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.
The Bourbon Kings introduces us to the Bradford family. Their family is the leader in the bourbon industry, their estate is a small city in and of itself and within the walls of their mansion lies so many secrets and scandals, it led to a new revelation with every turning page. Our leads are Lane and Lizzie. Tulane (Lane) is the rich son of William Baldwine and has been living in New York for the past two years with zero desire to go home. He left his heart with Lizzie and after their relationship came to a screaming halt, he left but not before marrying another woman he knocked up. He left her behind, she lost the child (at least that how she tells it) and Lane has been licking his wounds on his best friend’s couch and playing poker. When he gets a phone call that the woman who raised him was ill, he heads home. It’s derby week, something Lane wants nothing to do with, but his family’s estate hosts a million dollar pre-derby party for the richest of the rich and Lane finds himself right in the middle of not only that, but many family secrets and drama that comes to a head. Through it all, the only person he wants to see is Lizzie. The woman he still loves and will do anything to be with again.
Lizzie is the head gardener at the Easterly estate (Lane’s family home – I know so many different names that all reference the same people) and the last thing she wants to do is face Lane. She made the mistake of loving and trusting him once only to be burned badly, but he’s back and she can’t escape the inevitable meeting they have. Whether she wants to or not, she still has feelings for him as well, but it’s not easy for her to forget the past, especially with Lane’s wife living on the estate. But of course, Lane and Lizzie have it out, put their feelings out there, good, bad and ugly and for Lane, Lizzie ends up being the one calming presence in his life that is spinning out of control.
Ok, talk about family drama. It’s like a cross between Dallas meets Southern Charm. There are so many different family threads and dynamics going on, it’ll be impossible to give you the full picture of everything and everyone we’re introduced to. There are four siblings, Lane, the oldest brother Edward, the missing brother Max and the maybe she’s wicked or maybe she’s just heartbroken sister, Gin. All the siblings are interesting and their stories are built up in a way that has me really curious about each of them. Edward is dealing with physical and mental scars from his past. Gin is dealing with being basically sold by her father into marriage but (spoiler alert – there is a rape scene. It’s quick on page, not incredibly detailed, but still it’s there and it’s uncomfortable) she has a weird love-hate-love relationship with another man, her baby daddy, who has no idea he even has a teenage daughter; I can’t wait for that little bomb to drop. And there’s the missing son Maxwell. No one knows where he is, what he’s doing, only that he’s off the grid and that makes this reader’s ears perk up.
The siblings are just the tip of the characters we’re introduced to. Many friends, enemies and business associates come on page and everyone has a connection to something that’s going on. There’s of course scandal, lies, murder, you name it, this soap opera-esque drama has it. And that’s what ultimately kept me hooked into the story.
What didn’t have me interested was the romance between Lane and Lizzie. There was absolutely no spark between them on page. No chemistry. Nada. Zilch. And you and I both know that J.R. Ward can bring the romance and the sexy on page, but it was just non-existent for Lane and Lizzie and that was disappointing. For being the leads of this book, I found them to be the most boring characters on page. I was so much more interested in everyone else and the supporting characters are the reason I’ll come back for book 2, just to see how things that were set up for them play out.
Even with a romance that was a big miss for me, I enjoyed the family drama that played out and all the various storylines that were set up for future books. Ward wrote the scenes in such a way that I was able to picture exactly what everything looked like, how the estate was set up, even down to hearing those strong southern accents in my head. The drama was over the top and kept me interested and for now, I’ll be back to see what drama unfolds next.
Release Date: July 28, 2015
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*eBook provided by publisher for review*