Title: The Bourbon Kings
Author: J.R. Ward
Release Date: JULY 28, 2015!!

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.
The Bourbon Kings reads very much like a decadent Southern soap opera, with interconnecting storylines playing out separately and converging at pivotal moments, introducing a large cast of characters, each with their own dramas playing out within the confines of The Bradford Bourbon Company. The story follows the Baldwine/Bradford family, a disgustingly wealthy bunch who have run a successful Bourbon production company out of Charlemont, Kentucky for generations. But inside the opulent Bradford Family Estate, beneath the facade of family heirlooms and priceless jewels and ostentatious luncheons, lies, secrets, scandal and tragedy reside. Family rivalry, infidelity, heartbreak, greed and lust all converge against the posh backdrop of the grandiose Easterly estate to make The Bourbon Kings one captivating read I found myself completely lost in. JR Ward crafts a wicked web of deceit and drama that consumed me from the very first page.

The Bourbon Kings follows a cast of characters that immediately pulled me in and consumed me with their stories, their pain, their reality of life behind the wrought iron gates of this bourbon empire. The ties that bind this family are more like shackles, holding them prisoner to obligation, to their secrets, to public perception, to an evil patriarch. At the core of this story so fraught with familial drama and scandal, is a love story. There are many storylines intersecting and converging within these pages, but in the middle of all of it is this perfectly imperfect romance between Lizzie King and Tulane Baldwine. The forbidden nature of their relationship, their heartbreaking past and the uncertainty of their future made the dynamic between Lane and Lizzie one I was most intrigued by.

When the opulent mansion rapidly becomes a precarious house of cards, like any inevitable car crash, I couldn't look away. Tragedy and heartbreak and mystery lay the groundwork for what I could only assume was the beginning of the downfall of an empire. It was unpredictable, it was uncertain, it was intriguing, it was brutally painful... and I was consumed. So much transpires within these pages and I couldn't decide what I craved more... to see how it would all end, or for time to slow down so it wouldn't end at all. Fortunately for me, The Bourbon Kings is just the beginning of what I hope will be a long series because there's so much left unsaid for all of these characters.

This was my very first JR Ward book. I've heard so many readers go on and on about their love for her other series, but I went into The Bourbon Kings with no expectations or assumptions on Ward's writing style, how she lays out a story or cultivates a plot. What I came away with was the opinion that JR Ward can paint a picture like an artist paints a landscape... detailed and precise and so glorious it can take your breath away. Ward crafts these characters, this setting, this drama, their dialogue, every single thing and molds it all together exquisitely. If this storyline were a show, I'd watch it repeatedly just to see and hear and feel all the things again and again. I had no idea how badly I needed to read a story like this one. It was a complete change of pace, like nothing I've read lately, maybe in years. It's a family drama but so so so much more. The romances of each of the Baldwine children stood out in this book but none of them are linear, perfectly wrapped up relationships. They are messy, heartbreaking, tragic in very different ways and I couldn't get enough. I can not wait to see what's in store for this fascinating family as this epic series continues.

Jessica's Rating:

J.R. Ward is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. She lives in the South her family.


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