Friday, July 31, 2015

Review & Giveaway: The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward
Publication Date: July 28th 2015 by Penguin Publishing Group
Purchase Links:  Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  |  The Book Depository
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.
Arlene's Thoughts
Whoever said fictional drama is overrated clearly hasn’t read The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward! Oh my!! What a whirlwind of chaos, misunderstandings, deceit, misguided affections and a whole lot more!!

I’ll be the first to admit… I have a very dysfunctional reader relationship with J.R. Ward. I am an avid fan of her early installments of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. But as of late, I’ve done nothing but complain about her recent installments screaming that she’s milking the series and driving it to the ground. Thank goodness Ward has finally launched a new series and has transitioned her writing efforts into the non-paranormal world. With The Bourbon Kings, Ward has managed to remind me why I love her crazy-ass storytelling.

In this novel, we meet the family that has owned the Bradford Bourbon Company for over two centuries. Edward, Lane, Max, and Gin have grown up in a life filled with excessive wealth and boundless opportunities. However, despite the luxuries afforded to them, they have been destroyed by the power and privilege that has defined the Bradford name.

First off, signature of Ward’s style… her books are extremely character-driven and The Bourbon Kings is no exception. Because this novel is the first in its series, we are introduced to a packed cast of characters. I hope all four adult siblings get their own installment. I was intrigued by each of them!

The Bourbon Kings placed a significant focus on Lizzie King who is the head horticulturist for the Bradford Family Estate. Rewind a couple years back, and we learn that Lizze fell hard for Lane only to have her heart broken when he married another socialite. Their relationship suffered years of heartache that was brought on by lies and misunderstandings. Throughout the entire novel, Lane had my sympathies and I rooted him on from beginning to end. I was glad when he attempted to cut his losses towards the end of the novel and walked away at a moment when he knew he deserved to be believed and trusted. Good on him! This character was filled with integrity, heart and passion. Loved him! Oh and his relationship with Miss Aurora was so heartfelt and perfect, which only added to my attraction to this character.

Throughout the novel, Gin pulled at my heartstrings. She was not a noble character by any stretch of the imagination, but I sympathized with her because of her blatant weaknesses. I hope she gets her own installment because despite her mistakes and shortcomings, I sense a great deal of potential growth in this character and I hope to see it erupt later in the story.

Edward reminded me of Zhadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I don’t necessarily want the details of his kidnapping in South America, but I’d be lying if I said I didn't wanted a little more background on what exactly broke him physically and mentally. I’m not quite sure how it will all play out with Sutton and Shelby, but I sense both characters have the power to help him heal. I hope it happens.

Okay, am I the only one that is curious as hell to find out what has happened with Max? He was introduced in the beginning of the novel and briefly mentioned a couple of times. Where is he and why hasn’t he surfaced in years?

Well, as you can see, I’m hooked! I can’t wait for the next installment because I have no doubt the drama and emotional chaos will not slow down. Bring it on!
5 Suns

Rachel’s Thoughts:
If I had to use one word to describe The Bourbon Kings it would be: addictive.  The story centers on the Brandford/Baldwine family, who are old-money rich and Kentucky’s equivalent to royalty. I think the comparisons to the nighttime soaps of the 80’s like Dynasty and Dallas are apt, because each chapter ends on a hook so that I felt completely compelled to keep going to find out what happened next!

Jonathan Tulane Baldwine or Lane, as he’s nicknamed, fell hard for Lizzie King, head horticulturist of his family’s estate. Unfortunately, rotten circumstances pulled Lane and Lizzie apart, and Lane’s stayed away for two long years. With his “mama” sick, Lane rushes home to see her, knowing he’ll have to deal with his estranged wife, Chantal, as well as Lizzie, the woman he’s never stopped loving. Lane is prepared to set things right this time, and win back Lizzie for good. Lizzie is rightfully cautious, as her heart was shattered two years ago, but she can’t deny the powerful feelings she still has for Lane. 

Lane and Lizzie’s romance sizzled off the pages, and tugged at my heart! It hurts when a love that’s so right is derailed.  I desperately wanted things to work out for them. I also wanted Lane’s spoiled witch of a wife, Chantal, to take a long walk off a short bridge! I was happy, though, that she didn’t present as much of a problem as I thought she would, because I stress out of this kind of romantic drama!  I didn’t want Lane vacillating between these two women and thankfully from the very start there was only one woman for him: Lizzie.

