Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Angels' Share (The Bourbon Kings #2) by J.R. WARD [Review]

In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior...or the worst of all the sinners?

3.5 The Story Continues Stars
Angels’ Share is the second book in The Bourbon Kings series.  Angels’ Share continues the Bradford’s family clan stories. Although this book is hinted to mainly focus on Edward’s story, since Bourbon King focuses mainly on Lizzie and Lane, but that is not the case. Angels’ Share continues Lizzie and Lane’s story most in my opinion, but we definitely get a slow build-up on the other sibling’s stories. A little disappointing, but J.R. Ward knows how to create slow tension and get you hooked.

Lizzie and Lane, I loved them in the first book. I rooted for them in the beginning and so I question how the love story will continue. Will they both face obstacles? Will they break up? Will they forge together as a united front? All of those questions will be answered. Lane is the star of this book. He’s the most responsible and as much as he has to deal with his ex and continue his love for Lizzie, he needs to make sure the family’s business remains afloat.  There’s also a question about his father’s death. I would say about 70% of the book is focused on Lane’s struggle to handle the business and the aftermath of the death of his father. This is more suspenseful than romance, but there’s plenty of plot to keep you questioning to the very end.

Edward is the most interesting Bradford in my opinion. There’s something about what he went through because of his father that I find so fascinating. He’s kind of the ugly beast that needs his happy ending. As much as I craved for Edward’s story, I didn’t get a huge chunk of it. Edward continues to indulge in his drinking and continues to care for no one but himself, or so we think. We also get a softer side of Edward which I enjoyed reading. Which lady does he really love? His helper or long time crush?

Gin is the gal you don’t want to like. She’s selfish, spoiled and greedy. I question if she is really real, but then maybe she’s brought up with so much wealth she just doesn’t understand. It’s a struggle to like Gin. I started to sympathize for her in the first book, but as I kept on reading this one, I just got more frustrated and angry with her. But there are reasons to why Gin does what she does and as you read more about her, my feelings change. I’m not sure what to make of Gin’s dynamics, but I’m curious to where it will go.

Overall The Angels’ Share was written differently from the Bourbon Kings. I found it more suspenseful and more focused on Lane’s story on how he handles the family’s company.  I’m really anxious for the next book, as I hope J.R. Ward brings the story back to the “romance” of the series.

Excerpt from THE ANGELS’ SHARE by J. R. Ward
Toyota trucks were not supposed to go seventy-five miles an hour. Especially when they were ten years old.

At least the driver was wide awake, even though it was four a.m.

Lizzie King had a death grip on the steering wheel, and her foot on the accelerator was actually catching floor as she headed for a rise in the highway.

She had woken up in her bed at her farmhouse alone. Ordinarily, that would have been the status quo, but not anymore, not now that Lane was back in her life. The wealthy playboy and the estate’s gardener had finally gotten their act together, love bonding two unlikelies closer and stronger than the molecules of a diamond.

And she was going to stand by him, no matter what the future held.

After all, it was so much easier to give up extraordinary wealth when you had never known it, never aspired to it—and especially when you had seen behind its glittering curtain to the sad, desolate desert on the far side of the glamour and prestige.

God, the stress Lane was under.

And so out of bed she had gotten. Down the creaking stairs she had gone. And all around her little house’s first floor she had wandered.

When Lizzie had looked outside, she’d discovered his car was missing, the Porsche he drove and parked beside the maple by her front porch nowhere to be seen. And as she had wondered why he had left without telling her, she had begun to worry.

Just a matter of nights since his father had killed himself, only a matter of days since William Baldwine’s body had been found on the far side of the Falls of the Ohio. And ever since then Lane’s face had had a faraway look, his mind churning always with the missing money, the divorce papers he had served on the rapacious Chantal, the status of the household bills, the precarious situation at the Bradford Bourbon Company, his brother Edward’s terrible physical condition, Miss Aurora’s illness.

But he hadn’t said a thing about any of it. His insomnia had been the only sign of the pressure, and that was what scared her. Lane always made an effort to be composed around her, asking her about her work in Easterly’s gardens, rubbing her bad shoulder, making her dinner, usually badly, but who cared. Ever since they had gotten the air cleared between them and had fully recommitted to their relationship, he had all but moved into her farmhouse—and as much as she loved having him with her, she had been waiting for the implosion to occur.

