Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pass the Bourbon

"Much later, when everything had changed
and he was living a life he couldn't have imagined on any level,
he would come to recognize...that this moment...
was when he began to heal."
--JR Ward, The Bourbon Kings

Genre: Adult Contemporary
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 420
Publication Date: July 28th, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: First in series
Goodreads Description

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 Story
I won't lie, I was nervous to start this. Why, when it's by one of my favorite authors was I nervous? Well, because there is always that fear that said author might write something I don't click with. And no lie, the synopsis did not particularly intrigue me. So thank God her name is on the front of this because I never would have picked this up otherwise and I would have missed out on and amazing piece of fiction.

What was amazing about it? The thing I most feared. The South is not a particular place I like to travel to while reading. Don't ask me why, we all have our things, this one isn't mine. But I soon found myself to enraptured by this world of wealth and family secrets, Derby and hundred thousand dollar luncheons, betrayals and family sacrificial lambs. The depths this family goes to to hurt one another is beyond anything I could understand. But it is delicious drama nonetheless. I really thought the drama and underhanded evil of some characters would make me irrationally angry and annoyed but it didn't. I loved that Ward made me care about these characters and their lives without begin crazy about it. I was entertained without being mad...that's a hard line to walk and it was great.

The story focuses on the Baldwine aka Bradford family. They distill--is that the correct word?--the greatest bourbon there is. The father is an asshole, the mother completely medicated, the eldest son wanting nothing to do with the family, another son that is estranged, Lane who is our focus has been gone for two years, and Gin is the youngest and only daughter and is 50 shades of dysfunctional. Then there's Lizzie, who used to be in love with Lane so when Lane comes's kind of the catalyst for all that happens after...and it also happens to be the weekend of the Kentucky Derby aka the biggest holiday all year for these people, including the second coming of Christ. Seriously.

The Characters
Speaking of the family, the characters are as deliciously fucked up as the drama they create. The Baldwine family is a mess but I love them. Lane, the absentee son for the past two years, returns and brings with him a whole lotta drama. He's in love with Lizzie, needs to do something before that can be resumed, and inadvertently uncovers some family secrets. I loved Lane's vulnerability. That's what stuck out the most for me. He is a strong man, has convictions, loves his family as much as he is able to, but his heart lies with Lizzie and his journey back to her is anything but prideful. He lays out his cards and I love him for his honesty amidst all the garbage he's been dealt...albeit self-inflicted for the most part but still.

Lizzie is the woman he loves, also the head horticulturist on the Bradford estate. So she's considered 'the help' and liaisons with the family is just not done. This is where my eye-rolling came in because c'mon people, it's 2015. I don't doubt these Southern snobs actually exist and think this way but I don't have to like or agree with it so I'm moving on. I liked Lizzie. I didn't love her. I understood where she was coming from and I liked her gumption. Yes, I actually went there and used that word. It felt appropriate. She is a strong and independent and while she takes zero shit, she is not stupid. She knows her heart and her head and she works on acting somewhere in the middle of the two. This, I loved about her.

Edward, the eldest brother...oh, be still my heart. I'm saying this now before y'all can get grabby hands that this one is mine so everybody back off. He is estranged from his family and running a horse breeding farm on his own. He is...broken and you need to read to find out why. He is sad and lonely and doesn't want this tortured existence he finds himself in. He wants out, he does everything he can to remain miserable and as out of it as possible. My heart aches for him in so many ways and I want to jump in this book and take care of him. Anybody that knows me and reads this will immediately know this is one I want, the story I need, the man I want to see get his happy more than one way *wink wink*. But seriously, the part he plays at a major point in the story I was fist-pumping so hard because YAY! You're doing something, Edward! Keep it going!! (Love you!!!!!!)

Gin is the youngest daughter and hot damn does she get herself into messes. She has a history with the family lawyer and good friend of Lane that neither want to admit to true feelings. A LOT of drama happens to her and, as with Lane, is mostly self-inflicted but it doesn't make me feel any less sad for her or root for her any less. She struggles. She makes terrible decisions. But she tries. She tries to make it better and when that doesn't go her way she does the best job she can for self-preservation. I feel like most people will really not warm to Gin at all and not like her but I really enjoyed her character. I feel awful for some of the things she has to go through but I'm hoping they are remedied in future books. *fingers crossed*

The World
As I said above, the South is not a world I usually like to go to nor is the world of the 1% of uber rich, however this was fascinating. I loved reading about this antiquated pseudo-caste system of butlers and cooks and maids and gardeners. It is so far removed from everything I know and what I usually read that I couldn't help but be completely enthralled by it. I absolutely cannot wait to read the next installment and I'm actually irrationally angry of how long I'll have to wait because...this family has a lot of unanswered questions to answer and a lot of unsolved resolutions. 
Backstage Pass
If you love the South, the Derby, and all things dysfunctional in families...this book's for you. 
One more thing! The lovely people at Berkley are letting me giveaway a copy of the book!
Now you have no excuse not to read! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Edward <3 But seriously, I was a little nervous going into this one too, even if it was by JR Ward. I'm so glad she pulled it all together - the setting, the family, the plot - in a way that was completely engaging and entertaining! Can't wait for the next one (and more Edward).

  2. I've enjoyed the books I've read that have been in the South. There's a sort of charm about them. But I can understand not enjoying reading about that setting. I need to read this especially after all of the dramz you're talking about! Loved your review!!

  3. I keep on stalking my library shelves to no avail. How can they order 25 copies of Grey but not one of Bourbon Kings? Thanks for the chance!


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