By J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings
My Rating: 5 Stars
I’m not a J.R. Ward reader. In fact, I haven’t read a single one of her books, though I know they are very popular and they are consistently recommended to me. Now, if you have read my previous reviews you may remember that I tend to read all books recommended to me. So, the fact that I haven’t read any J.R. Ward may make you question why I keep avoiding her. Well, truth be told, I’m having a hard time committing to the reading requirement of J.R. Ward’s books. The Black Dagger Brotherhood series has 14 books in it. And the Black Dagger series has 26!!!!! I know, I know, I don’t have to commit to reading all of the books in the series, but frankly, I’m afraid that I’m going to love the books so much that I’ll do nothing but read J.R. Ward until the end of time. Ok, maybe not that long, but you get what I”m saying. It’s a huge time commitment and I’m having a hard enough time committing to series with only three books. That being said, this new J.R. Ward series intrigued me. I read about it earlier in the year and something about it made me giddy. It’s been quite some time since a new series made me giddy. In fact, I’ll admit that I nearly had to get into a wrestling match with a fellow co-worker at the library in order to get it first when it arrived. Yeah, I totally played the boss card to get it first. I’ll admit it and I won’t apologize for it. 🙂 So, to say that this was one of my most anticipated books of the year is putting it mildly. The only other book that would rank this high in my excitement for it’s release is Golden Son by Pierce Brown and I was actually able to get a prepub copy of that book before the year even started. I wasn’t so fortunate with The Bourbon Kings so I had to wait until the actual release date. And I wasn’t disappointed with this book. I loved this book!!!! I’ll admit I was a bit frustrated in the beginning because I was only able to read 10-20 pages at a time which wasn’t allowing me to really get into the book and frankly, I was going to be very disappointed if one of my most anticipated books of the year turned out to be a total dud. But get into this book I did. When I was finally able to get away from working an exorbitant number of hours at work and really give this book the attention it deserved, I was far from disappointed.
Synopsis (this is a very convoluted plot so I’m going to use the plot from Goodreads)
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 iron fisted 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.
This book was awesome! It wasn’t my typical type of read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While it’s technically classified as romance (and I do read those) to me it felt more like a suspense/thriller because it has the tension that comes with thrillers and it’s a slow build allowing the tension to build up slowly leading up to the climactic ending that was completely unexpected. Plus, the characters in this book are older than the typical romance. They are certainly middle-aged and it allows for more polished characters. They aren’t floundering and trying to find themselves. For the most part they know who they are and what is expected of them. That doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict because there is but it’s different from what you might find with a younger character. And frankly I think this makes these characters more passionate and definitely hotter.
Tulane “Lane” Baldwine is the prodigal son and while he’s doing everything he can to not be, circumstances are drawing him back home. The level of emotion between Lane and Lizzie is magma hot. They can’t get away from the tension that’s created by their past relationship, their frustration of their lives, and their separation. Being thrown back together means the explosion is imminent. It’s not a question of if, it’s when. Then when you add in all the other characters, who all have a secret of their own and frustrations that have built up over a lifetime and you combine it all together, it leaves you with a smorgasbord of motive for betrayal in many forms. By the end of the book, you aren’t sure who to trust and you can’t be certain of anyone. Everyone is suspect and everyone has motive. It’s just a matter of figuring out who broke first.
The other thing I loved about this book that makes it stand out from other books is that it’s not just a book about two or three characters. While the book is centrally focused on Lane and Lizzie and their relationship, their lives are not separate from the world around them. Ward does an excellent job of intertwining many stories around Lane and Lizzie. All the characters have stories of their own and they sometimes twine around Lane and Lizzie and sometimes they don’t. This is what real life is all about. No one ever really knows the truth about those around them. I loved this about this book. It made it so much more complex than other books I’ve read.
I can’t wait for the next book to come out in this series. I think though, I’m going to have to reread this one before I tackle book two because I have a sneaky suspicion that Ward snuck in some tidbits that seemed like nothing at the time but will, in fact, prove to be very important in the future. My recommendation, definitely check out this book. Even if you don’t tend to read romance, I highly recommend this. It’s a definite breath of fresh air for this genre. It’s well thought out and Ward has put forth the effort to entice suspense and thriller readers. So, go, go now and get this book and sit down with your favorite tasty beverage and dive into this book. I don’t think you will be disappointed.