An urban fantasy/paranormal romance set during Prohibition in an America in which supernatural beings called “Others” exist and are known to the public, but lack civil rights. Thankfully, they are not just stand-ins for real-life oppressed groups, as those groups also exist (and are oppressed) in the world of the novel.

New York City teacher and full-time activist Zephyr Hollis, who becomes widely known during the book as “the singing vampire suffragette,” is the daughter of a demon-hunter, but unlike her bigoted father, she has never met a social justice cause she doesn’t like. Zephyr is a little over the top – she gives her rent money to the poor, she belongs to thirty-one separate political organizations, and at one point she forgets to eat because she was too busy feeding the hungry – but she’s definitely a unique heroine, and the sometimes absurd lengths to which she takes her convictions make her plausibly obsessive rather than obnoxiously self-righteous.

The book is fast-paced and fun. Within the first few chapters, Zephyr rescues a boy in the process of turning into a vampire, gives her rent money to a student with a hard-luck story, teaches a class to immigrants and Others, is hired by the handsome and mysterious djinn Amir to investigate a local crime lord, crushes on Amir, and attends a rally. I enjoyed the convincing grass-roots politics and the amusing takes on the various supernatural beings, from the disgusting way that vampires die to how Amir, the romantic lead, has ears that sometimes billow smoke and eyeballs that sometimes burst into flames. I repeat: the romantic lead has flaming eyeballs!

Amir, despite a rather more interesting dark side than is common in the genre, is not the alpha asshole who so often appears in romances, and Zephyr, while naïve in some ways, is completely capable of rescuing herself. Amir and Zephyr’s relationship, however, didn’t quite work for me – she was attracted to him so quickly that the relationship didn’t seem based on anything other than that she’s the heroine and he’s the romantic lead, especially since she had such strong feelings for him long before we’d seen enough of them interacting to justify them. I would have liked it better if the romance had developed more slowly, as they were both fun characters individually and had genuine conflicts based on opposing worldviews, which is always interesting in a romance.

I would be curious to hear from someone who actually knows something about the period how accurate the historic details are – the language and attitudes about sex often seemed anachronistically modern to me, but I might be projecting my own preconceptions on the time.

Overall, I enjoyed this. (My favorite bit, for those who have already read it, was the egg whites.) If you like paranormal romance but are tired of heroines who do nothing but have sex and the asshole men who dominate them, this is definitely the book for you.

Note that this is the same author as YA fantasy writer Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Moonshine: A Novel
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