Book Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

The Bourbon Kings by J.R. WardTitle: The Bourbon Kings
Series: The Bourbon Kings, Book 1
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Sensuality Rating: Mild
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Published: July 28, 2015 by NAL

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.

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Reviewed by: Crissy and Monica

Joint Review

In A Nutshell:

Crissy: I shall sigh here and say that I had high hopes for this one and up until, I was okay. Then I wasn’t.

Monica: I agree with you there. My first thought when I saw this book was “OMG BDB in real life.” Then I was disappointed.

What We Liked:

Crissy: I am every bit the southern belle you’ve verbally mocked. And even though I’ve lived my life in the Deep South, I love stories of southern gentlemen and their charm. It’s a weakness. And Lane is definitely that (so is Samuel T. but not Edward). On that note this story is full of charm and tension. That’s what hooked me. Immediately. Even with the several POVs, I was centered on the life of this family and their drama.

Monica: I enjoyed the setting. There is rich detail and enough rich texture to allow me to see a clear picture of the world Ms. Ward created. I felt like I was in the south and I felt like I could reach out and touch it.

What We Also Liked:

Crissy: The structure and plot of this story are so well put together that I found it easy to follow and delve into. It’s very Dallas (think the television show) meets the Kentucky Derby (think big floppy hats, mint juleps, and snobby debutants). This plot is such a train wreck waiting to happen that I couldn’t look away. It’s an interesting twist on the normal romance. Though, the romance aspect of the story is almost a second thought.

I absolutely adored the Edward/Sutton/Shelby storyline. I am looking forward to seeing more there. Edward and his brokenness stole my heart. Though I found him to be the most level-headed of the entire Bradford clan. Now Mrs. Aurora, consider me a fan. That woman knows how to keep her boys in line. Oh! And the Gin and Samuel T. storyline. Seriously, there are so many good things happening in this book seemingly at once; I’m very impressed with this author’s ability to keep my attention.

Monica: To be honest, the setting is where my liking ended. I disliked all the main characters from the first moment they were introduced.

What We Didn’t Like:

Crissy: I was engrossed in this story and right there with the author throughout the entire story, until almost the end. I can’t say Lizzie is an exceptionally strong female lead. She was fine, but nothing noteworthy. She was a bit whiny and too easily willing to break all of her own rules. There was a breaking point that was her downfall. I wanted so badly for her to be stronger and smarter than she was. But she disappointed me in almost every way and her turnaround was still weak and disappointing. It pretty much ruined all of the goodness I was feeling up until that point.

Monica: I didn’t like anyone. All the characters were weak and there was nothing about any of them that attracted me. Each one had their own motives, their own agenda, and gave me no reason to keep reading them. I couldn’t get into the story because of this.

In Our Opinion:

Crissy: Outside of the romance storyline of Lizzie and Lane, this story is really good, but you can’t have one without the other, so it simply ended up being okay-ish. (Though the teaser for the next book is promising.)

Monica: An upstairs/downstairs drama written by J.R. Ward sounded like the best thing I could read this year. I was woefully disappointed when the characters didn’t live up to the mark that I set and Ms. Ward set. There was no one to trust and I didn’t enjoy it.

Memorable Moments:

Sutton, as always, a pleasure.”

He glanced at his sire. “Father, fuck you.”

“First time I’ve heard you say that word. At least with your clothes on.”

Crissy’s Rating:
3 1/2 Frogs

Monica’s Rating:

About Brianna: Supermom by day, naughty reader by night. Addicted to chocolate, Twitter, her iPad, her Kindle, and 99¢ Kindle deals. You can follow Brianna on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.


  1. I've been reading the reviews from all my blogger buddies because I wanted to get a clear picture of the 1st book in this new series, and I've seen mixed reviews - specifically about the characters. I think this is my first DNF! (lol) Hopefully book 2 will take some time for more character development for reader engagement. Thanks so much for the great review. Hugs...

  2. Totally DNF'ed this too. Same issues as Monica.
    Why do I want to read a 400+ page book about characters I dislike?
    Also the multiple POVSs Ward is writing more and more of lately are tedious.

    Great review though. Loved seeing how the same book can affect people in different ways.


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