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Roaring Twenties #1

Bitter Spirits

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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…

317 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 7, 2014

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About the author

Jenn Bennett

23 books4,694 followers
Jenn Bennett is the author of over a dozen books, including the young adult titles: ALEX, APPROXIMATELY; STARRY EYES; SERIOUS MOONLIGHT; and THE LADY ROGUE. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been Goodreads Choice Award nominees, and have been included on annual Best Book lists for both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs. Visit her at www.jennbennett.net.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 545 reviews
January 12, 2014
Winter is coming. And by winter is coming, I'm not making a reference to Game of Thrones.

I mean that Winter is about to jizz his pants.

Ooh, sexual excitement, you say? Not fucking likely. For a book so filled to the brim with people on the brink of sexual ecstasy, it was shockingly dull. I ate dinner while reading this book, and I was almost drowned by my enormous bowl of soup. Sex and eroticism should make me feel titillated. It should not make me laugh.
“Oh, Winter. Oh, God. Oh, Winter.”
That’s right, he thought, drunk on power. One and the same.
She turned one cheek to the mattress and broke apart, crying out in long, wavering sobs.
Oh, Winter, you great big virile BEAST, you.
Mouth slack and wide, he bucked, squinted his eyes closed, and bellowed out an extended cry that reverberated through her as he shuddered in her arms like a great, divine beast taken down by a single bullet.
She was the one who’d been shot.
The main love in the book, Winter Magnusson, is constantly on the verge of orgasming in his pants every time he so much as smells a tantalizing whiff of the main character's juice-soaked panties. Ok, maybe I exaggerate. Winter doesn't cream his pants whenever he smells Aida's panties. He is also extremely aroused by freckles.
Freckles everywhere.
They began in a sliver of pale forehead above arched brows, gathered tightly across her nose and cheeks, lightened around her neck, then disappeared into the dipping neckline of her dress.
Man, those freckles.
Freckles on her legs—how about that? For some reason, he found this wildly exciting. Increasingly lurid thoughts ballooned inside his head after he wondered exactly what percentage of her skin was speckled. Did freckles cover her arms? The curving creases where her backside ended and her legs began? Her nipples?
Did I mention Winter is highly titillated by freckles?
The view only got better when she shucked off her coat: freckles covered every inch of her slender arms.
Talk about a fucking fetish, man. Winter even collects erotic postcards with freckled women.
[The postcard] featured a naked woman with bobbed hair. She sat upon the lap of a naked man, who was propped up against a pile of cushions.
She rode him, mouth open, with a look of ecstasy on her face.
And she was freckled.
Total word count of "freckle" in the book: 42. Ok. Aida's got freckles. We fucking get it.

It is a bad foreboding for the book when the little introductory blurb is entitled LOVE AT FIRST SIGHTING.The problem with this book is not so much love at first sight as it is lust at first sight. And the problem with this book is love, actually (Like the movie, ha ha ha, I am so clever. Not.).

There is an overwhelming, pervasive amount of lust in this book, at the expense at the credible development of love in this book, at the expense of the actual plot. Halfway through the book, I had to go back to the book's summary because I wasn't sure what it is that I was actually reading; I didn't know what the plot comprised. If you stripped the lust, the love, the jealousy, the overwhelming amount of doubts and uncertainties surrounding romance, this book would be roughly around 100 pages instead of its actual length of well over 300 pages. 300 pages on my ebook reader. In very, very, very small type >_>

Summary: I cannot summarize this book because there is not much to summarize, not much for me to parody. Essentially, the initial 30% of the book is filled with Winter and Aida's tremendous insta-attraction. The next 30% was composed of them deliberating their attraction and coming to terms with their jealousy. The last 30% is of them fucking like bunnies and falling further in love.

Paranormal, my ass. Spirits? There are more spirits on my now diminished liquor shelf. There is NOTHING here. If you wanted ghosts, you are in for a vast fucking disappointment. If you wanted danger, look elsewhere. If you wanted a love story, well, will you walk into my parlour, says the spider to the fly.

The Setting: If you wanted to read this book for the atmosphere of the Flapper era of the 1920s, you will be in for a disappointment. This book is almost completely free of flapper slang and colloquialisms, for which I am grateful, because I hate the extensive use of Flapper speak in other books (like Libba Bray's The Diviners). There are mentions of speakeasies, there is the depiction of San Francisco's Chinatown, Winter himself is a bootlegger, but other than that, I just absolutely do not get the feel of the 1920s in this book. Sure, it is set in San Francisco, but it could be anywhere from the 1880s to early 1950s, as far as I was concerned, because the setting was so underwhelming in every way.

The Characters: Developmentally lacking. Blissfully free of complexity. Forgettable, just like everything in this book.

The Romance: I love lust. Lust is fine. Lust has its place. Lust should not take the place of a plot. Lust should not overwhelm what should have been an important investigation. Look at Mulder & Scully in the X-Files. Keep it in your fucking pants until you get shit done, ok? You have a brain, blood flow to the brain should take priorities over, well, you know.

From the very first moment they see each other, there is a boner and a lady boner. Winter is a hysterical hyperbole of a man. He's just so fucking big, y'all.
My. He was enormous—several inches over six feet and with shoulders broad enough to topple small buildings as he passed.
Big everywhere, if you catch my drift.
But it was the thicket below his rippled stomach that drew her attention. And the substantial length that hung under it.
Dear God.
She wasn’t exactly an expert on men’s naked bodies, but she’d seen a couple, and neither possessed anything between their legs quite like that, and definitely not in a state of rest. She could only guess what it looked like when it woke up.
Ugh, spare me all your lady boners. Aida spends so much damn time dreaming of Winter's wang that I wonder when she has the time to think about anything else. Or do anything else. Like the case she's working on?
She may have possibly made a series of desperate noises. She definitely arched against him, bumping into his erection again. Well, rubbing herself against it, to be truthful.
What case? I don't even know, really. Winter has an erection every time he's around her. The truth is that their lust completely overwhelms the first 30% of the book, and by the time they had gotten over it, I had completely lost interest in what little there is of the plot. Their lust is so all-encompassing, so completely overwhelming that I cannot comprehend when and how it developed into love. Thus, their romance was unconvincing, their love story lacking in credibility, and they had lost me in the book far before that.
Profile Image for Christina ~ Brunette Reader.
187 reviews300 followers
February 8, 2017

4,5 Stars

San Francisco, 1927
It's a curse bringing bootlegger extraordinaire Winter Magnusson and Aida Palmer together while the flapper medium has her hands full performing séances on stage at the Gris-Gris club. Pesky ghosts have suddenly developed the habit of following the Swedish "businessman" around and Aida is the only one who has the power to break what has all the looks of a vengeful spell. Their unlikely partnership and past and present enemies will take them from high-class glitz to the seediest streets of San Francisco and entangle them in a sizzling affair that may or may not turn into a lifetime one.

