The Bradford family has ruled Kentucky’s upper echelon of society for generations. Their wealth, derived from the family bourbon business, assuring them a high level of comfort and privilege. Their estate, Easterly, is the largest in the state, employing dozens of staff that are always made very aware of the class division between themselves and “the family.” The two should never meet – not on the staircase, not in the driveway, and definitely not in the bedroom.
Two years ago Easterly’s Head Gardner/Horticulturist Lizzie King made the mistake of falling for Lane Baldwine, youngest of the Bradford boys. He already had a wild reputation, but she believed that he loved her. It broke her heart when he left her for his pregnant girlfriend, but she has put her life back together. Now Lane has returned, and his arrival signals the beginning of the end for a dynasty that won’t go down without a fight.
If this sounds like the plot of a soap opera, you’re not far off the mark: you can pretty much call this one Dallas with bourbon instead of oil. Intertwined around Lane and Lizzie’s romance, and often overpowering it, are the stories of the other Baldwine kids, the state/fate of the distillery and family finances, death, deceit, and fraud. And truly, the intertwined stories are far more interesting than the milquetoast plot and lackluster chemistry between Lizzie and Lane, whose rekindled romance lacks fire. Additionally, elements of the plot are contrived and often outdated, and the “problems” of these rich, spoiled family members are just eye-rollingly unimportant. I simply cannot drum up the sympathy for them that the author seems to be asking me to feel. Then, oddly, around 75% into the novel, it got better. Suddenly things were happening and characters were getting fleshed out. Not the Lizzie and Lane, who never became real to me, but one or two of the secondary characters came to life and made me want to continue reading. And, of course, that’s when the novel ended.
Honestly, though, if you’re a fan of J.R. Ward, give Bourbon Kings a try. Despite all of the above the book is not badly written. It's a realistic fiction from an author better known for paranormal, and these may just be teething problems. And honestly, even though I was just ripping it apart, I’ll probably read the second in the series just to find out more about those secondaries that snagged my interest.
Ward. J.R. The Bourbon Kings. New York: NAL, 2015. 2 stars.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in the review are mine alone.