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.
Wow. Where to start with this book?! Well, as soon as I heard about it, I wanted a copy. I have never read anything else by J.R. Ward, so I cannot comment or compare in any way. But I know a lot of people love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, so that already says a lot about the quality of the author and her writing.
The folks at NAL/Berkeley really stepped it up, including a special Bourbon Kings folder chock full of information when they sent me the book for review. There was a Cast of Characters sheet (which proved handy), 8 Things You Didn't Know About Bourbon (like that its name derives from the House of Bourbon, who were French royalty), Kentucky Facts & Trivia ( like that the song 'Happy Birthday to You' was created by two sisters from Louisville in 1893), and more! Very cool.
This book ended a reading slump for me. I had just been through a few books that I DNF or slowly and painfully finished, and this was a breath of fresh air. I didn't want to put it down. J.R. Ward succeeds with this story for me where others have failed. I've said it over and over again that I struggle with books where I don't like the main character, or any of the characters. This is what turned me off from big names like Fifty Shades of Grey and Gone Girl. With the latter, I remember a friend describing it to me by saying that basically all the characters are horrible people. And when I read it, I found I didn't care what happened to them, because I didn't care about them at all. The Bourbon Kings wins here. While I wouldn't say all the characters are horrible people, I will say that they all make horrible, horrible choices which lead to them doing bad things. One of two of the characters I want to be like, "They're not bad!" But then I remember how they got to where they are in the story, and it's a bad choice leading to a bad action. I can't salute anyone's actions here. The exception is "Mama" -- Miss Aurora! She is the good, warm Dumbledore figure that is needed in the household of crazy. And maybe Greta too. She has a good heart.
Of course, some are more evil than others. I won't name names, but two characters come to mind whom I think of and inwardly cringe because I am appalled at how low they will go to get what they want. This book was like a train wreck -- everything was falling apart, but I couldn't look away. I couldn't put it down. I mean "train wreck" in a loving kind of way, by the way. I described the drama as "delicious" in a tweet, and it is. Book 2 is going to look different in a big way, but from the teaser at the end of this one, new drama will be added to the already sloshing pot. I can't wait!