From the snappy dialogues to the quirky atmosphere, the paranormal elements smoothly blending into the story and the great chemistry between the leads, I liked quite everything about this book and I was pleasantly surprised by the new to me author. The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition Era setting, much less common among historical romances backdrops, made for a welcome change of scenery and Jenn Bennett cleverly captured the energy and edge of those years. Thanks to the lively prose and the vivid portrayal of well-rounded characters immersed in the 1920s' town life, the romance felt deliciously old-fashioned and modern at the same time, bringing together a hardened bootlegger with a difficult past and a deep love for his family and an independent, bohemian woman afraid of putting down roots.
Anything can happen in the moody fog-shrouded city where two parallel worlds collide and Jenn Bennett takes us there in a glorious whirlwind of excitement, danger, hot romance and speakeasy craziness.

Buddy-read with Anna :)
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,471 reviews19.1k followers
July 12, 2018
Meh. The sexy times were v fun but I couldn’t care less about the plot, which is a letdown because I was excited to scratch my 1920s itch. Although honestly I didn’t have the highest of expectations to begin with because I knew reading paranormal would be really hit or miss for me. Meh meh meh. How do u even write reviews
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,255 reviews517 followers
November 4, 2016
3.5 stars

This was a really cool, fresh, and different romance story. Set in 1920s during Prohibition our hero is a bootlegger and our heroine is a medium who can call forth ghosts, talk to them, and send them back to the veil. The details with world building and making me feel the time period and atmosphere were so good, it was the star of the show for me. (I may have a slight crush on Winter's wardrobe; suspenders, undershirts, and vests) It's set in San Francisco with Chinatown getting a lot of mentions because of the warring Tongs (different groups of Chinese criminals running the alcohol or other criminal activities) and how that connects to Winter's storyline of someone siccing ghosts on him to disrupt his bootlegging. The spiritualism/mysticism with spells and descriptions of ghosts was so cool and entertaining.

The first half felt more like insta-lust between Winter and Aida for me; a lot of lusting about freckles and height. They had a fun a back and forth, I give a lot of credit here to the author for the way she wrote Aida. Aida was a strong independent woman but her past involving her family had clearly made her emotional vulnerable and the author did a great job showcasing both sides. The first half was more three stars for me while the second half was fours stars with an immensely improved Winter and Aida's emotional connection; was able to see and believe in their connection.
The part where How Winter acted on knowing how important this was to Aida is what makes heroes.

I'm so on board with this series and will definitely be reading the next. If you're looking for a fun, cool, slightly spooky, and hot couple historical set in the 1920s you definitely want to pick this one up!
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,802 reviews830 followers
January 14, 2014
Oh my goodness, I found a favorite new author in Jenn Bennett! If you want a cleverly written, sexy, addictive paranormal romance, look no further: Bitter Spirits is the story for you!

Aida Palmer works as a spirit medium for Gris Gris, a San Francisco speakeasy set in the 1920’s. Forced to fend for herself after the death of her parents, Aida is fortunate to have such a useful gift of channeling the dead. When she’s asked to send away a ghost following a rich bootlegger, Winter Magnusson, she captivated by the man. He’s big, gorgeous, and his presence sucks her in like a magnet!

This was a body built for conquering. For smiting enemies. Ransacking villages. Ravaging innocent women. Maybe even some not-so-innocent women. He wasn’t pretty or conventionally good-looking. More savagely handsome, she decided.

Ravaging? Yes, please Winter!

Winter has been targeted and hexed, but he needs to know who’s responsible. After Aida gets rid of his ghost, he can’t stop his mind wandering back to her. She’s wasn’t intimidated or afraid of his appearance, which was unusual after his accident. With all those lovely freckles, he wouldn’t mind spending an evening or two playing connect the dots! He decides to hire Aida to banish any other ghosts that cross his path, and she becomes embroiled in his dangerous mystery.

This story was highly addictive! I was immediately drawn into Aida and Winter’s mind with the dual alternating POVs. They each have a history making them hesitant about any relationship, but neither can fight the pull they have on each other. Oh, boy can Jenn Bennett write some sexual tension, chemistry, and spice! Ooh la la! Aida and Winter raised the temperature to fiery hot every time they were in a room together! Their inner thoughts on each other are deliciously lustful and wicked. I loved the fact that neither was conventionally handsome or pretty, but they were irresistible to each other. Loved when Winter would call Aida “cheetah”, because he found her freckles highly erotic!

As if the romance wasn’t enough the mystery, suspense, and danger add another level of excitement, that made me want to lock myself in my bedroom so I could read and finish it straight through. The roaring twenties was a vividly depicted, and I could picture girls walking around in their flapper dresses, and long pearls easily.

Jenn Bennett’s writing is fast paced, witty, and captivating. I can’t wait for the next in the series: Grim Shadows which will center on Winter’s brother Lowe!

A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,649 reviews212 followers
August 29, 2015

If nothing else Bitter Spirits got me out of my first reading slump. It had a great opportunity to combine the historical (1920s San Francisco) setting with paranormal elements (ghosts, curses). It was overshadowed by the instant-everything regarding the two protagonists though. As soon as they see each other, they start drooling thinking about sex at the weirdest times (and I mean weirdest as in I almost died and such weirdest of times).

I like reading a romance/lust story as much as the next woman but it would be better if there were less of it here. I am not sure how to rate it. I did like it. Sort of. Who knows, maybe the next one won't be a missed opportunity.
Points for getting me out of the slump.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,162 followers
January 31, 2014
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I have a confession to make: Bitter Spirits is not my first encounter with Jenn Bennett. I picked up Bennett's Arcadia Bell Series a month or two ago and have been a goner for her work ever since. Needless to say, I have been holding out on you, my dear readers, for Jenn Bennett is not an author to lightly walk away from. In fact, hers is the only paranormal romance novel that's worked for me in the past few months. I've tried Jeanine Frost's Night Huntress Series (not bad, but not that good either), Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter Series (just...not for me), Kristen Callihan's Darkest London Series (leaves quite a bit to be desired) and even Molly Harper's Naked Werewolf Series which once used to work for me. From these, only Bitter Spirits finally managed to satisfy, leaving me satiated, but still craving more, as Bennett inevitably always leaves me.

