Before I read The Bourbon Kings, I only knew J. R. Ward through her "Black Dagger Series", where I only read the first two books "Darklover" and "Lover Eternal" Part 1+2 – and they couldn´t convince me to keep going with this series. This new saga caught my eye not only because of its warm cover colors but also of the very promising summary. And after I dug my nose into a few pages and read a few lines, I was hooked. Hopefully, the author can keep her style and way with this series up to my expectations …

The Bourbon Kings
by J. R. Ward
Bourbon Kings #1
Publisher NAL on July 28, 2015
Genre Novel
Pages 432
Format Hardcover
Source Purchased

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 façade. And never twain shall meet.
For Lizzie King, Easterly´s head gardener, crossing the 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.
Tulane the handsome second born of the Bradford Bourbon dynasty comes after years of absence back home; and stirs up a hornets´ nest of intrigue, hate, betrayal, and attempted murder. Nothing out of the ordinary actually or something new to him is his father not known for his gentleness or respect for others. But what he discovers during his more or less joyful return is even for a Bradford not easy to process. The meeting with the love of his life, Lizzie, doesn´t make the situation any easier, especially not when his jealous and plotting wife thinks that she has to join in a conversation. And Lizzie? For her is more at risk, than a bunch of hurt feelings. For her, it is about anything.

Unlike the Black Dagger Series, this novel is put into the presence of a fictive dynasty, where one son, Tulane, isn´t only fighting with his way of lifestyle the icy force of his father, but also the unhappy marriage, he sees himself trapped in. Written in the figural narrative situation by Lizzie, Tulane, and his eldest brother Edward, the reader gets a very intriguing and haunting sight of their thoughts, feelings, and what it feels like to be a part of the daily life at the Bradford family estate Easterly. J.R. Ward uses a direct and well-placed language, her writing style is easy to read and she uses the sudden change of scenes to build great tension not only within the story itself but also between all those different characters. And when I say tension, I mean the good one as well as the negative one. 

The Patriarch of the family, William Baldwin, has put the family company as well as their estate into jeopardy and tries not only to cover up his leads, but also his very dark secret. Tulane, Edward, and Gin let the reader participate in their thoughts and feelings and fight – each of them in their own way – for the preservation of their company but also their personal situation of life. For Tulane, it means, that he not only has to fight again for his love for Lizzie but also to keep the company out of his father´s disastrous ploys. Not an easy undertaking is his father still used to the fact, that his children solidify in fear and respect and don´t give him any resistance at all. But Tulane has changed, and that shows the author in a fascinating way and in great dialogues.

The natural power struggle between a father and his sons – at least when it comes to a very big fortune, the keeping of a company that has been in the family for many generations and the fight about who´s in authority – turns out to a fantastic Dixieland drama between the single figures. Hate, passion, extreme weather events, and very many intrigues are making this novel a real looking game that contains the right amount of tension and sizzling noise. The reader gets here a real fascinating drama. And that with the exact right amount of differences and persuasive power.

All different kinds of characters come to life in this great novel. There is Virginia or better said Gin, the younger sister of Tulane. She is so addicted to the family money, that when it comes to the worst of her fears she decides to get connected to a man, who is pure evil – only because she can´t live without a certain lifestyle. Actually, she´s a poor girl and my pity for her grew the more I´ve read about her.

Tulane is one hell of a man, that´s for sure. He made himself independent from the family fortune, even though he still receives money from the trust. But he has no need to live his life at the whim and will of his powerful but reckless and ice-cold father. All his life he was in love with Lizzie, only to find himself forced into an unhappy marriage with a woman he doesn´t love and who did everything to become a part of the family and to carry his name.

I am very curious to see, how the author will keep that part of the story going on or better said: how she´ll solve it finally. But what I´m mostly interested in is all the things that William Baldwin has obviously done. He seems not only to be one hell of a brutal father – loving his children isn´t really part of his description – but also one ruthless businessman who won´t even stop before his own children. You don´t see much of him in this first part, but the few appearances make a big impact and his actions are dangerous and harmful to the rest even without being him there …

A very promising start of a new series, and hopefully the author keeps going on like this. I´ve read & listened to it with growing pleasure and enthusiasm. The Bourbon Kings unravel a great Southern family drama and I am very eager to read more about the life of the Bradford family and their future destiny. An absolute must-read!

Happy reading

J.R. Ward

J.R. Ward is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of erotic paranormal romance. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. After graduating from law school, she began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog, and her coffee pot.


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