By: J.R. Ward
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: July 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 12, 2015
Scandal, glamour and gold-digging debauchery is the over-arching premise in J.R. Ward’s first of her new series, The Bourbon Kings.
The grandiose Easterly estate in Charlemont, Kentucky has boasted its opulence and flaunted the endless and impeccably groomed grounds and gardens for as long as bluegrass has been associated with Kentucky. When one hears the name Baldwine, it’s hard to determine if money or bourbon comes to mind first. After a two year absence, prodigal and black sheep son of the family, Jonathan Tulane Baldwine (‘Lane’) receives the only calling card that will guarantee his return to Easterly. Miss Aurora, the only ‘mother’ Lane believed should have been his mother has been rushed to the emergency room and this may be her last trip. His own mother has been prone in her suite of rooms in a drug induced state of being for too long and father William had no time for his children—at least not for most of their lives. His oldest brother Edward divorced himself from the family long before Lane fled to New York. As for Brother Max? Last Lane heard, he was still in California...somewhere. And then there was his sister Gin. She stayed. Why wouldn’t she? She had everything a girl could ever want: Harry Winston jewels that made Hollywood’s Red Carpet stompers look like they were wearing costume jewelry. Her wardrobe could easily hold court with British royalty and the word ‘need’ never passed her lips. However, there was one thing she would never have; the only man she ever loved: Samuel T. Lodge III...
Trouble is brewing at Easterly when Lane arrives. Fortunately, Miss Aurora will live to see another day. With less than two days to the crowing event that put Kentucky on the map Lane has no intentions of sticking around for the Baldwine’s annual Derby Brunch. The staff is in a frenzy of preparation between floral arrangements, caterers, deliveries and bourbon selection; let alone perfection to be perfected. The last person Lane wanted to see was his estranged and over-privileged gold-digger of a wife, Chantal. If only she were a distant memory. It was time to clean up that mess before heading back to New York. When the one true love of his life, resident horticulturist, Lizzie King, appears, Lane takes pause. Perhaps a rapid departure from Charlemont was going to take longer than anticipated.
J.R.Ward has taken scandalous behavior to a new level in her first in the series with The Bourbon Kings. She has confidently created a cast of characters that tout a winning formula: the villain: William Baldwine, her hero: Edwin Baldwine, her over-privileged debutante: Gin Baldwine—all supported and the entire entourage balanced with dashing Lane and the ‘girl’ who got away: Lizzie. Ward has razor sharp vision in setting up scenes that achieve the one-two punch of hold-your-breath anticipation until the last word is devoured. The plot is rich and rife with savory scandal and vapid nonsense that creates an insatiable craving to keep turning pages. It is clear Ms. Ward knows her way around the ‘nouveau, rich and famous’ and refuses to candy coat the delivery with mealy-mouthed politeness. The Bourbon Kings is a terrific opener to the next chapter in the Baldwine family legacy and I look forward to its delivery. Well done Ms. Ward!
Quill Says: The Bourbon Kings is poured ‘neat’ and guaranteed to leave a lingering taste of satisfaction well beyond the final ‘sip’!