I haven't visited the Roaring Twenties since Libba Bray's The Diviners, but I was able to slim seamlessly back into Bennett's vivid re-imagination of this time period. Fraught with spirits, 1920s California is an exotic, but dangerous, place. Aida Palmer, the vivacious protagonist of our tale, is a spirit medium used to traveling across the country, performing in clubs, and summoning spirits. Aida stumbles across Winter Magnusson, a businessman, in the office of her current employer and banishes the strange spirit following him. While Aida is lining up her next offer in New Orleans and Winter, with a haunting past, wants nothing to do with love, the two cannot deny their attraction to one another. Set against a backdrop of danger, ghosts, and death, however, their sizzling chemistry may not be the most dangerous presence around...

From the first chapter of Bitter Spirits itself I was gripped - hook, line, and sinker - into this tale. Both Aida and Winter are impressive characters in their own right, courageous and determined in the face of obstacles, but together they are an explosive force. Even disregarding their chemistry, the dialogue, banter, and understand these two grow to possess for one another is deep and gradually portrayed. Moreover, while their romance has its fair share of ups and downs, it is fueled by a bone-chilling mystery, taking these two into the heart of San Francisco's China Town and deep into Chinese culture and folklore itself. Bitter Spirits excels as a romance, there is no denying that, but even as a historical novel it shines. Ultimately, it leaves little to be desired...except maybe an ARC of its sequel, naturally.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,868 followers
October 31, 2013
4.5 stars
You may or may not know that I avoid paranormal romance like the plague. I’ve stated on several occasions that it gives me severe allergies. But this is Jenn Bennett we’re talking about – I’d read just about anything if it had her name on it. And wow, did I make the right decision here.

As a huge fan of Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series, I went into this book hoping for unique characters and a well-built world. Witty, entertaining and hot as sin, Bitter Spirits was everything I’ve come to expect from Jenn Bennett, and then some. There’s no better place and no better time for two clever, flirtatious characters than San Francisco during the prohibition era, and when one your protagonist is a bootlegger, the danger implied is enough to make your heart beat faster.

Bennett knows how to write romances her readers can invest everything into. Her characters are never archetypal, they’re built to the finest details, and so are their relationships. It was so easy to love these two and want to see them together. Even when they were being difficult and pigheaded, it wasn’t hard to stay on their side and hope for the best.

It helped that they are, individually, very impressive characters. Aida Palmer is a medium, and she’s the real deal. She travels from town to town performing her show in clubs. She can both summon and banish spirits and she is no weakling. She is a modern, independent woman, opinionated and strong. Winter Magnusson is a businessman with a horrible, traumatic past. Having lost his family in an accident, he is determined never to marry again. They are attracted to each other from the start, but neither is in the position to hope for something permanent, at least not at first.

However, Bitter Spirits is not all about the romance. The paranormal mystery Aida and Winter end up investigating is not just something carelessly thrown together as a catalyst for the romance. It is thought through and exciting and it explores Chinese culture to a certain extent. Honestly, what more could one wish for?

In a typical PNR fashion, the second book will focus on Winter’s brother, the archaeologist, and his romantic interest. According to Jenn, there will eventually be a third book featuring Winter’s sister and his most trusted employee and friend. All I can say to that is: yes, please!

Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,854 reviews1,494 followers
October 4, 2019
This was okay. Aida was interesting as a spirit medium in 1920s San Francisco and the setting makes that be a real thing. I liked how strong she was despite being tiny and that she stood up for herself even against Winter when needed. Which is no small thing as he's powerful and in more than just a physical way.

The relationship was just about the only thing keeping me engaged in the story, frankly. I liked their back and forth and really liked how well each complimented the other. Offsetting that more than a little is Winter's stupid declaration that he'd never get married again because his first wife was such a huge mistake. Because doing a thing wrong one time means you can never, ever do it right no matter what.

Also, Bennett has this thing she does where her characters become oddly paralyzed during a scene when there's lots of description. Like, there's this part where Aida walks in on a group saving Winter from a curse by putting him in a cold bath. She opens the door and just stands there while a bunch of stuff happens. She has a thing to do to prepare the bath (add juju crap to the water and stir) and the main action literally cannot proceed until she finishes, but we have shifting around and other people talking and plans being made and towel racks being hung and a toilet gets up and walks out in disgust and I think Martians might have zapped a cockroach or something. Okay, I exaggerate. But seriously, she just stands there and it isn't even that she's gawking at the splendid specimen of man-flesh or anything. Well, she looks. But that's, like, a sentence and then we're off with the other thirty or forty pages of stuff that happens before she dumps the stuff in the water.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah. The plot is, frankly, the weakest element of this story and that's a crying shame. The whole thing rotates around Winter being attacked spiritually and them flailing around trying to figure out why or what or who or how. And they literally only ever make any progress when the bad guy finally near the very end. So the bad guy runs rings around them the whole story and if you think about it at all Aida and Winter come off as pretty stupid.

It's really too bad that Winter knee-capped the romance by being a big emotionally constipated idiot or this might have managed a better rating. Since he did, in fact, knee-cap the relationship, however, this only comes to three stars.

A note about Steamy: There are a handful of explicit sex scenes putting this in the middle of my steam tolerance. They're actually kind of a strong element of the story and where the characters work best, I think. That intimacy is also used very well by the author to ramp up the relationship tension in all the ways it needed to.
Profile Image for Lisa Kay.
924 reviews504 followers
May 31, 2016
Chinese Dragon Coins

★★★★½ (This is a review of the audiobook.) I quite like Amy Landon’s narration of this one. I’ve heard her before and have had no complaints. She had nice pacing and inflection. I like that she does the male voices without trying too overly hard to do a gruff, masculine voice. For me, that can be just as annoying as a male reader using a falsetto for a female.

This is my first book by Jenn Bennett and I quite liked it. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I liked it. She gets the ambiance for the Roaring Twenties in San Francisco, with scenes in Chinatown & Nob Hill, nicely. There was a lot more insta-lust and foreplay-leading-to-the-eventual-consummation in it than I was expecting. Still, it is ‘tagged’ as “Paranormal Romance” more times than “Paranormal Suspense,” so I should have been forewarned. {Ghost, necromancers, and magic are what make it all “paranormal.”}

Not that I don’t appreciate a good sex scene, or two. I do! But the main story is about the attraction between the hero and heroine and how, despite their tragic pasts, a relationship blossoms to love. Nice, but when I started this, I found myself more interested in the mystery of why Winter had been hexed. Why, when ghosts are usually tethered to where they died, were they able to find him and follow him around? Probably my mood. Yup.

