Reviewed by: Jo
Rating (out of 5): 4 stars
Note: While this review will be spoiler free it may include references from previous books in the series. If you haven’t started yet, check out VBC’s review of book 1, Bitter Spirits.
The third (and sadly last, I think) in the brilliant Roaring Twenties series Grave Phantoms finally sees Bo and Astrid get down and dirty with the tension that sizzled through the previous books. Unlike the older two Magnusson brothers who met their matches in new acquaintances, these two have something I love in my romances—history.
After a series of progressively terser letter exchanges (with which we start the book) Astrid returns to San Francisco after her first semester of college in Los Angeles. A mixture of fury over Bo ignoring her, a new determination to move the relationship forward, and bootlegged champagne, leaves Astrid just about ready to kick Bo’s arse. Unfortunately the wind is taken out of her sails by a luxury yacht crashing into the Magnusson pier; a yacht that disappeared more than a year ago and is full of survivors claiming they don’t remember a thing.
Bo was hoping when Astrid left, his feelings would go with her. But when she storms back into his life, no such luck. While investigating the mysterious yacht, Astrid touches an idol, causing her to have visions of what happened on the fateful night the boat disappeared. She is convinced the survivors know more than they are letting on, but Bo is more concerned about the ancient magic now plaguing Astrid.
Emotions run high between these two and their developing relationship was filled with beautifully touching moments coupled with fiery exchanges. Both are headstrong, and relatively young so mistakes are made and feelings hurt, but I never doubted how deep their connection ran. Jenn Bennett did a fanatic job cranking the sexual tension up to dizzying heights and then bringing the steam that was equally as tender as it was hot.
I’d missed this world: the opulent twenties backdrop, with luxury cars and jazz-filled speakeasies. The historical setting throws in all sorts of social, cultural and legal complications and prejudices for them though–not to mention Bo’s allegiance to Winter, Astrid’s older brother. The stakes felt high and all felt like genuine and real obstacles to these characters; I didn’t feel like things could be solved if they would just talk honestly to each other (one of my biggest pet peeves).
My only issue with Grave Phantoms was, as there was so much conflict to resolve between Bo and Astrid, both internal and external, the pacing of the mystery plot suffered in the middle. The ghost ship aspect and the overall plot arc of the survivors worked really well for me, with plenty of action that actually helped drive the romantic plot forward. I just wish we’d had more time to delve deeper into the magical aspects of it. I love how each of these books explore a different culture’s mythology giving each one a unique flavour: Bitter Spirits Chinese, Grim Shadows Egyptian and here Ancient Mayan and Aztec. I loved the direction and was fascinated by what was here, but just wish we’d could have uncovered even more earlier in the book.
Whilst the other aspects may not have been quite as strong as previous instalments, Grave Phantoms gave me everything I was hoping for in Bo and Astrid’s story: tenderness, passion and a winding road to traverse. It wraps the series up well, with a short epilogue featuring all the characters, but I’m really sad to see this series go.
Sexual content: graphic sex