Zephyr Hollis is a thoroughly modern New York woman of the 1920s. She spends her days attending a variety of meetings for the progressive causes she supports, and at night, she teaches classes to immigrants. Zephyr is so tenderhearted that she can’t help getting involved in her students’ lives. When Amir, a handsome, articulate student, offers Zephyr a significant sum of money to locate the mysterious vampire gangster Rinaldo, she accepts. While the money is nice to have, it’s the act of helping another human that energizes Zephyr, but in this case, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Even though Zephyr was born with mysterious powers that render her immune to vampire powers, Rinaldo and his gang are unusually violent and difficult to track, making the task far more complex that she originally imagined.

Moonshine’s appeal to readers who are strictly fans of historical fiction is limited. It’s not that Johnson doesn’t make good use of the historical context, because she does. She effectively captures the tension between the Victorian old guard and the dawn of modernity, and she elevates the characters beyond mere stereotypes of the era. But accepting the events of the story requires major suspension of disbelief, and readers who don’t want vampires, djinni, seers, and other paranormal entities mixed in with their history should give this one a pass. Fans of urban fantasy and historical paranormal romance, however, will find this a promising start to a series different from the glut of materials currently being published in those genres.



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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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