. I can't wait for Astrid's book!

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  19. I absolutely love her characters. I was supposed to get this one, but I didn't get the call back for it. :'( Doesn't matter.. I will get this one and devour it too!

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  20. I've been reading such wonderful reviews for this, and I'm thrilled that I finally got a copy from the library after a long (and painful) wait, so I'm about to start it. I can't wait to meet Aida and Winter, it sounds like they are going to charm me. And yay, I have another book to look forward to when I'm done. :-) Wonderful review Jenny!

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  21. This book made me happy, happy! I just loved everything about it, and it never got too angsty before the characters realized they were being idiots. YES to this sentence: "Overall, Bitter Spirits is successful on a variety of levels, romance and mystery blending seamlessly to give us a well-rounded story rich with characters who have us loving every moment we get to spend with them." Great review! I can't wait for the next installment!!

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