on July 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Family, General, Love & Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Source: Bought for Myself
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.
As a JR Ward fan I was looking forward to her newest series. I’ve read her Black Dagger Brotherhood (which I’m slightly obsessed with) and Fallen Angels series as well as some of the contemporary Harlequin novels she published under the name Jessica Bird. I was hoping her newest Bourbon Kings series was going to combine my favourite things – family sagas, romance and tall dark handsome men cloaked in secrets and danger.
The Bourbon Kings is a great example of me disliking the novel but being incredibly anxious and excited to read the rest of the series. Why? Because there is so much promise.
This first book sets the scene of the Bradford family, rich and privileged heirs to their ancestral alcohol dynasty. But we join the scene just in time to see things aren’t as prestigious or as glamorous as they appear on the surface…
There is a great family saga being set up. We get introduced to all the main players and a glimpse of what the future may hold. But in many ways I didn’t feel like I got to see any of them enough to fully care about any of the characters.
Lane, one of the Bradford sons, returns home after two years playing poker and couch surfing in New York. He’s never worked a day in his life and seems to resent his wife for indulging herself in the same lifestyle as he does. But we know the wife is bad news because highly educated horticulturist and floral arranger extraordinaire Lizzie and Lane have a history. And despite it ending badly (well they said it ended badly. Seemed to be a bit of a storm in a teacup with neither party really even trying to salvage their relationship. But I digress) neither has moved on.
It’s true love guys!
Their relationship seemed to take up more of the novel than any other part of the story. And to be honest I wasn’t feeling it. For someone who was irreparably hurt by Lane, Lizzie let him back into her heart (and her bed) rather quickly. And honestly I’m not quite sure what she saw in him. Sure there’s some history and nostalgia from two summers ago going on. But Lizzie is a smart, competent woman. She’s independent and driven. Then there’s Lane – he’s got zero ambition except to see if he can internally pickle his liver before he’s forty. I can hardly imagine he’s physically at his best when they meet up again and nothing has really changed from when they broke up to the present day. Lizzie is remarkably quick to think the worst and Lane just seems to have zero pizzazz to him. One of the nicest things about Lane is how he treats his surrogate mother. As for his biological mother? I sort of got the feeling there was a bit of a Mrs Rochester from Jane Eyre, crazy lady in the attic, vibe about that whole situation. She’s not physically present and I wonder if anyone has seen her in years.
Moving on. Then there’s the oldest Bradford child, Edward. He’s the one with all the ambition and drive. Handsome and charismatic, Edward was a man who excelled in business and his personal life. He had it all. And then two years ago he was involved in an incident in South America which ended his life as he knew it. Now he’s hiding out, a shadow of the man he used to be, self medicating with whatever alcohol he can find and limiting his social engagements to horses and whores. Of the siblings, Edward’s was the story I enjoyed the most. I really want to see how things work out for him and if they ever get to the bottom of just what happened on that international trip two years ago. I loved the chemistry he had with Sutton – it was the best part of the novel! But I had a hard time working out just how crippled he was… sometimes he seemed almost agile and other times he seemed completely disabled.
Gin, the only Bradford daughter, wasn’t my favourite either. In many ways she’s just like Lane. She is happy to live off the family’s money yet has problems when Daddy wants her to clean up her act. She’s been acting out since she was a teenager playing power games with men and always wanting to have control. Her teenage daughter doesn’t want a bar of her and Gin doesn’t seem to want to change the her lifestyle in the slightest. There was interesting parts to Gin’s story. I loved the banter and tension between her and the family’s lawyer (Samuel T is my favourite character in the novel). But overall I found Gin to be a petulant little girl who was stuck at the maturity of a teenager. And with this character, JR Ward excelled herself in name dropping brands. They rich y’all – Gin wears Loubuts. Ok?
View Spoiler »Beyond the personal issues the Bradford siblings have (oh there’s another sibling too but he’s off screen to the point where for most of the novel I wasn’t sure if he was alive or just estranged) there is a deeper problem for them to face. Daddy dearest is up to something – and it’s bad. He’s sold his daughter off to the highest bidder and impregnated his daughter in law. The man is classy with a capital K. « Hide Spoiler Despite the death and disaster this novel offered – it just didn’t feel all that shocking like you want a good novel full of dark secrets and family drama. I wanted to be more invested in the characters and the plot but because most of the characters were entitled, unlikeable, whingers with alcohol problems – I just couldn’t care about them or what they were going through.
But, like I said before, I do want to know what happens next. I feel like given some time the characters could grow backbones, grow up a little, and become really interesting and captivating people. I wanted to care more about Lane and Lizzie’s relationship but it was a little too high drama with little rationale. From the blurb of book two – I can’t wait to see what’s next for Edward. As for Gin? I want her to spill the secret regarding her daughter’s paternity to the father and see what happens there. There’s also the question of was the second death in the book murder and if so – who did it?!
For those reasons I’ll definitely be reading on in this series. Also because it did take a few books for the Black Dagger Brotherhood to become the phenomenon it is now. Maybe all these characters need is a bit of space and pages to develop into the great southern family saga The Bourbon Kings has the potential to be.