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.
J.R. Ward is known for writing paranormal novels set in worlds that are all their own, and she is good at it. So when I first picked up The Bourbon Kings, I was a little skeptical. It’s a contemporary romance set on a Kentucky Bourbon Makers property. I never in a million years thought I would enjoy a book so much!
Bradford Bourbon Company (BBC) is the largest and most successful Bourbon distillery this side of the Mason-Dixon line. And when you’re a member of Kentucky’s most successful bourbon family, well things can get a little crazy. Lane Baldwine is the second eldest son of William Baldwine and Virginia Bradford Baldwine. After getting a call that “his mama” was dying, Lane drops everything to fly to a home he hadn’t been to in two years. That’s where he runs into Lizzy King, his family’s head horticulturalist and his former lover. But she’s not the only female he runs into. Chantal Baldwine, Lane’s wife, is also there.
When money and liquor are involved drama is bound to happen.
Lane’s father gets the most joy when he sees his children suffer. Lane’s mother, Virginia, is heavily medicated and bed ridden. Lane’s siblings are no better. Edward, the eldest, is a recluse and a physical and mental mess after surviving a horrific kidnapping in South America. Virginia (Gin) has so many self-esteem and daddy issues, she sleeps with anything that has a cock. Maxwell, the youngest of the Baldwine boys, has gone off the grid, and no one knows where to find him. After some sketchy moves by Lane’s father, Lane and Edward discover the giant skeleton in the family closet. Lanes father has financially ruined the family. He was running the BBC into the ground.
After having his wretched wife served divorce papers, Lane tries to rekindle the romance he let go two years before with Lizzy.
Lane will do whatever it takes to win Lizzy back and save his family legacy.
In short, this family is a hot mess; a hot sexy mess that you can’t wait to dive into.
Ward’s many-faceted characters are so well written. They’re easy to relate to. I found myself thinking many times ‘I know someone like that’. I wanted to be friends with Lane and Lizzy. Shoot, I wanted to be them! Even Chantal Baldwine, by the end of the book,I almost felt pity for. I could see her misery and a part of me wanted to pity her and try to understand why she is the way she is. I felt their pain as they experienced it, and wanted to yell at them when they were being idiotic. Ward has a knack for writing her characters to feel so real, so alive. I love that about her work.
My favorite character though, is Gin. She’s fantastic! She isn’t perfect. She has real insecurities, real issues. She’ll give up everything, even herself, to save her family. I felt like I knew what she is going through. Almost as if I’d walked in her shoes.
We have yet to meet Max, and I’m still holding out hope for Virginia coming around to help pick up the pieces of her broken family.
It wouldn’t be a J.R. Ward novel without the wonderful pop culture references that remind us what time period we are in. And as she mentions many times, this is a modern day Sabrina, without the happy ending.
I love how the world she builds is tangible. As a reader, I felt as though I could buy a plane ticket and travel to these places and be there with the characters, in the moment.
By the time I finished The Bourbon Kings, I wanted to go to the store just to see if I could find a bottle of Bradford Bourbon Company’s No. 15. J.R. Ward brought fantasy to reality with The Bourbon Kings. I would have to say this is possibly the best book she has written. I can’t wait for the next one!
5 out of 5
This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.