Review: The Bourbon Kings by JR Ward

bourbon kingsReviewed by Jen

If you ever enjoyed the night-time soaps of the 1980s, get ready for the next generation of big-money, family dynasty drama.  The Bradford family made its fortune in bourbon, not oil, but all of the major elements are in place: a southern palatial estate, high end cars, private jets… class divisions, a spoiled daughter, and a dastardly patriarch that could put JR Ewing to shame.

But this is JR Ward, you say. How does it compare to the Black Dagger Brotherhood? Simply put, it doesn’t. This is in no way, shape, or form like the BDB books. There’s no street slang nor product placement. Nobody’s “gotchu.” Nobody is drinking Grey Goose.  Oh –and spoiler alert– both the hero and the heroine survive the entire book. So there’s that.

The books follow the four grown children of the Bradford clan… three brothers and a sister, though one of the brothers, Max, appears only in flashback in book 1.  There’s the oldest brother, Edward, who was once the heir-apparent and is now recovering from a horrific event that we learn about as the book progresses. There is Gin, the sister, who is a stereotypical rich girl with no skills or redeeming personality traits. And then there is our hero, Lane, the family playboy who left town after breaking Lizzie’s heart.

Obviously, Lizzie is our heroine and serves as a horticulturalist on the Bradford estate.  She fell in love with Lane despite herself and it has taken her the past two years to try to get over him. Now that a family emergency has called him back home, the two of them realize that what they had between them never went away and Lane makes it his mission to wipe every obstacle from their path as he tries to rekindle their romance.

It isn’t easy… thanks largely to his wife.  Now before you get all worried that this is a cheater book, it’s not. You’ll be ok with this. Just give it a chance. In the meantime, there is a major family calamity unfolding and it threatens the only life the Bradfords have ever known.

I was a little surprised to find that I enjoyed the book, much in the same guilty pleasure way that I binge-watched Dallas in reruns while I was in college.  It’s over the top, but that is part of the indulgence. I’ve never been a huge fan of the playboy-hero, but Lane really isn’t that; it’s who he was before he met Lizzie. Now, he’s all about fixing his mistakes and finding a way to save his family.

As for Lizzie, she is a little too good to be true at times. I mean, would you keep working for the family of the man who broke your heart, just to prove your fortitude? Would you serve his wife?  Put everything aside and feed him lasagna?  This is an educated and independent woman. She could do anything. But she chose this path I found a little unlikely. I also felt like I missed something because of the fact that these two fell in love long before I entered the picture. I wanted them to get together, but I didn’t burn for it, you know?

I found I was more invested in the set-up for Edward’s story. I love a broken hero. (And I am kind of excited about the fact that all of the players in these books are at least in their 30s. Imagine… romances about people who are full-grown!) Anyway, I am so intrigued about his life and ill-fated feelings for the daughter of the rival bourbon makers.

And then there is Gin. I can’t say I like her, but her story is a doozy. There is at least one really hardcore scene with her… and the only real emotion I felt in the book came from what happened when she put her heart on the line.

So… final verdict? I liked it. Don’t read it looking for what you’re used to from Ward. But if the premise intrigues you, I think you’ll like it too. I will definitely check out the next installment.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Bourbon Kings
by JR Ward
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Penguin


  1. I am pretty excited for this book, mostly because it’s something different and unique, and I love the whole southern feel to it. So I can’t wait to grab it up, I am interested to see how she works in a love story with the hero being married.

  2. I’ve had the print ARC for a couple of months now and still have not cracked it out. I’m not sure it’s something I’d enjoy. Since I didn’t request it I have no shame over not trying it. LOL

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