It has been some time since I’ve read anything by JR Ward. Not since I read ‘Lover At Last‘ and was thoroughly disappointed. It didn’t stop me from reading the next book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood (The King), but once again I become disheartened and put it down when I was half way through. Because of my lost faith in the BDB series I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this new series. Of course this didn’t stop me from pre-ordering it on my Nook, or the first book in her Black Dagger Legacy series, Blood Kiss.
The digital copy of The Bourbon Kings sat, unopened, on my Nook for quite a while before I decided to download it and get stuck into it. I was hoping because of the change of genre, this one being a contemporary family saga, that I would enjoy it more than I had her paranormal romance’s. Thanks be to Odin this turned out to be correct. Once more I fell in love with her writing and the world she built.
At the beginning of the book you are introduced to Lizzie King (not sure if the surname was supposed to elude to the title or not) who is the head horticulturalist of Easterly, a large estate owned by the Bradford family. The Bradford’s being a supremely rich family who gains their wealth from successfully distilling bourbon since the 1800s. Pretty quickly it’s revealed that Lizzie once had an affair with one of the heir’s to the Bradford line, Lane Baldwin. Like any good romance Lizzie and Lane are once more thrust together and must navigate the murky waters that always seem to surround ex-lovers. This story arc on it’s own would have drawn me in, I adore ex-lover tropes, but JR Ward goes way beyond this and brings in several different story arcs and sub-plots.
Along with Lizzie and Lane’s tumultuous relationship Ward pulls back the curtain on several other characters lives and reveals many a dark secret. You meet the rest of the Bradford family from the Patriarch, who from everyone’s point of view has more money than emotion, right on down to the youngest Bradford, wayward Gin a middle aged woman with the mentality of a spoiled teenager.
Along with the apparent heir Edward and the missing in action Max you’re also semi-introduced to the Matriarch of the family, the only member to actually carry the moniker Bradford, Virginia. You only really see her through other characters view and only completely through Lane in one scene of the book. In a complete contrast to the wealth and privilege of the Bradford family you are shown through Lizzie and the other employee’s the life of the servant. With this vast chasm between the family and the servants the book becomes reminiscent of Downton Abbey, with a sprinkling of Dynasty to give it a more American feel.
It has been years and years since I’ve read a family saga and I’m so glad that Ward has brought it back with a vengeance. Even though Lizzie and Lane’s re-building of their relationship is the main focus of the book, you are chauffeured through the almost surreal world that the Bradford family occupy and given a glimpse into the dark recesses that dwell in every corner of that world.
Each branch of this family tree has some sort of gnarled deformity, from Edwards tragic past, to Gin’s teenage pregnancy. Not to mention Virginia Bradford is practically catatonic from a pill dependency that all the family members seem to feel is normal. At the center of this horrendously deceased tree is William Baldwin, who is most likely responsible for some, if not all the problems that are befalling the family.
This book had me sucked in from the first few pages and I couldn’t put it down. I loved every word of it and I become invested in every single character wanting to know more about them and their story lines. Thankfully this is only the first in the series and all the arc’s that have yet to be fully told will continue on in the next book. Usually in books with so many point’s of view I become annoyed and uninterested because all I want is to see what is happening between the two main characters, but that wasn’t the case with this book.
Yes, I still wanted to see the MC’s and their story, but I was just as enthralled by the sub-characters and their lives. The world of Easterly and it’s servants pulled me in and have yet to let me go. Nothing was predictable to me, Ward would take you down one path and just when you think you know where you’re going she makes a sharp right and you’re going a totally different way. Throw your GPS out with this book, nothing is as it first seems.
Although I loved a lot about this book, from the soap opera-esque drama to the unbelievable and somewhat detestable actions of the characters, there were a few aspects I did not like. They aren’t big disappointments, just little annoyances. There are four children of the Bradford line, Edward, Max, Lane and Gin. You see Edward, Lane and Gin but other than a few mentions here and there you don’t see Max at all. At the beginning of the book I was thoroughly confused because I thought we had met Max, but than further into the book I realized it was a completely different character by the name of Mack.
It’s not a big thing, more a miss-read on my part, but still names that close don’t do the reader any good. The only other problem I had with this book is Lizzie. I liked her pretty much throughout the entire book, she was a great independent woman who made sure she didn’t need a man if she didn’t want one. This personality was reinforced throughout the book, but than was completely thrown out when she realized everything she thought Lane had done to betray her, he hadn’t. Once this happened her character flipped for several pages. I think the reconciliation scene could have been done different and would have worked much better.
Other than those very small annoyances I loved this book. It was a quick read with characters you fall in love with and a world you really can’t believe exists. I’m a huge fan of soap opera drama and the world built around such drama, so this book really hit my joy button. I adored Lizzie and Lane and was rooting for them throughout the entire book. Each character dips into different aspects of life, from Edward’s recovery to Gin’s life being manipulated by everyone but herself.
You also get dragged into the lives of the servants and how they interconnect and react to the lives of the Bradfords. It’s a bumper car ride that you won’t want to get off of anytime soon. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes multi-character worlds saturated in drama and intrigue. Oh and there’s also love and sex…can’t forget that!
I give this book 4 ink splatters out of 5.
You can find The Bourbon Kings here.
Guest review contributed by Thoroughly Inked. This blog features reading challenges, book reviews, reading recommendations, and TBR lists.