Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward [Review]

Now Available  - AMAZON
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. 

5 Bourbon Neat Stars Please

Bourbon Kings is part of the Bourbon Kings series, it can be read as a standalone, but like I said, it’s also a part of a series.

I’m a mega fan of J.R. Ward and when I heard about The Bourbon Kings I think my panties got wet (just a little bit). If you are a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, just know that The Bourbon Kings has the same writing style, but it’s nothing like the paranormal BDB series.

The Bourbon Kings has mixed reviews and it’s because of two things (the only thing I can think of). The book is not focused on one main couple.  The story is about the Bradford siblings.  There are four of them, Max (who isn’t in the story, but is mentioned) Edward the eldest, Lane and Gin (the sister).  The “main” couple is Lane and Lizzie, but a huge chunk of the book includes, Edward, Gin, Stephen T (the family laywer), Sutton (heiress to a competing competitor) and Shelby (a staff member).   

The “main” couple is Lane and Lizzie (she works on the flower arrangements for the family and has been for over ten years), but like I said there’s a huge chunk of the book that includes the other siblings. Just my two cents, I loved this. Because J.R. Ward included the other siblings, I felt like the story moved fairly quickly and there was PLENTY of stuff to keep me happy. Also, I felt like I was getting a solid foundation on every character (each have their vices).

- Lane and Lizzie’s Story -
Lizzie has worked for the family for a long time.  When she was just hired, Lane was in college. They had a short fling that ended badly (you will find out why, but I think it’s best to leave it as a surprise). When the fling ended, Lane went away for two years and now he is back. Lizzie still loves Lane, but he hurt her badly. It’s really bad in my opinion and you feel for Lizzie. Lane tries to redeem himself and he wants to make it right with Lizzie because he still cares for her.

You’re the love of my life, whether you’re with me or not

It matters… this matters to me even more than my family. Do you hear me, Lizzie? You have always, and will always, matter most to me

I loved Lane and Lizzie’s story. It’s so tortured and so dramatic. I was just consumed by the problems and I wanted them to fight, make-up and have steamy you know what. Lane tries really hard to win Lizzie back and I love it when the Hero chases the Heroine. You also feel for Lane. Lane is a complex character, he has major daddy issues.  Lane is kind of the butter to the family. He keeps everyone together and he has a lot on his shoulders. He’s the guy you go to fix problems.

- Gin and Samuel T. and other people -

Gin is the sister and she is a spoiled princess. She doesn’t have any empathy and she spends her days shopping and having relations with anyone she wants, married or not. When you first meet Gin, it’s really hard to like her. She basically is self-centered and really mean. BUT I have a soft spot for these girls. They are the way they are for a reason and Gin has her reasons.

Samuel T is the family’s lawyer. He grew up with the siblings so don’t think he’s the creepy old guy. He’s good friends with Lane and he’s helping Lane with some problems. Samuel and Gin have a past. They have a very abusive and explosive relationship that I am just addicted to reading! If you could think of a love/hate kind of relationship, they are it. They are all about hurting and using each other.
I really enjoyed reading the small parts with Gin and Sam, I found them fascinating and completely different from Lizzie and Lane. I liked how dark their story was and I loved the direction J.R. Ward was taking them.

- Edward / Sutton / and maybe Shelby  -

Edward is the oldest and he’s story is the saddest. I don’t want to give anything away, but some stuff has happened to him in the past that has forever changed Edward’s outlook on life. He’s basically just a shell of a person and you can see his self-destruction. I really liked Edward’s story because you just couldn’t help, but want to cry for him and give him a big hug. He, like Lane, has daddy issues too and it has left him with many open wounds.

Sutton is the heiress to a competing competitor (her family and the Bradford’s have be rivals, they are both successful). Sutton is introduced a little towards the middle of the book and her story is adorable. I really like Sutton and she’s the kind of girl you want to be friends with. Her interaction between Edward is minimal but it’s really important to the story.  That’s all you are getting from me.
Shelby is a mystery to me and I am not sure what role she plays in the book, but I do like her, even though I am confused by her presence. I have a feeling there’s something big that will happen in the future books with her.

My thoughts…

I am not sure if you wanted to read about each character, but it’s was the easiest way for me to break down the story. What really worked for me is how every character interacted with each other. It’s not a book that is broken up by three couples, no, each person is somehow related to another person and they all have a story kind of woven together.  That right there made the book for me.

