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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.
Have you ever read a book that you loved, and then immediately regretted it? That's how I feel about this book. It's nothing negative - it's actually a positive thing. This book slowly built and grew on me so that I was captivated by the end. The reason I regret reading it now is that I have to wait a whole year before the next book in this series is released.
As a little girl growing up in the 80s, I spent a lot of time pretending I was asleep at night while my mom lay next to me in bed watching Dynasty and Dallas. When I was in third grade, I was already obsessing about the Crystal-Blake-Alexis relationships and the fictional lives of an uber-wealthy family. And the cat fights! There is nothing in this world that can compare to 1980s primetime soap operas!
The Bourbon Kings is not nearly as melodramatic as Dynasty, but it has many similar elements. Lane is the main protagonist in this book. Here is a run down of his life: An uber-rich family. Family tied to the land for many generations. A family business that is in trouble. A sick, oblivious mother. An underhanded, selfish father. A conniving, vindictive wife. A feisty, strong ex-lover. A brother who is emotionally damaged. A sister that is in turmoil, paying for her father's sins. A best friend fixer that carries a torch for Lane's sister. Another brother who is MIA.
Lane has been away from his family for many years. Although raised with privilege, he has been affected by his past with his father and family. He has a beloved baby sitter that taught him how to be a good person in the midst of all the craziness of his wealth. Lane left his home of Easterly because he could not deal with what his life had become. Mainly, he was married to a beautiful bitch that he did not love, and his heart was scarred by his smart and practical ex-lover, Lizzie King.
Lizzie is the head gardener at Easterly. She isn't the person who is out weeding the gardens, she is the botanist and flower arranger that keeps Easterly looking beautiful. She is educated and driven by a need to take care of herself, by herself. Lizzie's heart was ripped to shreds by Lane, and she does not intend to allow him a repeat performance when Lane returns due to the illness of his childhood care taker. There are steamy and swoon-worthy moments between Lane and Lizzie, but there are also hurtful misunderstandings and missed messages. It is definitely a love story I can get behind, and I can't wait for the continuation of their story.
Lane plays it slow as he goes after Lizzie. He never stopped loving her and goes out to prove the depth of his feelings for her. Unfortunately for Lane, he is often sidetracked by the events going on around him. First and foremost, he must deal with his bitch of a wife, Chantal, which uncovers a secret that keeps his head spinning, and creates loads of angst between Lane and Lizzie. Lizzie refused to allow Lane to break her heart again, and Lane will do anything to break down her barriers.
Lane has to take the time to deal with his party-girl, promiscuous sister, Gin. Gin feels trapped in her life, but can't imagine living without all the privileges she has become used to. Lane's best friend, Samuel T., is not only a fix-everything lawyer, but he has a long and complicated history with Gin. He hates Gin passionately, but underneath is always a fire burning for her. Some of the best, angsty scenes happen between Samuel T. and Gin. Lane also attempts to help his emotionally damaged brother, Edward. Edward is one of my favorite characters in this book. Vulnerable and pissed off makes for a great combination! Lane's other brother, Max, is mentioned throughout this book, but we never meet him.
As the story progresses, the drama increases. Lane's father, the head of the family and the family business, is not what he appears. Secrets are revealed, memories revisited and lives are changed forever because of this man. Lane is pulled in two directions - as much as he wants to leave Easterly and live his life away from his family, he feels honor and duty-bound to help his family when he is needed. Lane's father makes it necessary for him to be involved in the family, and we are left at a crossroads in the Bradford family's lives.
JR Ward eloquently writes with passion and a strong voice for her characters. Each character, with the exception of Max, is well-developed and layered. These characters make you want more. I couldn't possible imagine not reading the next book in this series because I already care a great deal about these characters. If you thought Ward was going to have difficulty switching from paranormal romance to contemporary writing, you are wrong. Ward is a strong writer and has proven that she can cross genres with great success. I was delighted by this book and cannot wait to see where the road leads Lane, Lizzie and the rest of the Bradford bunch.