I super duper love Jenn Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series for its fun and witty characters, tight action writing and excellent world building. When she said she wrote a PNR set in the 1920’s featuring a bootlegger and a spirit medium, I practically stalked her twitter for an advance copy. I am so so glad I did, because it was everything I hoped for and more.
The novel opens in a Prohibition-era San Francisco speakeasy where the heroine, Aida Palmer, performs nightly as a spirit medium. Aida has a pretty good following because she actually can channel those that have crossed over and send those lingering to the hereafter. One night, Aida is summoned by her boss, Velma, to help her aid a cursed man. She turns up at the club to find Winter Magnusson, one of the town’s top bootleggers, poisoned and haunted by ghosts. Even in an impaired state, Magnusson notices Aida and Aida definitely notices the brawny naked man as he’s being cured of the poison.
Still being haunted, Winter calls on Aida to entreat her to help get rid of the ghosts and find the source of the curse. Aided by Winter’s right hand man, Bo, the three dig into the paranormal mystery in Chinatown. Along the way there are more ghosts, rival gangs and ancient Chinese curses that provide enough roadblocks to their journey.
From the moment Winter and Aida met, there was a connection but both initially are held back by personal fears. Winter feels that his physical imperfections and a tragic past mean that love escapes him. Aida, scarred by loss, is reluctant to give her heart to anyone. Instead, they embark on a love affair with an end date. As Winter and Aida get pulled further in to the mystery and their affair, they begin to realize that fate may have other plans for them.
Aida is a feisty independent heroine that also is able to maintain a vulnerability to her. On her own from a young age, Aida is determined to take life on and not let it dictate to her. Yet, it’s this vulnerability in her that sees the vulnerability and hurt in Winter. Their romance has a slow build up as they circle each other, clearly attracted yet held apart. When Aida finally gives in to Winter’s persuasive requests for just a love affair, they explode. The love scenes are incredibly sexy. The one scene in the taxi had me fanning myself.
Once again, Bennett’s writing is so tight and fluid, it’s impossible to stop turning pages. The mystery has enough twists and turns that I was still puzzling nearly up to the reveal. The setting was unique enough that I felt like I had actually learned something new. The author doesn’t skimp on the side characters either. From Bo to Velma to Mrs. Lin, Bennett gives them all a spark that makes you want to read a book solely about them (fans of Jupe will understand exactly what I mean).
I highly recommend this book for its fast-paced action, unique characters and setting with a slow burn romance that burns up the sheets. Read it now! I’m going back to twitter to stalk the author for the next one.
*ARC provided by Berkley/ NAL
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Jenn Bennett
Release Date: January 7, 2014