Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

Review Time

Bourbon Kings #1  400 Pages  Adult
TasCH’s Rating: 4 stars
Published: July 28th, 2015

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.


So this is what a good soap opera should look like. Well, good as far as I am concerned anyways. The Bourbon Kings hits all the right notes, it has revenge, evil plots, romance, characters you will love to hate, some you will take pity on, and others that are just plain hateful. As well as it has those male characters that JR Ward is well known for writing: strong, willful, a little lost but also in control of themselves. Dark sexy beasts all around, Bourbon Kings is not lacking in this department (even though the gentlemen are as human as you and I). It also has flawed female characters and strong heroines you can root for, I mean what else can you ask for? Oh right, an interesting plot. Check on that one! While I would argue JR Ward’s strength lies in character development, the plot in Bourbon Kings is a well established one… if not one that will surely resonate for those BDB fans out there.

The Bourbon Kings is, at its heart, a story about romance and perhaps redemption. It revolves around Lane and Lizzie and their forbidden romance. He is the rich playboy of the family, she is the gardener (well, an horticulturalist because come on we are talking money here) and their paths should have never crossed. Except, they did, and then just as they were falling in love everything went to shit. In Bourbon Kings we pick up two years after their romance crashed and burned, just as Lane is coming back home because of a family emergency. Ensues the heart break, the drama, and the confrontations.

I enjoyed Lane’s character. While Bourbon Kings is in fact romance heavy, it is also about family, and Lane is trying to keep everything together. He is not an angel, he doesn’t do it out of the kindness of his heart, he mostly wants to make his father pay. Though, he is a sweetheart too; maybe a sometimes dumb sweetheart but he tries. Lizzie on the other hand is the strong independent woman we want our heroine to be; she works for what she wants and she won’t let nobody stand in her way. I always imagined her being Katherine Heighl; more than likely because her name is Lizzie and she is a hot blonde.

Lizzie is so strong, it is both her strength and her weakness. She wants so bad not to be that stupid girl who falls in love with her boss she won’t let Lane give excuses for anything and quickly dismisses him once anything bad comes up. I am often intrigued by JR Ward’s male characters more than her female characters, but two out of the three female characters in this series picked my interest: Gin (the little sister) and Sutton (heir to the Bourbon company’s competitor). Sutton is Edward’s long term crush/woman that he sets on a pedestal. She is ballsy and smart and can take of herself, but she is also vulnerable, specially around Edward. I think she might be my favorite among the female characters so far.

While Lane and Lizzie are all good, the side characters take the cake. I enjoyed Edward’s character; he was the heir apparent to the Bourbon Industry until a horrible thing happened to him and he had to back down. Now he is a sort of drunk broken man who is trying to keep whatever scraps of dignity he has left. Gin, Lane’s little sister, is the rich party girl who doesn’t take anything or anyone seriously, and cares more about her comfortable way of living than anything else.

Her character is interesting, because while you know her bad decisions are something she need to pay for you can’t help but sympathize with this fucked up girl. Her decisions are certainly going to bite her in the ass. Max is the last of the brothers, older brother to Lane and Gin, younger brother to Edward. He is mostly whispered about, and only seen through back flashes, so the reader doesn’t actually get to know the present Max. He is mostly MIA. I can’t wait for this daredevil to come back into the fold though, all the drama…

The father is the main “bad guy” in Bourbon Kings. I felt like the father could have been explored more. We only get to see him as the prime example of all bad men in the world, and not much of a background. He felt so one dimensional and unreal, more like those caricature evil men who want to destroy the world just cause. I hope we get to see this character develop further in the future, cause if not I find him to be rather boring.

Now, for the fans of BDB here are some of the ways that Bourbon Kings is sort of similar to BDB:

-Main guy is tasked with keeping the family together, even if he didn’t want this task to begin with (this sounds like what happens to Wrath in the first book, maybe not identical but same vein)
-The males in this novel are as unbelievably sexy and rough as the BDB crew.
-It is a big boys club for the most part.
-Rich guys who wear their money like a second skin; so confident and comfortable in this world they sort of take it for granted.
-They are all somehow broken and in need of “fixing”… or perhaps a female touch.
-The language and the way the dialogue is written; you can clearly see this is JR Ward.

The story, setting, plot, etc., may be different but at their core I think BDB and Bourbon Kings have that strong JR Ward touch that is unmistakable.

The Bourbon Kings stayed with me long after I stopped reading it. I keep going through details of the story in my head and guessing as to how the second novel is going to be, much like I would with a BDB book. It is addicting, it is entertaining, and it is certainly another winner. I can totally imagine Lassiter picking up this one and it being his guilty pleasure.


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