Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rec'd romances: 'Bitter Spirits,' 'Carolina Home,' 'Murder of Crows'

by Mandi Schreiner)

This week I recommend two books that fall into the category "I should have read these a long time ago because they are so good!" and a new urban fantasy release that might be my favorite book so far this year.

(Photo: Berkley)

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett (historical paranormal romance). This book came out in January this year and kicks off the Roaring Twenties series. Aida Palmer is a spirit medium and makes her living as an entertainer, but her abilities are genuine. Our hero, Winter Magnusson, is a bootlegger who is being bombarded with ghosts. Aida is recruited to help banish the ghosts that won't leave Winter alone, and they discover Winter has been cursed by someone. Now they have to work together to discover who has it out for Winter.

I usually stay away from books that feature ghosts and spirit mediums, which is why it took me so long to read this one. I'm so glad I took a chance on it because it's a very well-done story. This author creates a truly fun, detailed world in the 1920s with witty banter, some fun action and very steamy romance scenes. Winter is a huge guy who falls hopelessly in love with the very freckled Aida. They are so adorable together that you can't help but smile as you read. I highly recommend this historical paranormal romance.

"Carolina Home" by Virginia Kantra.(Photo: Berkley)

Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra (contemporary romance). I'm two years late reading this book, but the good news is that the third book in this series, Carolina Man, just released, so I have two more books to enjoy. Carolina Home is a very well-done small-town romance that takes place in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Matt Fletcher found himself a single dad with a newborn son at the age of 20. After moving back home with his parents, he's still there sixteen years later. He helps his father run a charter fishing boat and his mother with the family inn. Matt and his son, Josh, rent a cabin on the property. The island has a new schoolteacher named Allison. She comes from a very wealthy background and her job as a teacher, which she absolutely loves, disappoints her parents. Allison notices Josh is not doing that well in school and approaches Matt about her concerns. A relationship develops from this point as well as a wonderful look inside this family.

A few things really stand out for me in this book. First, it has a strong, very sweet and sexy romance between Matt and Allison. Matt is known more as a playboy, which makes Allison wary, but she decides to go forth and give dating him a try. (Spoiler alert: Things work out well for them! Wink.) This author also balances the story with a nice look at Matt's parents, his son and Matt's brother, who brings drama home from the military. I also love how this author writes the setting of the island — you really feel like you are there. If you are in the mood for a small-town romance, I'd definitely check this one out as well as the others in this series.

"Murder of Crows" by Anne Bishop.(Photo: Roc)

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (urban fantasy). Last year I read Written in Red, book one of this series, and it went straight to my favorite-books-of-the-year list. Murder of Crows is following the same path. We pick up the story of Meg, a blood prophet who is slowly adjusting to life outside of the prison she lived in her entire life. Now working at the post office for The Others, Meg is finally feeling that she fits in. Simon, the leader of the Courtyard, feels protective of Meg, even though she is kind of human and humans are hated by The Others. When Meg starts to see visions of crow feathers and blood, all go on alert. When crows start to become sick, The Others must hunt down the people responsible for the attacks. All the while, Simon starts to fall in love with Meg, even though he would never admit it.

If you have yet to read this series and you are a fan of urban fantasy, you must try it! This world the author is building is so well done. Very violent and dark but filled with unforgettable characters. Each character in this book, whether a main character or a small supporting character, is so well done. The details of the world, the dialogue, the overall story arc are just incredible. I love the tension building between humans and the supernatural. The hatred that some feel for The Others comes across so intense in these pages. And the way this author writes her supernaturals is so cool. Their thoughts and behavior are so not human that it fascinates me. My favorite urban fantasy series.

Mandi Schreiner started romance review blog Smexy Books in 2009. She is obsessed with reading romance novels and collecting fictional boyfriends.