Some people wonder if there are too many characters to follow and my answer to you is no. J.R. Ward writes in a way that is easy to follow along and is completely captivating. I may be a little biased because I married a Southerner (yes, including southern accent) so all of this is something I understand. It’s all about how you are presented towards the outside, but not everything is what it seems.

There are some negative comments about the “romance” in the book. Let me tell you here, it’s not an overly “romantic” book, but there’s plenty of “love” if that makes sense. The thing is, these characters are so messed-up, confused and have major chips on their shoulders, it’s hard for them to “love”, but they do have passion, lust and high emotions. There was plenty of tension to keep you happy, so do not be let down by the few steamy scenes there are in the book.  Because, just like J.R. Ward fashion, when she does write a steamy scene, it counts and in a major way.

Finally, there is a main major plot in the book and it kind of ties all the mini stories together. I really liked the overall plot and it starts out as a mystery and as you read, more and more is discovered. I simply loved this.

If you are a J.R. Ward fan, you will not be disappointed by Bourbon Kings. It has everything you are looking for in a J.R. Ward book, with tension, drama, complex characters and overlapping plots.  I LOVED it and I can’t wait to re-read it via Audio.

An ARC was provided


William Baldwine – Patriarch of the Bradford-Baldwine family and currently running the Bradford Bourbon Company. Married into the Bradford family and rose quickly to the top of the company. A powerful and ruthless man with many dark secrets.

Virginia Elizabeth Bradford “Baldwine” – Wife of William Baldwine.  Inherited from her father the Bradford Bourbon Company, family fortune, and all the Bradford properties, including Easterly and the Red & Black Stables. In a medicated fugue state for the last several years. William had her declared mentally incompetent, leaving him in charge of all of the family’s money.

Jonathan Tulane Baldwine – Nicknamed Lane. The prodigal son of William Baldwine and Virginia Bradford. Fled Easterly two years ago, leaving his estranged wife Chantal behind. Lizzie King is his soul mate and the love of his life.

Edward Westfork Bradford Baldwine – Oldest son of William Baldwine and Virginia Bradford, he was an increasing rarity in the Bradford family—a true distiller and a man who once valued the bourbon his family produced. The golden boy once destined to take over the family business before he was kidnapped, tortured, and held for ransom during a business trip in South America.  Now a physically and emotionally broken man who breeds champion racehorses. Only his thoughts of Sutton Smythe kept him alive during his abduction. 

Virginia Elizabeth Baldwine – Nicknamed Gin. Thirty-four-year-old daughter of William Baldwine and Virginia Bradford. Strong-willed and wild, she parties, spends money and bed-hops.

Maxwell Baldwine – Middle son of William Baldwine and Virginia Bradford. Left Easterly years ago, and no one knows where he lives or how to contact him.

Chantal Blair Stowe Baldwine – Lane’s estranged wife who lives at Easterly.  A tiger disguised as a kitty cat.  Scheming and dishonest but with the perfect modern southern belle surface.  Holds many Bradford family secrets.

Samuel Theodore “T” Lodge III – An attorney and one of Lane’s best friends.  Handsome, well-respected, and a bit of a ladies man. Has had a complicated relationship with Lane’s sister Gin for many years. 

Sutton Smythe – Heir to the Smythe Distillery fortune. Her family business is the chief competitor/rival of the Bradford Bourbon Company.  A smart, beautiful, and powerful woman in love with one of her family’s “enemies.”

Richard Pford IV – Sole heir to the Pford Liquor and Spirits Distributors. Desperate to marry Gin, he’s prepared to trade favors with the Bradford Bourbon Company for the privilege.

Jeff Stern – Lane’s good friend who lives in New York City.  A financial whiz, Lane calls upon his help when he begins to suspect someone is embezzling money from the company.

Lizzie King – Head horticulturist at Easterly, the Bradford Family Estate.  An intense—and unexpectedly broken-off—affair with Lane two years ago has left her focused on work and determined to avoid love. 

Miss Aurora Toms – The family’s 65-year-old cook and the woman who essentially raised the Bradford children. Lane considers Miss Aurora his true mother and returns to Easterly only upon hearing of a decline in her health. 

Rosalinda Freeland – Easterly’s controller. Oversees all of Easterly’s bills and finances. Carries a terrible secret about William Baldwine.

Mr. Newark Harris – Easterly’s butler. Throwback to the centuries-old tradition of the proper English servant.  Born and trained in London, he served as a footman for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Place and then as a butler for Prince Edward. Officious, unyielding, and obsequious.

