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. (Goodreads)
Knowing very little about the Bourbon industry, I can’t say how accurate the scene is, but the book has a plot that could come right out of a soap opera. The book opens with Lane Baldwine returning to the family home because the woman he sees as a mother figure is ill. What is supposed to be a short trip quickly becomes a much longer stay as numerous things happen that prevent him from leaving.
These events are all background and what I found really interesting was the characters reactions to this. Though the book seems to centre around Lane and his one true love, Lizzie, it was the background characters that really kept me engaged. Don’t get me wrong, both characters have their highs in the book and I did hope that they would get together, but it was the two other Lanes other siblings, Edward and Gin, that had the more engaging storylines
First up, the crazy wild child that is Gin. The only girl in the family, at first she seems to be acting out, just to get a rise out of her father. For me, she is the poster child for the person who has had everything handed to her on a plate and I didn’t really like her very much, but as more and more of her back story is revealed, I began to really feel for her. To me, she has been told that her only worth will be marrying well and that she has nothing else to contribute to the family. With the family business on the cusp of ruin, her father has effectively arranged her marriage to a supplier, named Richard. What happens did seem to be in an effort to be shocking and fit in with the soap opera feel. It seemed to add weight that in order to keep the life she was used to and the family business alive, this was the price she had to pay. Society and even I, would disagree with this stance, but Ward has clearly set the rules of this upper crust society and hit had a distinctly old world feel of “Grin and bear it”.
This storyline has plenty of steam left in it and coupled with Gin’s tempestuous relationship with Samuel T, the family’s lawyer and Lane’s childhood friend, I am firmly invested in her story. Huge side note, I really do hope that Samuel T and Gin get together at some point in this series. It is so clear that they are meant to be together.
As for the eldest Bradford, Edward, for me he seems to have the most tragic of backstories. As the book unfolded, I would find my anticipation soaring whenever he appeared on the scene. Once the Heir apparent to the Bradford empire, he has been broken and is now a shadow of his former self. Secrets are exposed and you get to see what lengths their father would go to in order to retain control of the business.
This is a book that shows back stabbing, tragic heroes and wrestling for power is a universal theme. At times this quest for control and power is much more deadlier and cut throat, than anything the characters of her Black Dagger Brotherhood series ever faced.
I am happy to say that this book cements Ward as one the best romance writers on the scene. The Bourbon Kings is ripe for adaption into a Prime Time soap opera, with enough dramatic twists and turns that every chapter brings a new surprise.
There are plenty of plots and characters to keep this series on going and judging by this opening instalment, everyone is in for a bumpy ride.
THE BOURBON KINGS SERIES IN ORDER
1 The Bourbon Kings
2 The Angels Share
3 The Devil’s Cut