Still, in the privacy of my own home I was able to switch gears soon enough, and went with the flow. There is certainly chemistry here between the hero & heroine. Usually, I don’t like jealousy scenes, but there is an early one, before Aida Palmer, spirit medium, realizes she falling for Winter Magnusson, notorious bootlegger. They’re at a party and Aida gets quite pissed when one of Winter’s old lovers makes advances; however, it is well done, making me believe the anger, making me laugh when I probably shouldn’t have. LOL! Also, I liked Winter’s sister, Astrid, and his right-hand man, Bo - and luckily they get their story in Book #3, Grave Phantoms.

Then, of course, just when I figured the book was all about the romance, the mystery revs back up, with the author giving me a really nice ending - and epilogue, kicking it back up a half star!
Profile Image for Robin.
1,670 reviews59 followers
April 1, 2018
Someone has put a curse on notorious bootlegger Winter Magnusson. First he became a magnet for ghosts wandering around San Francisco. Now someone has poisoned him. He is sent to Aida Parker for help. Aida is a spirit medium who has a stage show in Chinatown. She banishes the ghost who is following him and assists in the removal of the poison. When Winter again has a ghost attack him, he and Aida work to discover who put the curse on him.

This is the first book I've read by this author, but definitely not the last. This is the first book in a trilogy set in 1920's San Francisco. I loved the setting. It was so nice to read a historical romance set outside of the Regency era. The paranormal story is fun. No one knew who cursed Winter or why anyone would want to. Did it have to do with his line of work? Was it something to do with his late wife? Finally, the characters in this story are fun. I loved Winter and Aida. They were very romantic. I also liked the other characters in this book and look forward to their story. My rating: 4.5 Stars.
Profile Image for Lover of Romance.
2,700 reviews779 followers
August 13, 2022
This review was originally posted on Addicted To Romance

This review may contain spoilers, so fair warning, upon reading the review.

First Impressions
This is a series that I have been meaning to get to for quite a long while and really ever since it was released. I just love this era, and I feel like hardly any authors write in this era, so I have really been intrigued by these books. I saw the first one available in audio and I was looking for something different, and I decided to grab this one up and I have to say, that I took way too long reading this one because I absolutely adored every single moment in listening to this one here. There was something so much fun about this book and it was WAY sexier than I actually expected it to be. This is my first time reading this author, so I am not sure why I had that impression, but this author captured so many aspects of this story so well and I couldn’t get enough of it. If you like a mix of history, gothic-like feels, and rich culture then you definitely need to grab this one up.

Aida Palmer is a spirit medium and has always had the ability to talk to spirits and ghosts and has been able to train herself to embody the spirits for short time and do it to perform for others. She has worked hard to build herself a respectable reputation and has come a long way from being an orphan and foster child. Winter Magnusson, is a bootlegger and has his hands dipping in all sorts of pots and lives on the border of the law. But now he is being targeted by a hex and needs Aida’s assistance. After her assistance, there is instant chemistry, and through a set of events they end up working together in solving the mystery of why there are malevolent ghosts that are becoming drawn to him. But soon something more builds between Aida and Winter, but when their casual relationship turns into something more, will Winter be able to fight for Aida and prove to her their love is genuine and worth fighting for?

What I Loved
Bitter Spirits was such a fantastic twist of a romance and I loved everything about this story. This story just worked so well for me, and I was in the right mood for this type of story. And I have to say that the chemistry that is built between these two is top-notch, the hero is such a scoundrel, and he really draws Aida in and I loved the hints of seduction and sexual teasing that these two get involved in. Their romance just blossoms so well and balances so well with the other aspects of the story. I found both the characters so endearing, they have their own distinctive flair but somehow balance each other out. I was so curious to see where the author would lead their relationship. In the beginning, it starts out slow with gentle teasing but then builds into a stronger crescendo of feeling and sexual chemistry. Then on the plot side, we have the mystery surrounding the ghost hex. I really was so drawn into the plot effects and the fascinating world-building. The author really builds on the culture surrounding the “roaring twenties” and you can bet I was feeling the vibe of the speakeasy bars and jazz and the rich clothing and hairstyles. I honestly wanted to just LIVE within this story, it just captured my interest so quickly and I am so stoked to explore the series even further.

What I Struggled With
There wasn’t much I struggled with to be honest, I didn’t like some of the choices the heroine makes regarding the relationship that causes the third act conflict, but I know it was just a plot device and it eventually worked for me.

The Narration
Amy Landon did such an incredible job with this one here. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of it. I was so fascinated with how well she captured the essence of the story and really handled the building of the relationship so well. She has such a pleasant voice that was so nice to listen to and I enjoyed her character inflections. I will definitely be looking for more books narrated by her.

Overall View
I found Bitter Spirits to be such a captivating, sensual-provoking romance that won its way quickly into my sphere. It’s a story that will immediately capture your attention, stun you with its historical detail, and will deliver in such a unique aspect that completes a balanced satisfying way! A TRUE KEEPER!

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Profile Image for Lauren.
2,216 reviews162 followers
November 14, 2014
Bitter Spirits
5 Stars

After becoming the target of a series of hauntings, bootlegger Winter Magnusson hires medium Aida Palmer to help him expel the spirits stalking him and discover the culprit behind the curse. As Winter and Aida work together, their mutual attraction grows but it seems that the ghosts of their pasts are more destructive than those affecting their present. Will they be able to heal past wounds and find a future together before it is too late?

Warning: This is historical PNR not UF. So, if you are expecting action-packed fight scenes, kick-ass heroines and detailed world-building you will be disappointed. However, anyone interested in a passionate romance with engaging characters, an original plot and a compelling setting should pick up this book immediately.

The setting is expertly rendered and it is easy to become immersed in the atmosphere of San Francisco and Chinatown in the 1920s prohibition era. This is a relatively unknown time period for me and it was fun looking up the events and terminology mentioned in the book (thank you Wikipedia).

Winter and Aida’s chemistry sizzles on the pages and their banter is sexy and steamy. Moreover, their individual struggles with the traumas of their pasts ultimately strengthens their emotional connection and make them a truly captivating couple.

The suspense plot is original with some intense action scenes and a seriously disturbed villain. The paranormal elements are cleverly interwoven into the story and add an extra layer to the eerie tone.

All in all, a fantastic paranormal debut for Jenn Bennett and I am eager to continue with the series.

Profile Image for Anna (Bobs Her Hair).
907 reviews194 followers
October 16, 2015
4.25 stars

I love the Roaring 20's, San Francisco, and paranormal element the this story. The San Francisco setting added cultural diversity, which is not always found in historical romances. There was a mood to Bitter Spirits that I very much enjoyed.

It's 1929 and Prohibition has benefited bootlegger Winter Magnusson, who is very protective of his family. His dashing good looks are marred by a scar that has a story he doesn't discuss. Winter's scar is also something that makes old friends very uncomfortable. Then, along comes Aida Palmer. She never stays in one place long but travels selling her skills as a psychic medium. Her newest contract places her in San Francisco. It's her gift that brings Winter into her life. Once she completes a job for him neither of them can't stop thinking of one another.

