After reading the first book in Jenn Bennett’s Roaring Twenties series, Bitter Spirits, my first thought was “why didn’t I pick this up sooner?” Such a great romance. Apparently when you mix bootleggers and speakeasies, ghosts and zombies, one sexy, freckled heroine and a big, scarred hero what you get is complete awesomeness. Set in 1920s San Francisco, this series is a mix of historical and paranormal romance. While readers might think they are familiar with this era, I bet they’ll be surprised at how new and fresh it all seems. Grim Shadows is the second book in this series and tells the story of Lowe (the brother of Winter from Bitter Spirits) and Ms. Hadley Bacall.
“Is this what you do? Lie your way out of every situation you encounter?”
“I prefer to think of it as inventing a character. Acting.”
Lowe Magnusson is on his way home from his latest dig in the Egyptian desert. All he needs to do is get to San Francisco in one piece, preferably with his newest acquisition, a priceless artifact that he hopes to sell to the highest bidder. While doing his damnedest to evade the would be thieves out to take the amulet for themselves, he very literally runs into one Hadley Bacall, daughter to the very man whom he hopes to sell the piece to for a large sum of money. Hadley is uptight, aloof and not at all amused by the run through the train station or the enormous fibs that seem to drip off Lowe’s tongue at every turn. She’s also very tired of having to prove herself over and over and just wants to be taken seriously. She is bound and determined to be the one who is promoted to take over her father’s job as curator of the de Young Museum.
What at first seems like a simple sale turns out to be much more complicated when Hadley’s father makes a request that Lowe find the remaining four pieces hidden around the city by his late wife. There’s a very important reason why Mr. Bacall wants the whole of the amulet in his possession and it’s a many layered story that doesn’t come out until Lowe and Hadley get embroiled on a dangerous, mystical treasure hunt.
“It’s eight o’clock and we’re in a perfectly safe neighborhood. I told you when we met, I want to be treated like a man. Equal. Not like some frail doll with the brain of a pea. Not hysterical.”
“Hey, that was Moneypant’s word, not mine. But all right, I’m game. You’re a man. Fine. Makes things a bit confusing for me when I consider all the lurid thoughts I’ve been entertaining about the two of us, but what the hell— I’m worldly. Suppose I’m open to new experiences.”
Lowe is a rascal and a con artist and a forger who just happens to be blessed with a silver tongue and lots of charm. I loved him from the first moment he walked onto the page. Even while he is telling tall tales and making plans to cheat the system, he is incredibly sweet and tender to Hadley. He and Hadley (seriously, what a cool name) are exact opposites except for their love and knowledge of Egyptian culture and artifacts. Hadley comes across as cold and standoffish at first and it did take me a while to warm to her character. But every time Lowe put her in an impossible situation she rose to the challenge, every time he came up with a new fabricated story she just learned to go with the flow, until I found myself absolutely adoring her. Hadley and Lowe are one of my favorite types of romance couples, exact opposites whose differences play off each other perfectly. They have a nice slow burn romance that turns into an extremely passionate affair. He quickly falls for her and works hard to get her to loosen up enough to be comfortable with him until she is finally willing to let all her secrets come out. The only question in the end is… can she really trust a man who doesn’t ever seem to tell the truth?
While Bitter Spirits was more of a ghost story set amid San Francisco’s China Town, Grim Shadows had a slightly different feel to me. Be ready for griffins, Egyptian fire goddesses and talk of archeological digs and artifacts. The romance and mystery blended seamlessly and kept me engaged from beginning to end. I could feel myself trying to read slower, hoping to make it last. I liked everything about this book, from the heart pounding action scenes, to the smart mystery, to the well developed romance. Jenn Bennettt is an incredibly gifted storyteller and she has me hooked on this series. Final Grade- A
Such an ordinary thing. But it unlocked an undiscovered door in his head, And when it creaked open, the music and clinking glasses and the snobby conversation in the hall faded to a muffled hum.
She wasn’t skinny; she was elegant.
Her arm and legs weren’t long; they were endless.
She wasn’t pretty; she was knee-weakeningly, dazzlingly beautiful.