The Bourbon Kings (Bourbon Kings #1) by J.R. Ward #BookReview
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I cracked open my review copy of The Bourbon Kings, but the innate warmth of Lizzie and Lane (even if it was a subtle and deep-down warmth) and genteel immersion in Southern society was definitely not it. What a great way to kick off a brand new series from J.R. Ward!
If you’ve written off J.R. Ward after the morass of some of the Black Dagger Brotherhood story arcs, try her again. This is an author who knows how to set the stage, tease out just the right balance of detail and secrets, give you everything you want and still leave you begging for more. As far as I’m concerned, any remaining pall cast over Ms. Ward’s writing abilities from the late Brotherhood books has been firmly banished by The Bourbon Kings. This new, Kentucky-based series resets the scene with a fresh, immersive, explosive start.
Ward is back to basics and it’s beautiful. The Bourbon Kings rides a clean, budding story arc and features unique, memorable new characters—each with his or her own rich history—in remarkable shades of Southern personalities, both cultured and down home. This story is rich in accents, especially Southern ones, with all their regional nuances and status clues. Accents are notoriously difficult to translate into text, but Ms. Ward makes it look effortless, and I could actually hear that distinct, lazy drawl in my head.
The cast of characters in The Bourbon Kings is fairly large—large enough, certainly, to spin out a complex set of interwoven story arcs—but not so vast that readers will be overwhelmed or confused. Given how unmanageable the BDB cast and plot set became, I am crossing my fingers for Ms. Ward to keep things a little simpler and character-focused in this new series. Only time will tell though, and I’m absolutely looking forward to the next book!
Lane and Lizzie are a wonderful couple and while they lead the story arc for this book, they don’t dominate the pages, leaving plenty of room for the other characters to grow their own roots and set up their individual storylines. Lane and Lizzie have passion and spark together, and their relationship is actually kind of adorable when the Bradford drama isn’t hijacking it. He’s a good man, regardless of the playboy reputation he still carries, and she’s a strong, capable, talented woman who reminds me of the tough-yet-sweet women in my own family.
One final note: This book is a romance, but it spends as much time building out the family saga as it does focusing on Lizzie and Lane. The main couple do have a happy ending, but the story features a lot of flashbacks to traumatic family history, and there are a few rough scenes that might disturb readers who are sensitive to rape situations.
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