As with Ms. Bennett's Arcadia Bell series, there is a strong mystery involving murders, spirits, and organized crime. The writing is smooth. The characters fit seamlessly into the 1920's setting that I couldn't cast them by using today's actors. I preferred Ms. Bennett's Pinterest boards featuring Gary Cooper and Louise Brooks. Bitter Spirits feels fresh in comparison to history and paranormal romance.

Buddy Read with Christina
Profile Image for Rachael*Caribbean*girl*bibliophile.
1,591 reviews311 followers
August 12, 2020

I loved it just as much, Winter's sexual past irked my safety conscious spirit but this remains a favorite of mine.

No cheating
H was married and after his accident he slept with prostitutes
h had a mild encounter with one of his former lovers( very mild)
h only had 2 lovers

This is one of a few books that I own in more than 1 version. I originally read it in 2017 and reread it frequently. I loved the concept of a paranormal historical romance set in the roaring 20's with a medium and a badass bootlegger as the protagonists. Loved it!
Profile Image for Danielle (Love at First Page).
726 reviews621 followers
January 11, 2015
Thanks to the author for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

4-4.5 stars



Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite author finds of last year. Her writing is quirky, fun, and entertaining, and she gives me my much desired dose of romance in every book. Up until Bitter Spirits, there's been just one couple in the Jenn Bennett world - Lon and Cady from her Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series. (Love them. Loooooooove them.) As if there was ever any doubt, Winter and Aida are every bit as compelling and endearing as those two.

Aida Palmer is a spirit medium, able to summon ghosts by cutting herself. She's also a bit of a free spirit, albeit a lonely one, with a stubborn streak. After losing her parents and her brother, she made a name for herself by helping others communicate with their lost loved ones. She performs in various cities, never able to stay in one place very long due to her job. I connected with her immediately because she may be independent but she has a soft heart as well.

Winter Magnusson... dear God, Winter Magnusson. He's a notorious bootlegger and a hardened one at that, having lost his parents in a terrible car accident. He's scarred, both physically and emotionally, and has closed himself off to true happiness. Underneath that rough exterior, though, is a charismatic and wickedly sexy man. He charmed me with his flirtatious behavior and decidedly naughty thoughts and slayed me with his heart of gold that he keeps locked away.
And when she'd turned her face up to him and he saw the longing blossoming there, he was gone.

"No need to butter me up. Your hand's already been up my skirt."
"My hand is very happy about that."

Like I said before, Jenn Bennett excels at writing romances and relationships. When Winter enlists Aida's help to track down the sorcerer responsible for hexing him, the two form a partnership that is rife with sexual tension, physical touches, and wordless longing. Neither think they can be in a committed relationship, and there were a couple of moments near the end that I wanted to shake them a bit. Mostly, though, I adored their romance and how helpless they were to stop their growing attraction and love for one another. Winter returns to that carefree, happy person he once was, completely devoted to the Aida, and she finally finds a place - and a person - she can call home. (Also, he calls her cheetah, because of her freckles, which is beyond adorable!)

Outside of the romance, what I love most about Bitter Spirits is the combination of setting and genre. It's 1920s San Francisco, the prohibition era, complete with flapper girls, bootleggers, police raids, and speakeasies. Then there's the addition of ghosts, séances, undead bodies, and Chinese curses. Bennett effortlessly captures the atmosphere of the time period - all the sparkle, wit, and verve that embodied the roaring 20s - while also providing a wholly unique and entertaining paranormal story. The mystery surrounding Winter's hex brings everything (and everyone) together. I was kept guessing the entire time, completely riveted and on the edge of my seat.

While Lon and Cady will always hold a special place in my heart, I am enchanted by Jenn Bennett's new series. Winter and Aida are definitely a new favorite couple of mine. Next up will be Winter's brother, Lowe, a dashing archeologist, paired with an uptight curator, Hadley Bacall (don't you just love these names?). Should be in for another treat!

This review can also be found at Love at First Page.
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
January 10, 2014
Initial Thoughts: 3.5 stars - I honestly thought that I would not finish this book. The first half was a little repetitive with the main characters constantly at odds with each other. I did like that it was set in San Francisco during Prohibition and it was nice to see the inclusion of Chinese characters. The plot did pick up for the second half and I found myself enjoying the book more. I think that the supporting cast of characters did it for me - Astrid, Bo, Greta, and Sook Yin.

The Review:
Set in San Francisco of the late 1920's, Bitter Spirits is the first book in Jenn Bennett's new Roaring Twenties series. The book focuses on Aida Palmer who makes a living as a medium, entertaining customers as she speaks to ghosts. Her love interest is businessman and bootlegger Winter Magnusson.

For readers who have read Ms. Bennett's Arcadia Bell series, this is a very different kind of read. Perhaps that's why I had difficulty with this book at first. I might have had different expectations. The pacing of this book is much slower and the main characters did not catch my interest in the same way that Cady and Lon did. The book does pick up significantly during the second half and I can see why all my GR friends loved the book.

The romance aspect was long and drawn out. I found that Aida and Winter's relationship was annoying. They were constantly bickering and there were tons of misunderstandings. Both Aida and Winter were just too stubborn to compromise. And calling Aida cheetah because she was freckled - that got on my nerves. I was even more bothered when Winter just couldn't commit and all he could offer Aida was an affair. What's up with that?

Personally, I enjoyed the supporting characters more. Winter's younger sister Astrid was a hoot, especially when she and Aida were off driving. Winter's associate Bo was one of the more interesting characters. I loved how he was always skulking around. Sook-Yin was wonderful, especially when she arranged for Aida's beautiful clothes.

It was nice to see the inclusion of the Chinese community in this book. The whole Chinatown background added a colorful touch to the novel. I think that this is definitely a series to keep watching.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Penguin NAL for a review copy of this book.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
2,976 reviews363 followers
June 5, 2015
There are few periods in time that I have always been fascinated with and for whatever reason, the 20's just happens to be one of the few that I am, indeed, fascinated with.

It might be the changing of times, how women were finally coming out of their shells and fighting for what they wanted. It might be the fact that the world was on the cusp of a war, or it might just be the fabulous fashion sense, either way, I have always loved reading about it and watching movies that take place during that time. When men were still gentlemen but some of them were dangerous too. When the “bad boy” image started really coming about and women were flirty and ambitious and worked hard for their voices to be heard.

Ms. Bennett managed to capture all that in Bitter Spirits. With a feisty and ambitious heroine in Aida and a bad boy with a heart of gold in Winter.

