The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood delivers the first novel in an enthralling new series set amid the shifting dynamics of a Southern family defined by wealth and privilege—and compromised by secrets, deceit, and scandal….
For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.
For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.
As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.
I was so excited last year when I found out that J.R. Ward was writing a contemporary romance. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years because of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The synopsis for The Bourbon Kings definitely had me intrigued, and I was beyond thrilled when I received an ARC. This is the kind of book you want to read without interruption, because once you start it you won’t want to put it down. I kid you not it’s a real page turner. The story is told in multiple POV which for me made it even more compelling.
One of the many things that I loved about this story is that I don’t really think it can be pigeon-holed into just one genre. Yes, there’s certainly love, and passion, and sex, but there’s also history, tradition, and southern culture. AND, there’s a whole lot of mystery, intrigue, and suspense. You’ll find yourself thinking OMGeee and WTF many, many times.
You’ll be treated to several storylines involving different members of the Bradford family. Making a world renowned bourbon for generations is what they’re known for, and what has afforded them vast wealth, power, and privileged societal status in Kentucky. It’s a genteel society on the surface, but what simmers underneath accounts for a lot of what makes this book so damn good.
Let’s talk about the major players for a few minutes.
In this first book a great deal of the story centers around Tulane “Lane” Bradford, the heir apparent who basically disappeared two years earlier, leaving behind a wife he never loved, as well as the woman he loved deeply. That woman was Lizzie King who works for the Bradford family as the head horticulturist. Her heart was broken when Lane married Chantal, but she doesn’t know the whole story behind why the marriage happened. When Lane returns she doesn’t want anything to do with him…at first. Their storyline is my favorite and I can’t wait to see how that particular relationship plays out. I’m definitely rooting for them. O…you are absolutely going to hate Chantal. Think scheming, conniving, manipulator…
One of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in a long time is Edward Bradford. He’s the oldest son, and a man broken both physically and mentally by a horrific turn of events that will leave you reeling as you learn the true scope of what happened. Be prepared for some huge turn of events, involving Edward that begin to lead him from a very sad and desperate life to what I hope is something much more than he envisions.
The only daughter in the family is Virginia, better known as Gin. She’s led a life of glamour and glitz, but it’s been a life with no real meaning to it. I don’t think anyone would wish to be in her shoes as the story progresses and we learn things about her past and present. I have really ambivalent feelings towards her to be honest, especially by the end. Some of the choices she makes just didn’t sit well with me, regardless of why she made them. I’m reserving judgement on her for now.
A character who is mentioned but that we don’t really get to know much about is the final brother in the family, Max. I have a feeling and a hope that he’ll be a much bigger presence in the continuation of this story. For now he’s just a big puzzle.
William Baldwine is the patriarch of the family. He’s a real SOB from beginning to end. He most definitely has presence throughout the whole thing but it doesn’t feel quite the same as the other characters, and I think that’s probably because we don’t get his POV as we do from the others. Don’t be fooled into thinking he’s not a major player tho because he most certainly is! If you’re wondering if there’s a mother in this story, the answer is yes but that’s all I’m going to say about her. I’ll be curious as to what you think, so make sure you come back and share any theories once you’ve read the book.
If The Bourbon Kings hasn’t been on your list of must read books, it deserves to be. I don’t often use a certain word to describe the books I review, but this one certainly deserves it. EPIC. It gets my very highest recommendation for the stellar writing, which is at times elegant and sophisticated, and at times gritty and raw. I think I would say the same for the amazing characters you’ll meet. I was fully engaged and captivated with the story from beginning to end, and I CANNOT wait to see where J.R. Ward takes us from here. If I had a graphic to give it a 10 I would. I FLOVED this book to Pluto and back!
**I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**