Frolic’s Favorite Halloween Re-Read: Bitter Spirits

Frolic's Favorite Halloween Re-Read: Bitter Spirits

[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Jenn Bennett posting on the site today! She’s sharing the inspiration behind one of our favorite Halloween reads, Bitter Spirits. Take it away, Jenn!]

I’m often asked what inspired me to write a romance between a spirit medium and a bootlegger in a haunted 1920 San Francisco. And the answer to that is simple: I wrote what I wanted to read.

My personal love affair with the 1920s started way, way back in my teens (a dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby+ a French bob + long strings of flapper-friendly beads inherited from my grandmother).  Since then, I’ve amassed a small library of 1920s books and research material. I guess it was waiting on the shelves for me to use it.

The first draft of Bitter Spirits was actually not a romance, and it was set in an alternate Baltimore. It was weird. Too weird. My agent hated it, so I put it aside and never intended to revisit it again. A year or so later, though, my mind kept wandering back to it. I scrapped that first version and started all over again, this time as a romance set in San Francisco. Once I began dreaming up my 1920s story there, everything clicked into place.

Regarding the paranormal element of my story, apart from my heroine Aida’s talents as a spirit medium and the ghosts haunting my hero, there’s a bit of folk magic used by auxiliary characters: some hoodoo spells and a nod to traditional Chinese magic. I used to travel to the Far East for work, and still have close friends in Hong Kong, which is what sparked my admiration for the complexities of Chinese culture and religion. The magic used in the book is based on Shenism, Faism, Wu, and Chinese Shamanism. As for the hoodoo, Velma Toussaint (the owner of the speakeasy where my heroine works) has a few tricks up her sleeve. I went to grad school near New Orleans, so writing Velma and the magical aid she provides my hero and heroine was just plain fun.

Studied out of context, these things might seem incongruous. But when I assembled the pieces on paper, it all came together…like magic.

About the Author:

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of romantic books for young adults, including: Alex, Approximately; Starry Eyes; and The Lady Rogue. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs. Visit her at

Connect with Jenn:



Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

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…

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