This was so much darn fun to read. I loved the slight paranormal aspect mixed in with the historic detail, and of course, the steamy, swoon worthy romance.

Aida and Winter were just so darn lovable and their chemistry was undeniably hot, in fact I'm sure I blushed a few times while reading this.

Throw in a good solid mystery, fun and engaging secondary characters, and I soaked this up and devoured it.

This truly was unlike anything I have read in the genre and I had a great time while doing it. I'm so excited to read more and get more of these great secondary characters and dig deeper into their stories as well.

This was a fabulous start to what promises to be a stand out and fun series.
Profile Image for kris.
933 reviews179 followers
September 6, 2019
Aida Palmer can see ghosts and is freckled from head to toe. Winter Magnusson is a bootlegging mastermind and also a scarred giant. Together, they have the sex and also investigate secret gangs who use black magic?

1. The setting for this was pretty great: booze-y, flapper-ridden San Francisco, steeped in spiritualism and Chinatown. They drive fancy cars and ride streetcars and wear overcoats and wear tap pants! It was a fun romp.

2. Aida was an absolutely fine heroine. She's forthright but still unnerved by the tension between her and Winter. She is surrounded by people and their grief but is still alone, although I feel like that's assigning a little more poetic licensing to her character than the text can support. That's my biggest problem with Aida, honestly: she's just kind of ... flat. Simple. Her motivations and goals don't land or stick or exist, and while I didn't dislike her, I also didn't get her. I wanted to like her but was left scrabbling for reasons to. She was a fine simulacra to get me through the story.

3. Winter was: SO BIG AND MANLY. GUILTY BECAUSE OF A DEAD FIRST WIFE AND THE SCAR HE GOT WHEN SHE DIED. HORNY AF. Pretty standard hero stuff. The only interesting thing about him is his bootlegger empire and that only gets briefly touched on, instead edged aside for his manly arousal, horrifying guilt, nasty scar, etc. Oh, also he gets haunted by ghosts!!! But even that doesn't truly impact him in any way because he is SO DISTRACTED BY HIS BONER.

4. So I do have to take a moment to vent about the last third of this novel because while a romp, the last bit went entirely off the rails into ridiculous melodramatic territory best left to experts. Like soap stars. Basically, Aida and Winter meet, flirt, make out, and acknowledge their raging boners for one another. Then, Winter proposes an affair, saying that he's "never getting married again" and that they can have a temporary bit of fun. Aida, who is working at a speakeasy for a limited engagement, agrees.

A few weeks into their affair, Aida announces that her train tickets to her new place of employment in another town have been dropped off, she leaves in a a week, and also she's very sad about it because she doesn't want to leave Winter.

Winter obviously hasn't been paying attention to dates or anything throws a tantrum that only man who is an adult male can. Obviously she can't leave! Obviously she should just give up her job and contract to stay in town temporarily banging Winter! IT'S FINE. (It's not fine.)

This fight happens three or four separate times. Each time they argue around the fact that they both want to see each other (naked) MORE but refusing to explicitly go "LISTEN I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE THIS THING A CHANCE DO U LIKE LIKE ME Y/N", which results in MORE ARGUMENT. It's enough of a tire screech in an otherwise straightforward romance that I think I strained a muscle rolling my eyes. JUST TALK YOU IDIOTS YOU ARE BOTH IDIOTS.

(Eventually Aida stays and Winter throws a ring at her and it's FINE but omg the journey was a waste. It's a testament to the earlier charm of this novel that their final reconciliation (Aida telling Winter she won't be leaving and he can suck it and Winter telling Aida that she will be marrying him and living happily ever after) is actually a semi-decent denouement.

5. While I loved how Aida's abilities (and those of Velma and other magic practitioners) were just...there in this novel's San Francisco, I would have appreciated some information on the bigger world. Does this sort of magic change the scope of America? Does it change how business gets done? Is it ignored? Ingrained?

6. I'd give this 4 stars if not for the ridiculous miscommunication fight(s) and the questions I had about world-building.
Profile Image for Always Reading.
655 reviews227 followers
January 6, 2014
I'm going to keep this very brief because Janice already told you all you need to know and stole all the good words. But I just had to add my two-pence worth and say I loved it too! Me, me, I did, I did!

First of all—the era, the setting, the clothing, the language, the hints of magic, all layered together to make one deliciously sumptuous paranormal world unlike anything I've read before. I loved the 1920's details—they gave it such a unique flavour!

Second—you may or may not know that I have a real soft spot for the big, grumbly bear-type characters. Those ones that are alpha enough, but not so alpha they make me want to hurl things. Kinda stern-looking on the outside, marshmallow on the inside. A that is exactly what Winter was and IlovehimIlovehimIlovehimIlovehim!

Thirdly—Aida. Oh, my God, Aida. She was wonderful! You've got to give her credit for at least pretending she was resistant to Winter's allure for all of five minutes at the beginning. It's a lot longer than I would have lasted!

And the last thing that stood out for me were the end scenes. Another great choice for setting/location that was very vivid and somewhat surprising!

Oh, and I loved Winter's sister. And Bo. There's more to those two, methinks. And I can't wait to meet his brother in book two and...oh, heck, I just liked it ALL!

5 Stars! ★★★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,670 reviews701 followers
April 5, 2018
I was in desperate need of more of Jenn’s words, so I decided to give this one a try.

I love love loved Aida and Winter. She's sassy maybe a bit tired of being on her own and he's stoic and an absolute marshmallow on the inside. They’re both so stubborn and so alike that it was fun to read them pushing buttons and arguing. And JFC, the chemistry was insane.

Plot wise, it was interesting. I liked the mystery part, but really just wanted all Aida and Winter all the time. Thankfully, that’s what I got. There is a bit of conflict and some mean words, but it didn’t last long and the ending is perfection.

Overall, it was a quick and captivating read. I can’t wait to get to the next one in this series.
Profile Image for Mandi.
2,299 reviews718 followers
February 28, 2014
Highly recommend this one.

The hero and heroine are so adorable - super sexy. Hero is a big massive guy - heroine is little and freckled. There is such great flirting and courtship.

The overall story really drew me in.

I hesitated to read this because set in the 20's and has ghosts and for some reason that didn't appeal to me but I was a dumb dumb!!! Great setting - ghosts play in well to the story and truly a great, sexy romance.
Profile Image for Julie.
535 reviews140 followers
January 11, 2014
Posted at Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks

Bitter Spirits is the first book in Jenn Bennett’s new Roaring Twenties paranormal romance series. As the name suggests, this series is set in the 1920’s. Now most of you know by now that I don’t read many historical romance books as I have trouble clicking with them. Makes no sense but there it is. But apparently I have no trouble clicking with the 20’s because holy cow, this book was awesome.

