Thursday, February 13, 2014

Romance Mini-Reviews: Bitter Spirits & Just One Night

Title: Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties, #1)

Author: Jenn Bennett

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. 

Title: Just One Night (Sex, Love & Stiletto, #3)

Author: Lauren Layne 

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: March 11th, 2014

Out of all the books in this series, this is perhaps the "worst", which isn't saying much at all as it still scraped a solid 4 Stars from me. Just One Night follows Riley, the only remaining girl from her original trio of friends to stay single. Although Riley writes saucy articles for Stiletto magazine, next to none of the sexual appeal and confidence she exudes through her articles are taken from her own experience. In fact, if Riley takes the time to admit it to herself, she's been mostly celibate for the entirety of her life because she's waiting for Sam, her older brother's best friend, to finally notice her. Unknown to Riley, though, is the fact that Sam has noticed her, despite trying desperately not to, but this time, perhaps the sparks between them will finally fly...

For me, Lauren Layne's books stand out because of their seamless integration of family, friendship, career, and independence alongside romance. Just One Night doesn't simply revolve around Riley and Sam, their simmering chemistry, or the multiple hurdles in their path. It easily incorporates Riley's friendships, the love she bears for her job, and the complicated relationships she conducts with her family. I feel as if I keep repeating myself with every Layne novel I pick up, but the successful careers these women carry are such strong, feminist statements, particularly in Just One Night as Sam isn't nearly as successful as Riley is. And yet, this is never treated as an oddity or, for that matter, an issue of any real importance, which I appreciate. Additionally, Riley is a far different protagonist from either Julie or Grace, but the boundaries she draws up are respected. While each of these heroines brings something new to their respective romances, Layne never belittles their decisions, always portraying them as strong women who recognize that they deserve respectful men - and those are exactly the type of men they get. 

While Layne's telltale humor was sadly absent from this tale, I enjoyed the flawed personas of both Riley and Sam. Neither of them are able to mystically cure one another, but they take baby-steps into the future. Moreover, Sam, with his large horde of problems, is only gradually working through the chinks in his armor. Although this novel does - naturally - have a happily-ever-after it isn't wholly perfect, which I always love. Needless to say, I can't wait for Alex and Emma's romance in the next book. For fans of Lauren Layne, this is a must-read. As for the rest of you...what are you waiting for? 


  1. I've got to read Bitter Spirits. It sounds amazing and I really need a gripping read!

    Riley sounds like a character I can get behind, too.

  2. I am SO glad you enjoyed Bitter Spirits, Keertana! Jenn really is something else, isn't she? She gives her readers exactly what they want without making it seem like fan service.
    I agree with you about PNR (not my genre, it gives me allergies), but also about Aida and Winter - they are both quite impressive. As sad as I am about the ending of Cady Bell, I'm very much looking forward to the next installment in this series.

  3. Interesting reviews. I think I might have to see if my library gets Bitter Spirits. I'm always on the fence about romance novels but every now and then it's nice.

  4. I see quite a few recommends for Bitter Spirits but I thought it was a debut for the author. I probably missed the fact that the author had other novels. But if they are recommended by you, I feel safe in picking one up to read.

    Now I have never heard of Lauren Layne. Never. Of course, I stick to MG and YA on my blog with a few choice NA. But I do read adult books for myself. I was surprised at first because this looks, from the cover, like a typical romance novel. But after reading your review, I understand why you can recommend it and Layne's other novels. And I'm so happy to know there are smart successful women in romance novels!! Thanks so much for the reviews Keertana! I am not waiting for anything anymore. I will read a Lauren Layne novel asap! Err, after I read a couple of other things that I promised to review :)


  5. I LOVED Bitter Spirits as well, Keertana! Jenn Bennett's writing is witty, funny and the romance was full of fun and smoking hot!

    I actually liked Just One Night a little better than Grace's story. The history between the couple gave it a little more weight for me. Nice to see you enjoyed this one, too.

    Wonderful mini reviews! :)

  6. oh gosh everyone I know seems to love Bitter Spirits, it's odd that I have not jumped on the wagon yet. Hopefully I can clean up some time for it, cause it sounds like a book I would enjoy.

  7. YAY! So glad you loved Bitter Spirits too Keertana! I've heard great things about the Arcadia Bell series from both you and Maja, so that's definitely on my list now and I can't wait. I'm super excited to meet Winter's brother next, I'm ready to go back into this world already. Beautiful reviews as always!

  8. Both look good, but I NEED Bitter Spirits!! NEEDS! I also love her Arcadia Bell series. Just love her characters!! *sigh* Must go get that book. Can you tell I want to read it even more. I'm blaming you... ;)

  9. Everybody's been reading Bitter Spirits and what's most enjoying it. I'm not surprised though because from your review what's there not to love. It has amazing characters and is set in one of the most interesting periods in history. Bring it on.
    For the second one I haven't heard of it. And it does sound interesting but I think it's better fit for my co-blogger not me.
    Great reviews, Keertana :)

  10. So clearly this means I should be taking note of Jenn Bennett, right?? You know I adored The Diviners, K and while I haven't read any paranormal romance/ urban fantasy in a while, it might be time to dive back into that genre. thanks for the rec!

  11. I've seen so many raves for this new Jenn Bennett book that I'm very excited! The mix of genres sounds so fun, and seeing your high rating is very promising.

    I need to check out the Layne series as well, I hadn't heard of this author before. Always up for a sexy romance, though. ;)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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