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Did Not Finish

DNF Review – The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

bourbon kings by j.r. wardPublisher: New American Library
Reviewer: Marlene
How I got this book: print ARC provided by the publisher
Publish Date: July 28, 2015 (TODAY)

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.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads

This is going to be a DNF review. I hit page 218 (out of 420) and bounced off this story so hard that I couldn’t make myself get back in, even though I was the passenger on a long car ride and had all the time in the world.

I bounced off this story so hard, in fact, that I almost threw the book at the windshield, but the windshield in our car is already cracked and throwing stuff around at 70 MPH is likely to distract the driver with severe consequences.

I still thought about it.

Because what pushed me out of this book was the story, there isn’t a good way to talk about why I got the hell out of Charlemont without spoiling the story so far. Consider yourself warned.

The Bourbon Kings is an old-fashioned family saga, just with a lot more details about the sexual hi-jinks of its rich-and-blue-blooded protagonists. Think of it as one of the 1980s nighttime soaps, like Dallas or Dynasty, only on steroids. Also substitute bourbon for oil as the economic lubricant of choice — and contention.

Also, the story takes place in a mildly fictionalized version of Louisville, Kentucky and Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. The story begins during Derby week, just to add to the strange tension.

The rich family in question are the Bradfords/Baldwines, and they own Bradford Bourbon, which seems to have made them fabulously wealthy and unconscionably spoiled. Until, of course, someone discovers that the money has run out.

Although the story focuses on Lane Baldwine, the second son, and the woman he should have married, Lizzie King, this is not a love story. Like I said, family saga. The sheer number of horrible things that happen to Lane and Lizzie, and the detestable machinations of Lane’s family, finally hit my “too much WTF’ery meter at page 218.

At that point, Lane’s father is missing. The old man seems to have embezzled $68 million. On his way out the door he arranged to get his own daughter arrested for taking one of the family cars. Gin was trying to escape daddy’s decree that she marry some misogynistic asshole who would pay her daddy for the privilege and punish her for the rest of her life. Gin is 34! And this is NOT the Middle Ages!

Mother seems to be lying in state in a permanent coma, and has been declared mentally incompetent. Which she might be, but if she is it’s probably because her husband drugged her into that coma, like the alleged case of the heiress Sunny von Bulow. I’m guessing here, but there seems to be no low to which daddy dearest will not stoop.

The body of daddy’s accountant and lover has just been found, seemingly a victim of suicide. Had she been in fear of discovery of her part in the embezzlement?

Poor Lane should have married Lizzie King, the estate’s head conservator, two years ago, but instead he married socialite Chantal because the bitch was pregnant with his child. After the wedding, he ran away to New York and she aborted the baby.

The point at which I finally couldn’t take any more crap was when Lane served his estranged wife with divorce papers and she informed him that she was pregnant with his dad’s kid, and that if he divorced her she would blow the scandal sky high, and did he really want to inflict that much pain on his poor, sick mother.

I’m not sure it was the pregnancy per se, the fact that his own dad was the sperm donor, or the callous way in which she described convincing all her friends and family in Kentucky that she was regularly visiting Lane in New York, which she most definitely was not.

I also have not detailed all of Daddy Dearest’s deeds of villainy, or even all that have been discovered by half-way through the story. What I’ve already described would have been enough for 3 or 4 seasons of Dallas or Dynasty. Combined into one single weekend’s disclosures, it was too much for this reader and I just bailed.

I know there are readers who will lap this stuff up – I’m just not one of them. I say this and I watched most of Dallas. I also used to love family sagas, but either I don’t any more or I just couldn’t stay in this one.  I did like both Lizzie and Lane, although I did wonder why it took Lane two years to man up and why Lizzie was willing to deal herself in for a probable second heartbreak before Lane’s divorce was even started, let alone final.

I also wondered why, for as smart and talented as Lizzie is, she didn’t find herself a better job away from Lane’s family sometime in the intervening two years. While I understand waiting until the dust settled on his marriage a bit, just so it didn’t look like she ran away and hid, two years was too long to keep waiting for another heartbreak, especially considering the way his family treats “the help”.

I DNF’ed The Bourbon Kings at the halfway point, and although I’m still incensed about the WTF’ery I have zero desire to pick the thing back up. Ever.

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By Marlene

Marlene is a librarian, ebook advocate, science fiction fan, and RPG fan who lives in Atlanta. She and her husband are owned by three cats, just ask them. She's a geek and a nerd and proud of it. She's also an avid reader of everything, including the back of the cereal box, and has been blogging since April 2011 at Reading Reality and is a reviewer at Library Journal as well as active on Goodreads.

6 replies on “DNF Review – The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward”

I was eyeing this book, but after reading the early reviews, I think I am glad I decided not to bother. I use to love the BDB books but that fizzled out for me. I was hoping this would be more romance centric with soap opera elements but I am going to give it a miss.

@Has: I enjoyed the first 5 or 6 BDB books but they fizzled out for me too.

This one is soap-opera centric with a few romance elements. it’s been interesting seeing the other reviews, I’ll admit.

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