Bitter Spirits tells the tale of Aida, a spirit medium and Winter, the perfect sort of alpha hero.

Let’s start with Aida.

I really found her character to be endearing. She is strong, smart and sassy and won’t take lip from anyone. I loved her spunk. I thought it was fun that she is described as full of freckles. You don’t see that often in romance books, but this little detail made Aida even more accessible to me. She’s just awesome.

Now let’s talk about Winter. OMG did I ever love him! He is alpha to the bone but he is my new favorite sort of macho man. He is bossy but not an absolute arse. I love how he is around Aida. And I love how lost he gets when he realizes it’s love. There is just something about an alpha man in love – it’s just too cute and ‘awww’ worthy. I love how he woos Aida. I love how he treats his sister and his employees. I love everything about him and think he is one of the yummiest men I have ever read.

I love how Jenn wrote their romance. Its progression is so natural. These are two people who are incredibly attracted to each other but are trying to fight it. Okay, scratch that. Winter is not trying to fight it but he is not thinking love and commitment either. Aida just wants to be left alone…or does she??? And let’s talk about the sexy times. I read erotica – not often, but I do – and I found the lovin’ in this book to be even hotter than some of what I’ve read from that genre. Oh my goodness, they are so hot! I am not saying that Jenn wrote super x-rated porn-worthy scenes. The truth is, when you look at those scenes at face value, they don’t seem all that steamy but there is something about the way they are written. The chemistry between the characters. And also the time period adds to it. It’s the 1920′s so flings aren’t considered proper. So add in a bit of that ‘naughtiness’ to Aida and Winter’s love scenes and you have fireworks!

The world Jenn writes is fantastic. Then again, it’s not a real surprise since Jenn’s world in her Arcadia Bell series is one of the most unique and interesting out there. Jenn brought prohibition into her story and it really adds an extra level of excitement. It also help completely submerge you into the era she has written in. This is a paranormal romance but not in your usual ‘vampire and weres’ sense. It focuses on the supernatural and magic. Totally cool. I liked witnessing Aida calling on spirits. It never felt hokey or silly.

The story is great fun. Winter hires Aida to rid a ghost who is following him. The kicker being he shouldn’t be able to see ghosts to begin with! And the ghosts that follow him are mean and unlike ghosts Aida usually sees. So it all becomes a mystery. And quite suspenseful. Why are the ghosts the way they are? Why can Winter spot them? What do they want with him? And I did not see who the ultimate bad guy was until it was revealed. Great story, great mystery, great adventure.

There are plenty of secondary characters in this book and they are all well done. To note would be Winter’s sister, Astrid. She is just a teenager but I like her already. We also meet and see quite a bit of Bo, Winter’s assistant. He is awesome and I am liking the idea of him having his own book someday. But next up in the series is Lowe, Winter’s brother. He is only mentioned in the book. What do we know? HE’s an archeologist. That’s pretty much it. So I can’t wait to meet him and whoever his lady ends up being. His book is called Grim Shadows and it’s due to release June 3rd 2014.

Overall, I really really enjoyed Bitter Spirits. It’s a new and fresh spin on paranormal romance, filled with wonderful characters and an exciting story. Jenn proves once again that her writing talent knows no bounds. This is definitely a book worth checking out.
Profile Image for Helen Power.
Author 10 books423 followers
January 6, 2021
This book was a surprisingly great read. It’s very heavy on the romance, which isn’t immediately obvious from reading the blurb. The book features a thrilling magical plotline, and I love the world that the author has created. The setting is strongly described, along with the way that magic, mediums, and ghosts work. The hero of the book is a bootlegger, and this novel gives the readers a chance to explore the underworld of Prohibition Era San Francisco, but with GHOSTS.
How does this book not have a higher average rating? The romance itself is quite steamy and I did think it begins a little too early on in the book. I would have preferred for the overall mystery subplot to have more of a presence early on, and have the romance be more of a slow burn. That said, this was a riveting book, and I’m glad I decided to pick it up! I’m looking forward to reading the brother’s romance in the sequel. (He’s an archaeologist!)
Profile Image for Melliane.
2,004 reviews340 followers
December 26, 2013
Mon avis en Français

My English review

I was anxious to read this new novel by Jenn Bennett! If you follow me, you know I’m a big fan of her Arcadia Bell series, and I was curious to read a new series by her hand. This time, she also completely changes the framework, not an urban fantasy series, but this time a paranormal romance one. But what a romance! This all placed during the twenties. And I confess that I love stories from this period, everything is always really fascinating.

Aida is a young medium who works in the whole world without any attachments. And since the death of her brother, she is determined to live as he always said, free and independent. But when she meets Winter, her life will be turned upside down. This man seems to have upset someone and now a curse is hanging over him. Aida is the only one who can help him to exorcise the ghosts following him, this guy who terrifies everyone. Yet a funny link will bind them together and while Aida tries to help him the best she can so he can stay alive, Winter must seek and find who wants his life.

I loved Aida, she is a free spirit and she is determined to do what she wants. Yet it is quite sad to see that she follows the words of her brother without asking a single question. We really learn to discover her throughout the novel, as well as her powers. She always had a difficult life and now counts on herself in all circumstances. We also meet Winter, this man who leads a lonely life. It is a mysterious man we meet here. He has a scar on the face that scares many persons, but not Aida. But he knows he is scary and can not even look himself in a mirror. He also went through many difficult times and we learn to understand him throughout the story. Moreover, it was really fascinating to see all the things this character was hidding. Many points I didn’t expect at all.

Jenn Bennett presents us a very interesting world that allows us to travel through time and to discover old customs. The couple that we find here is great and fun to follow. It’s a pleasure to see a link appear between them and it will strengthen all along the chapters despite their desire to remain only friends. I was also very curious to see where the author would lead us in the investigation in the novel. I was impatient to find the culprit and the person responsible for all the bad things, and I admit that I was completely surprised to learn who he was and the reasons behind it.

To conclude, it was a very good novel up to everything I’ve read by Jenn Bennett. I was completely swept away by the story and Winter (you’ll want to one like him, you’ll see!). Ghosts, conspiracies, and some characters we can only love, all that during the Roaring Twenties, what more can we ask for?
Profile Image for Sunny.
1,423 reviews
January 8, 2016
Bitter Spirits is book 1 in Jenn Bennett’s new Roaring Twenties series. The best way for me to describe this book is TECHNICOLOR. This great mystery adventure has vibrant writing, witty dialogue, nail-chewing suspense, and features one of the most beautiful cities in the world, San Francisco. I love this setting. It captures the rich history and energy of the San Francisco I know and the one I imagine from the 1920’s.

