Title – The Bourbon Kings
Author – J.R. Ward
Publication Date – July 28, 2015
Series – The Bourbon Kings #1
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.
Oh. Em. Geeeee! I think I found myself squeeing and eeeeking more during The Bourbon Kings more than most books I have ever come across. Based on that synopsis, how could any reader not be intrigued and immediately want to dive in? If you skip the rest of this review and only want to take away one thing, pay attention. This is a 6+ star rating book filled with suspense and romance that will leave you drooling for more. It is one that I’ll be rereading as soon as I can as I anxiously await for the sequel to release!
“You’ve had ten years around this family, but I’ve been with them and the people who surround them all my life.”
The Bourbon Kings follows the voices of several different characters in the book. While this sometimes can get confusing for me quickly, it felt so natural here in Ward’s novel. Furthermore, it never felt like there were too many storylines to follow with so many narrators speaking. If anything, they pulled me further into the main plot of The Bourbon Kings and left me wanting more of all their voices. Everything came together like a perfectly planned puzzle carved out of their individual feelings and actions.
“That’s why you’re the one I want. You’re real.”
While we may hear from several people, The Bourbon Kings is mainly focused on Lane and Lizzie – two characters who come from very different worlds. With Lane coming home due to a personal matter, these two would get a second chance at their relationship they lost long ago. Lane is a strong-headed survivor who carries so much weight that I don’t even think he realizes it. Lizzie is just has independent and fierce-minded, but never willing to let go of her principles. With twists and turns that suck you deeper into the mysteries of the Bradford family, who knows what relationships will remain intact. I can’t wait to see where Ward takes Lizzie, Lane, and all the rest of the Bradfords in the future books in the series.
“You’re not capable of being what they are and that’s a very, very good thing.”
Ward’s writing is fantastic, addictive, and will leave you wanting so much more! This is the first novel I have read by this highly-acclaimed author and it will certainly not be the last. The Bourbon Kings was all-consuming, intoxicating, and every bit of what you want to see in a book. I’ve seen people say that the price is a little high, but I can promise with absolute certainty that this one is worth every single penny. Between a mix of reality television you can’t stop watching and a Downton Abbey feel in a modern-day setting, The Bourbon Kings is one you definitely don’t want to miss! I’m ready to start harassing Ward for the next book already! 😉
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Don’t Miss the Rest of the Series!
The Angel’s Share (Bourbon Kings #2)
The Devil’s Cut (Bourbon Kings #3) – Releasing August 1, 2017!
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CAST OF CHARACTERS
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.
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.