Beatrix Mollie – Head of housekeeping at Easterly.

Edwin “Mack” MacAllan – Master distiller for the Bradford Bourbon Company. His father had been the master distiller before him, and he’s currently the youngest master in the history of bourbon production in the state. Dedicated to his craft but troubled by recent company developments.

Jeb Landis – Recently deceased. Legend in the horseracing industry, and the trainer of more stakes winners than anyone.  An alcoholic and a gambler, he helped Edward come back to life after his abduction. 

Shelby Landis – Jeb’s 22-year-old daughter. Seeks Edward out after her father dies, looking for a job working horses. 

Deputy Sheriff Mitchell Ramsey – Charlemont lawman, friend of Lane’s, and the person who brought Edward back to the States after his abduction.

Gary McAdams – Head groundsman at Easterly. He’s sixty-two-years-old and protective of Lizzie.

Greta von Schlieber – Lizzie’s older counterpart in the gardens at Easterly. Wealthy woman who loves the work.  Protective of Lizzie, and doesn’t want to see her hurt by Lane again.

Moe Brown – Stable manager at Red & Black Stables. Can tell a horse’s future from the moment the animal stands after it’s born.

Kentucky Facts & Trivia

 The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

 Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the world's largest fireworks display.

 The Bluegrass Country around Lexington is home to some of the world's finest racehorses.
 The great Man o' War won all of his horse races except one which he lost to a horse named Upset.
 Bluegrass is not really blue—it’s green—but in the spring bluegrass produces bluish purple buds that when seen in large fields give a blue cast to the grass. Today Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State.

 Legend has it that the inspiration for Stephen Foster's hymn-like song "My Old Kentucky Home" was written in 1852 after an unverified trip to visit relatives in Kentucky.

 Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union and the first on the western frontier.
 Kentucky is the state where both Abraham Lincoln, President of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, were born. They were born less than one hundred miles and one year apart.

 More than 100 native Kentuckians have been elected governors of other states.
 More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. This is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world.

 Mammoth Cave is the world's longest cave and was first promoted in 1816, making it the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States. Niagara Falls, New York is first.
 Christian County is wet while Bourbon County is dry. Barren County has the most fertile land in the state.

 Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca are buried in the Frankfort Cemetery. Their son Isaac is buried at Blue Licks Battlefield near Carlisle, where he was killed in the last battle of the Revolutionary War fought in Kentucky.
 The song "Happy Birthday to You" was the creation of two Louisville sisters in 1893.


J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 15 million novels in print published in 25 different countries around the world.  A graduate of Smith College, she currently lives in Kentucky where she has learned to enjoy and appreciate all things Southern.  Prior to becoming an expat Yankee, she worked as a lawyer in Boston and spent many years as the Chief of Staff of one of Harvard’s world-renowned academic medical centers. 

Ward has always had a passion for writing.  After a decade of drafting stories in her spare time, she became a full-time novelist, and her first published novel, Leaping Hearts, was released in 2002.  Under the name Jessica Bird she wrote nine contemporary romances, and then got the idea for a darker, sexier series with paranormal elements, featuring a group of warrior vampires.  The Black Dagger Brotherhood was born.

The reader reaction to the series was immediate, spectacular and obsessive.  The fourth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Revealed, hit the New York Times mass market fiction bestseller list and since then, Ward’s novels have held the #1 spot on the New York Times hardcover, mass market, eBook, and combined print/eBook fiction bestseller lists and have debuted in the top 5 on the USA Today bestseller list.

This summer Ward introduces a new contemporary series set in her adopted home state of Kentucky with the novel The Bourbon Kings.  The series will follow the intertwined and scandalous fortunes of several ultrawealthy Kentucky families who have made their fortunes from bourbon.
J.R. Ward lives with her husband, daughter and their beloved golden retriever, as well as many other dogs, in Kentucky.  Visit her popular website and fan community at www.jrward.com and facebook.com/JRWardBooks.

Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J.R. WARD


REVIEW of Books #1 Through #11 -> HERE

Dark Lover #1  AMAZON | Lover Eternal #2  AMAZON | Lover Awakened #3 AMAZON

Lover Revealed #4 AMAZON | Lover Unbound #5  AMAZON | Lover Enshrined #6  AMAZON
Lover Avenged #7  AMAZON | Lover Mine #8  AMAZON | Lover Unleashed #9 AMAZON
Lover Reborn #10  AMAZON | Lover At Last #11  AMAZON | The King #12 AMAZON
The Shadows #13 AMAZON 

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