An aspiring warlock’s attempt to satisfy a demon’s wager is complicated by zombies and bootleggers in Loebel’s (Keys to the Coven, 2013) new novel.
Clara Woodsen has a major dilemma on her hands. She’s organized a dance contest at the Falstaff Ninepin Fellowship, a witches’ coven that also features a saloon and bowling alley. The contest is part of the festivities celebrating the opening of the Hollywood Grand Hotel, and the main attraction is the actor Beau Beauregard. The promotion attracts some of the most glamorous movie stars of the 1920s, but a disaster threatens to ruin Clara’s plans. While the contest is in full swing, Beau lies in a hotel room on the verge of death from peritonitis. Desperate to save Beau’s life, and the contest, Clara decides to put her family’s supernatural powers to good use. With her cousin Bernard Benjamin as her assistant, she summons a demon named Hans to help save Beau. Hans agrees to help if Bernard teaches his genie, Ruth, to dance well enough to qualify for the contest finals. Beau’s life is spared, but he returns to Clara as a zombie. Can Clara use her powers as a warlock to cater to Beau’s needs and also win her wager with Hans? And will the unexpected arrival of bootleggers derail Clara’s plans? Loebel’s novel offers a frothy paranormal romance anchored by a well-developed setting and a clever narrative structure. Her re-creations of 1920s fashions and high-society parties, complete with references to newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, are vivid and lively, and the bootlegging subplot blends in seamlessly with the paranormal action. The chapters alternate between the first-person perspectives of Clara and Bernard, and this technique effectively explores the motivations of the lead characters and the consequences of their actions while also introducing a solid supporting cast. Between the zombies and the bootleggers, the action is a bit excessive; however, a robust sense of humor keeps the proceedings from going over the top.
A briskly entertaining novel with a colorful setting and the right mix of humor and paranormal romance.