The characters jump off the page. Aida can see dead people. Actually, she can call them from the otherside. She can also send them back. Her special talent brings her into contact with one of the 3 most successful bootleggers in San Francisco, Winter Magnusson, whom a mysterious stranger has cursed. The attraction is immediate but the relationship takes a bit longer. Both must overcome a certain reluctance to be vulnerable in order to be together. As Winter puts it: “Sure, he’d been thinking about her a lot—too much—but he thought a lot about bacon, too.”

Winter is dark and resolved to be that way after a tragic accident kills members of his family. Now he hides himself behind his orderly world filled by work and guilt. Aida dares to challenge him with hope. Both carry emotional and physical scars. That’s what makes their relationship electric (that and just a dusting of erotica).

One of my favorite parts of this book is how the eclectic characters defy social convention. They consist of a scarred bootlegger being chased by ghosts, a full-freckled spiritualist who can call and send ghosts back from the otherside, a hoodoo witch who owns a speakeasy, and a Chinese thief turned trusty side-kick. In their world “social rules concerning race and class went unheeded here.” I appreciate the author's nod to the prejudices of the day.

Jenn Bennett has a way with words. There are some wonderful lines and phrases. You can almost hear Winter’s voice: “It was a voice that could probably talk you into doing anything. A siren’s call, rich as the low notes of a perfectly tuned cello.”

The tension induced by the uncertainty of the relationship and the mystery of the curse plus the witty writing, makes this book a pure pleasure. I did not want it to end. Bitter Spirits is one of my favorite PNR books of the year.
Profile Image for Nadia.
525 reviews178 followers
September 10, 2015
Well, this was a surprise. A couple of negative reviews and low ratings threw me off a bit, so I didn't expect to like this book.
But I did. It was fun, exciting, cute, with a smart heroine and a badass, but sweet hero. And it has ghosts. Set in the late 1920s in San Francisco. What more could you want?
Bitter Spirits checks all the boxes above and it's just a great read for romance lovers.
Profile Image for Tori.
2,805 reviews476 followers
January 7, 2014
Originally posted at http://smexybooks.com/2014/01/review-...

Welcome to the roaring twenties. Illegal booze, speakeasies, and sexual/economic freedom made for golden times as the world prospered after Word War One. Gangsters and G-Men battled in the streets as the public turns a blind eye to the law of prohibition.

Aida Palmer, a beautifully freckled hot tempered spirit medium, works at the popular nightclub, the Gris-Gris, where she entertains crowds with her gifts. Aida is not a fraud or charlatan. Her gifts are true and because of this, she finds herself helping one of the top bootleggers in the city, Winter Magnusson. Winter, a handsome giant of a man, has come to see Aida’s boss, Velma Toussaint, a known witch, when he finds himself overrun with ghosts. Velma sends for Aida and between the two of them, they discover he’s been cursed. Aida gets rid of the ghosts while Velma un hexs Winter but it leaves him still with a huge problem. Who wants Winter out of the way?

Winter hires Aida into helping him rid his home of more ghosts and soon they find themselves entangled in more than just a mystery. Attraction sparks between them and the flames only get hotter as this pair of unlikely lovers chase clues from the seedy underbelly of Chinatown to the glittering homes of the Pacific Heights upper crust. As they get closer to discovering the root of Winter’s problems, they discover that they each have their own personal demons to exorcise if they want a relationship in this world.

Bitter Spirits is the first installment in a historical PNR series by Jenn Bennett. Set in the 20’s, Bennett pays homage to the roaring twenties while adding a unique twist by introducing ghosts, zombies, and magic to the era. Luscious world building paints an intriguing portrait of San Francisco’s landscape during the 20’s while strong well defined characters and an intriguing action packed storyline engages the reader to the end. Humorous banter and a sweet sexy romance blends well with the hint of danger that permeates the story. Our protagonists, Aida Palmer and Winter Magnusson, control the story from the start and our journey begins with a bang.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Spirits. A fun book whose pacing and tempo is spot on. The beginning starts out a little slow but the set up of the storyline and arc holds your attention. Though touted as a PNR, I felt the storyline was decidedly stronger on the romance side than the paranormal. The paranormal aspects are used more as plot devices and elevate the story rather than hold equal footing. What makes the story for me are the characters.

Aida, a profitable medium, doesn’t define herself by her gifts. She is independent, modern, and generally content with life. Her life is filled with friends though she keeps herself emotionally distant at times. She has some personal baggage she carries but it doesn’t weigh her down. Orphaned at an early age, she learned along time ago that the only one she can really depend on his herself. Winter is the same as Aida in some ways. His scarred face hints at a dark past which he hides with his gregarious personality and business. Born into a rich family with strong ties to bootlegging, he continues the family legacy, even allowing them to make some decisions for him which weren’t in his best interest. This causes him to harbor guilt and a distrust of people in general; especially women. But Aida intrigues him from the get go and he finds himself having to do something he hasn’t had to do in a while. Chase a woman. Both are opinionated, jealous, stubborn, fanatically loyal, and will give their lives for the right person. Their scarred imperfections only endear them to the reader.

Their romance builds slowly, allowing for a believable journey and resolution. I enjoyed that Winter and Aida get to know one another and enjoy their time together before becoming intimate. Their playful bickering was fun to watch and made for some laugh out loud moments. As they become more intimate, Bennett writes some wonderfully sensuous and subtly erotic scenes that had me wanting a bootlegger for myself.

A cast of viable well defined secondary characters only serve to further endear you to the story. Velma, Aida’s boss and owner of the Gris-Gris is a bit of a mystery with her magical powers. I do hope Bennett has a book planned for her. Winter’s man servant Bo is a wonderful side kick and I look forward to seeing exactly what parts he will play in the future. Meeting the various other crime bosses and bootleggers makes the era seem even more alive, especially the integration of the Chinese tong. The mystery of Winter’s curser resolves fast and furious with some interesting subplots. My only wish was that the villain had been integrated more into the story. As I stated earlier, the romance is heavy in here and maintains a strong presence, regulating everything else to a distinct second place.

Bitter Spirits is a wonderfully entertaining story in bribed with magic, history, and a charming romance. I look forward to the second installment, Grim Shadows, set to release June 3, 2014, which is the story of Winter’s brother, Lowe.

949 reviews3 followers
December 9, 2019
J'ai beaucoup aimé cette histoire qui se déroule à San Francisco pendant la prohibition. J'ai apprécié les personnages ainsi que l'histoire, originale et très prenante. Bonne nouvelle, il y a deux suites avec le frère et la soeur du héros !
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