[656]: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

23355896 The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings, #1
NAL | July 28th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 420 pp.
Adult Fiction | Family Drama
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


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 iron-fisted 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.


After almost a year of ignoring this book, I finally succumbed and read it. Perfect timing too, considering the next book comes out at the end of the month. You see? Sometimes, procrastination is a good thing.

Dysfunction is an Art Form.

This brand new series by JR Ward is a take off from her usual Urban Fantasy fare. Fashioned after the 80s tv series, Dallas, it has family drama, scandal, murder mystery, skeletons, and romance. It features a prominent Kentucky family who owned the monopoly on Bourbon in America. The patriarch and matriarch of the Bradford Family are in a what you could consider as a stereotypical marriage of convenience amongst rich people. For appearance’s sake, they live in the same mansion but sleep in different beds. He sleeps around, controls the family’s finances, and treats his family like shit. In short, a perennial Father of the Year candidate. The mother is no better. You don’t even see her through the entire novel. She’s in her room all the time – apparently hooked on whatever painkillers she could get her hands on. But I’m willing to bet that in the end, she will save the entire family from ruin, therefore giving this series the mother of a plot twist. Don’t quote me on that, though.

The Prodigal Son Returns.

So this story is about Jonathan Tulane Baldwine and his return to the family after receiving some bad news. Lane hasn’t lived in Kentucky for years for two reasons: one, he can’t stand his family. And two, because of Lizzie King – aka, the one that got away. Lizzie King is the girl who broke his heart but she’ll tell you that he trampled on her’s first by getting another woman pregnant.  And since she still works for the family, the reunion will be spectacularly bad. While the focus of the book is how they get over themselves and realize they belong together, this book is also an introduction to the rest of the family.

The Bradford Brood.

It’s implied that Max, the second oldest is out of the picture for –  perhaps the same reason Lane has for leaving; Edward the oldest, left after he was rescued from a kidnapping for ransom in South America. He is scarred beyond recognition. Gin was the only one who stayed because the woman loves luxury too much to have any sense of pride. Later, Lane will find out that the family is well on their way to financial ruin all thanks to father dearest. So it’s up to him to figure out how to save the family from everything else.

In Retrospect

This series is turning out to be one for the ages. The kind that will incite a fervor devotion from her already loyal fanbase. It is enthralling, in as much as a soap opera or a reality tv show devotees follow their beloved shows religiously. We may have gotten a resolution to Lane and Lizzie’s relationship in this first installment, but it left a number of plot arches wide open for speculation. As it stands, there are a few that has me anxiously waiting for the next books: I’m curious about the death of one character; Edward’s relationship to the daughter of a rival family; Sam and Gin’s toxic love affair over the years, and of course, Max’s whereabouts and eventual return.

  • Sara Walker

    Ha- I was kind of bored with this one, but I am totally going to keep reading the series. I am curious about certain stories and want to see what’s going to come from them. Sigh- there are a few details I am hazy on, but I am sure I’ll make sense of it.

  • [laughs] I soooo didn’t want to like this one, but I totally loved it, except for the horrible narrator of the audiobook… yet I still really liked it. I can’t wait to read about Edward, and the rest of the Bradford brood. I have a feeling that Lane’s story was mild in comparison to the other ones. Great review! 🙂

  • Lovely review Joy 😀 So glad you liked this one a lot. <3 Gosh, I'm pretty sure I remember you talking a lot about this author on twitter so many years ago, lol 🙂 Which is probably why I own a paperback box set of some of the earlier books. Hmph. Reading them one day, maybe 🙂 But maybe not really for me, haha 😀 But curious. Aaaanyway 😀 Gorgeous review sweet girl. <3

  • It does sound like it captures the daytime soap vibe perfectly. The only thing which makes me curious over this series is my like of JR Ward’s BDB and Fallen Angels series. But I recently read a few of her romance novels published under “Jessica Bird”. They were what you would expect from a Mills and Boon type romance. I think I’ll try this one because it sounds like she combines the contemporary with a little of the grit and delivers a good story. Great review, Joy!

  • I’m glad you liked this! I read a few of her urban fantasies during my intense PNR phase many years ago. I’ll have to put this on my list when I get back into the mood for her books!

  • This series is super addictive and I loved The Angels’ Share! I can’t wait to hear what you think! Bummer we have to wait a whole year for the next one!

  • RO

    There’s no doubt about it, JR Ward is a talented woman! I heard mixed reviews on this from various bloggers. Some said it seem unfinished, others said they wouldn’t recommend, and many more loved it! It’s on my pile, and hope to get to it before the year is over! (lol) Great review. Hugs…RO

  • Ooooh, you know I loved both this one and the next! Can’t wait to discuss The Angels’ Share with you, Joy! I hope we don’t have to wait a full year for the next one! Torture! Fab review! 🙂

  • She’s so hit or miss for me, but this sounds like it’d be the perfect guilty pleasure.

  • I’ve heard so many things about The Bourbon Kings and I definitely want to check out something by this author at some point. I’m usually a sucker for drama filled novels even though sometimes they don’t turn out as good as this, haha.

  • Jazmen

    I haven’t read anything by her yet, one day. *heavy sigh* Soon.

  • Hm… I’m not a soap opera aficionado so I’m not sure if I will like it. It sounds like a series I will avoid until I cannot no longer and will pick up this book. I guess time will tell if I fall under it’s spell or not. 🙂 With the way you make it sounds I’m thinking I will.

  • I wonder if I would like it, it’s just such a soap opera, but then maybe I would

  • Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    I was waiting to read this, just like you, but I honestly thought it had at least some paranormal element! I am so clueless. I used to watch Santa Barbara as a kid every single day almost religiously. Maybe I’d enjoy this for old times sake.

  • kindlemom1

    This reminded me so much of a soap opera and I don’t even watch them but I did like this one too.

  • JR Ward is my guilty pleasure. Wasn’t sure about this one, but your review has me intrigued!

  • And look at that, you ended up loving it when you didn’t even expect it. I always love books like that. ♡♡ it’s always a pleasant surprise. 🙂 This sure does sound like a Soap Opera even though I’m personally not a fan of them. But ya, it sounds like you’re in for a treat with all that mystery and romance. 😉

  • I’m glad you’re liking this different taste and how the family business really comes into play with this one. I’ve actually been reading a book called The Bourbon Thief and the title of this one made me think of it!

  • shootingstarsmag

    Definitely sounds like an exciting read. That’s great the second book comes out so soon now, so you don’t have to wait long. I like that it’s a Kentucky family just because that’s where I’m from.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  • This sounds like a pretty interesting story. I do agree with you that procrastination has it pluses. I can also see why Lizzie wouldn’t want anything to do with Jonathan. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope the next book is just as much fun for you.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  • So I’ve been very curious about this series, but I wasn’t too sure yet. But you’ve convinced me with the review to check it out! I think I may already own the first book too. I do love these soap-opera type stories with family and scandal at the center, so I think I’ll like this.
    Great review, Joy!

  • Okay, I haven’t read any of Ward’s books, but want to. I thought I’d go with her PR series first, but now I’m really digging the sound of this.