While Lane and Lizzie are the romantic focus, there are other stories and romances going on as well.  Edward’s story, the oldest Baldwine brother, really moved me. From a young age Edward was a brilliant business man, and it was thought he’d take over as head of Bradford Bourbon Company. But he’s separated himself from the family, refusing to be anywhere near his father, William, after surviving a kidnapping/hostage situation that left him a broken man.  Instead Edward passes his days building up the family’s equine (race horses) business, and drinking. There is a history, more like unrequited love, between Sutton Smythe, the heir to Smythe Distillery and chief competitor of Bradford Bourbon, and Edward.  I am totally rooting for Edward and Sutton!  I can only hope that Shelby doesn’t become a love interest for Edward, as well, turning this whole thing into a love triangle! Please don’t do it Ms. Ward!

At first, I had a hard time feeling sorry for, Gin Baldwine, Lane’s sister. Her actions were so selfish! From the way Gin treated her daughter, Amelia, to the way she treated men just ticked me off.  Yes, her daddy’s an asshole, (understatement!) and I wouldn’t want to marry a man my father insisted I did to bail out the family’s finances, but Gin went through life taking, taking and taking. She didn’t use the advantages her privileged life afforded her to make herself a better person, and stand on her own. Grow up Gin! You didn’t like how your parents raised you? Then why are you raising your daughter the same way?!

There is a lot of messy, ugly baggage between Gin and Samuel T., her one true love in life.  Their timing truly sucked.  I really, really hope they get their HEA. I have a feeling Gin has a world of hurt and torture coming her way with the decisions she’s made. Gin has potential for some real character growth and I hope to see it in the coming books.  I do love it when an author manages to turn my feelings around on a pretty unlikable character.

As a side note, where the heck is Max Baldwine?! Just another piece missing in this intricate family puzzle.

J.R. Ward started The Bourbon Kings off with a bang!  The story was thoroughly unputdownable! Secrets, murder, lies, manipulations, and romantic entanglements abound. There is so much going on, and every single piece was riveting! I’m dying to get my hands on the next book!

4.5 Suns

Seeing as we enjoyed this novel so much, we are giving away a choice of a Paperback or eCopy of The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward to one lucky Waves of Fiction follower. This giveaway is open to anyone who can receive a Paperback copy from The Book Depository or an eCopy from US Barnes & Noble or US Amazon.  Simply fill out the rafflecopter and share with us why you'd like to read this book. 


  1. I'd like to read it because I enjoy J.R. Ward's other books.

  2. I haven't read Black Dagger Brotherhood, but I've been curious about it for a long time (but 14 books - yikes!!). When I got an ARC of this book, I thought I'd try Ward out, and she definitely has me hooked now! So, is the Brotherhood series still going or is it done? Is it worth starting it, or should I just stick to this new series?

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. The BDB series is still going on. I think she plans to revisit each of the brothers once again. The first 5 or 6 books in the series are fantastic. It's definitely worth diving into. :)

  3. I have read the entire BDB series and totally love it! I am anxious to see how she writes a non paranormal series.

  4. I would love to read it, because I have heard it is amazing!

  5. Thanks for the post and the great review! I love Ms. Ward's books because they are exciting, interesting characters with clever banter and they make me feel! I am excited for this release, thanks for the chance to win!

  6. Definnitely sounds great.intriguing! I only got about 6 or 7 books into the BDB and I had to stop. I'm willing to give this author another chance. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I haven't read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series but this but has got me interested. Love the excerpt. Thank you for the giveaway.

  8. I love other books by J.R. Ward and the story just sounds really interesting.

  9. I'm really looking forward to reading this!

  10. Glad you al liked this one. It was my first Ward book and I was definitely pleased with it as well. :D Wonderful reviews!

  11. I love everything written by J.R.Ward so I can't miss this one! Thank you for the giveaway :)

  12. The BDB are one of the first series I read when I started reading and the only series I have ever reread. It took me a few years to even give anything but paranormal a shot but have since fallen in love with contemporary romance so I am stoked to read one of my favorite paranormal authors take on contemporary. Glad you loved it...I'm sure I will too!

    Thanks so much!

  13. I've never read a J.R. Ward book before and I'm a sucker for books set in the South, especially ones with customs and dynasties.

  14. I read the first book in Black Dagger Brotherhood and enjoyed it, so I'm really curious about this book.

    Thanks for the giveaway!