J.R. Ward can write the hell out of a story. Seriously. She’s taken this awful, horrible family and turned them into tragically sympathetic characters. I didn’t know at the end of the first book if she could pull it off, but she did it.  And left me wanting more.

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Before I get started, I need to say that if you’re new to the series and are expecting one of her Black Dagger Brotherhood stories, this isn’t it. The Bourbon Kings series is a fictional look at the lives of a wealthy Kentucky bourbon family, and this family makes daytime soap operas look like super-happy-fun-hour.  And I loved it.

In the first book, The Bourbon Kings, we learn about the Baldwine family and their dysfunctional lives and loves.  At the end of the book, the patriarch of the family has died, leaving everything in chaos – missing funds, illegitimate children, and shady deals topping the list.  We get a sense of the entitlement they’ve been born into, and they’re really just horrible people.  But even as I closed the pages of The Bourbon Kings, I wanted more.  And The Angels’ Share delivers exactly what I hoped it would.

You know there’s a lot going on when an author includes a list of the main characters at the beginning of a book. And usually that’s a problem with me because I can never keep everyone straight, but luckily, the story was so interesting and each character is so different that I had no trouble keeping up:

The mystery of William Baldwine’s death hangs heavy over each character as the local law enforcement are investigating his possible murder.

Lane and Lizzie are still going strong and trying to muddle through the mess Lane’s father left behind. And every time he thinks he might be getting a handle on things, something else happens.  I’m really enjoying Lane’s growth from a spoiled rich kid avoiding reality into a man who is actively trying to save this failing company, but I’m also still frustrated that Lizzie is just a supporting character. I feel like if she was missing from the book it really would’t affect anything.  I’m hoping her actions at the end of the book will give her a bigger part in the next installment.

Lane’s brother Edward is back, and while he is more three-dimensional and interesting in The Angels’ Share, I don’t know if that’s going to last. His romance with the competing Bourbon dynasty’s daughter is sweet, but soooo frustrating because neither one seems to be capable of saying “let’s do this” and his story has taken an interesting turn.

We get to meet the elusive, long-lost brother, Max, but again, we are left hanging because we learn absolutely nothing about where he’s been or what he’s been up to.

Gin, the only daughter in the Baldwine family, was very unlikable in The Bourbon Kings, but I think her character arc matches Lane’s for most personal growth.   She is one of the characters I’m most looking forward to reading more – she’s in a terrible relationship, has hit rock bottom, and she’s starting to realize that she’s responsible for her own actions.  Of course, you can’t read Gin’s story without Samuel T., Lane’s attorney and best friend. Gin and Samuel have this antagonistic relationship that could be beautiful. But probably won’t. But oh gawd I hope it will.

Mack, the master distiller, has a secret that could save Bradford Bourbon, but he’s got to have the supplies available to make the bourbon, which is hard to do when the company is bankrupt.

And, some new characters are introduced that may or may not have a big part in the next book – I can’t decide and Ward keeps me guessing, but I think I like them 🙂

If it sounds like The Angels’ Share is all over the place, it’s not really. The story line moves forward steadily but jumps around enough to keep the reader’s attention throughout. Ward’s signature over-the-top writing is unmistakable in The Angels’ Share, and the salacious 80’s nighttime soap opera feel is still present.  I know a lot of people thought that this would be “Edward’s book” and that’s not what happened here – Lane is still the main focus but Edward does get more page time in The Angels’ Share, if that’s any consolation.  I personally like the way the story is being told because I don’t feel like Lane’s story is done yet.  I’m looking forward to the next installment in this fantastically excessive series.

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I received this book for free from Provided by Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Angels’ Share by J.R. Ward #Review

The Angels' Share Series: The Bourbon Kings #2
Published by NAL on July 26, 2016
Genres: Adult, Fiction
Source: Provided by Publicist
Also in this series: The Bourbon Kings

4 Stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward delivers the second novel in her Bourbon Kings series—a sweeping saga of a Southern dynasty struggling to maintain a façade of privilege and prosperity, while secrets and indiscretions threaten its very foundation…

In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior…or the worst of all the sinners?

1 Comment

  1. Janne swearengen

    I loved the second book; and I adore Shelby, the sassy stable hand that Edward hired. There’s more to her than meets the eye. Have been listing to the audio which has been terrific! Now we have to wait forEVER for the third installment!