It would almost have been easier if he had been ranting and raving.

And now she feared that time had come—and some sixth sense made her terrified about where he had gone. Easterly, the Bradford Family Estate, was the first place she thought of. Or maybe the Old Site, where his family’s bourbon was still made and stored. Or perhaps Miss Aurora’s Baptist church?
Yes, Lizzie had tried him on his phone. And when the thing had rung on the table on his side of the bed, she hadn’t waited any longer after that. Clothes on. Keys in hand. Out to the truck.

No one else was on I-64 as she headed for the bridge to get across the river, and she kept the gas on even as she crested the hill and hit the decline to the river’s edge on the Indiana side. In response, her old truck picked up even more speed along with a death rattle that shook the wheel and the seat, but the damn Toyota was going to hold it together because she needed it to.

“Lane . . . where are you?”

God, all the times she had asked him how he was and he’d said, “Fine.” All those opportunities to talk that he hadn’t taken her up on. All the glances she’d shot him when he hadn’t been looking her way, all the time her monitoring for signs of cracking or strain. And yet there had been little to no emotion after that one moment they’d had together in the garden, that private, sacred moment when she had sought him out under the blooms of the fruit trees and told him that she’d gotten it wrong about him, that she had misjudged him, that she was prepared to make a pledge to him with the only thing she had: the deed to her farmhouse—which was exactly the kind of asset that could be sold to help pay for the lawyers’ fees as he fought to save his family.

Lane had held her, and told her he loved her—and refused her gift, explaining he was going to fix everything himself, that he was going to somehow find the stolen money, pay back the enormous debt, right the company, resurrect his family’s fortunes.

And she had believed him.

She still did.

But ever since then? He had been both as warm and closed off as a space heater, physically present and completely disengaged at the same time.

Lizzie did not blame him in the slightest.

It was strangely terrifying, however.

Off in the distance, across the river, Charlemont’s business district glowed and twinkled, a false, earthbound galaxy that was a lovely lie, and the bridge that connected the two shores was still lit up in spring green and bright pink for Derby, a preppy rainbow to that promised land. The good news was that there was no traffic, so as soon as Lizzie was on the other side, she could take the River Road exit off the highway, shoot north to Easterly’s hill, and see if his car was parked in front of the mansion.

Then she didn’t know what she was going to do.

The newly constructed bridge had three lanes going in both directions, the concrete median separating east from west tall and broad for safety purposes. There were rows of white lights down the middle, and everything was shiny, not just from the illumination, but a lack of exposure to the elements. Construction had only finished in March, and the first lines of traffic had made the crossing in early April, cutting rush-hour delays down—

Up ahead, parked in what was actually the “slow” lane, was a vehicle that her brain recognized before her eyes properly focused on it.

Lane’s Porsche. It was Lane’s—

Lizzie nailed the brake pedal harder than she’d been pounding the accelerator, and the truck made the transition from full-force forward to full-on stop with the grace of a sofa falling out a second-story window: Everything shuddered and shook, on the verge of structural disintegration, and worse, there was barely any change in velocity, as if her Toyota had worked too hard to gain the speed and wasn’t going to let the momentum go without a fight—

There was a figure on the edge of the bridge. On the very farthest edge of the bridge. On the lip of the bridge over the deadly drop.

“Lane,” she screamed. “Lane!”

Her truck went into a spin, pirouetting such that she had to wrench her head around to keep him in her sights. And she jumped out before the Toyota came to a full stop, leaving the gearshift in neutral, the engine running, the door open in her wake.

“Lane! No! Lane!”

Lizzie pounded across the pavement and surmounted barriers that seemed flimsy, too flimsy, given the distance down to the river.

Lane jerked his head around—

And lost one hold of the rail behind him.

As his grip slipped, shock registered on his face, a flash of surprise . . . that was immediately replaced by horror.

When he fell off into nothing but air.

Lizzie’s mouth could not open wide enough to release her scream.

Posted by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © J.R. Ward, 2016.


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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