The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward
Book Two of The Bourbon Kings series
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
#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?
What I Liked:
For some reason, I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I was so nervous, when I started it! I had been excited, but anxious. I don't usually like or read the soap opera types of contemporary fiction, so it was unusual for me to be reading this series at all. But I liked The Bourbon Kings, and I think I might even like The Angels' Share more.
This book is told in third person, from a multitude of perspectives. And yet, the changes in perspectives was never overwhelming. The main POV is Lane Bradford, one of the four Bradford children, and the youngest son. We also have Lizzie's POV, Lizzie being Lane's love and girlfriend. Gin (Lane's sister), Mack (Lane's friend and company distiller), Edward (Lane's oldest brother), Sutton (Edward's love interest and head of the rival bourbon company). Other characters are Samuel T (Gin's former love), Jeff (Lane's old roommate and an accountant helping him), John Lenghe (an interesting and very nice billionaire), Ramsey (deputy in the police force), Shelby (works for Edward), Richard (Gin's finance).
You'd think one would get overwhelmed by the sheer number of primary and secondary characters running around, but they are all SO different and play such different roles in the book. It's hard not to know who is who, and it's hard to forget names. Ward really does a great job of crafting her characters, even with the most minor of details!
This book is all about what happens after Lane's father's death. It's currently known as a suicide, but was it really? Lane is now responsible for the company, and Easterly, and everything associated with the Bradford name and money. But he's quickly realizing that there IS no money, and that the family has millions of dollars in debt. In this book, we see what happens when the son that was never supposed to be the one in charge and taking care of the family is left to investigate and scheme and clean up the messes his father made.
Going into this series, I thought it was strictly romance. And there is a lot of romance in this book, in terms of relationships. Lane and Lizzie and sweet and sizzly together. The Bourbon Kings focused on the "chase", the two of them getting together, but this sequel novel features them together and content. They are so well-matched and so in love, and so strong and solid.
There are other ships in this series, but the rest of the ships are so complicated and probably will never happen. Edward has left the Bradford life behind, and while he loves Sutton and vice versa, he knows he has to say good-bye to her. And Gin - she loves Samuel T. (and vice versa), but they are so toxic together, and she needs to marry the obscenely rich Richard Pford.
Back to what I was saying about this series being strictly romance. It's not! This story reads more like a contemporary fiction novel, with the occasional kiss and fade-to-black sex scene. There are no explicit steamy scenes, no blatantly written oozing chemistry. But you can tell how steamy Lane and Lizzie's relationship is, for example, even if it isn't shown directly. So this series isn't strictly a romance series! Which was surprising and kind of refreshing. I'm a romance novel junkie!
Maxwell is a new player in the series. He is the wilder Bradford son, the one that disappeared years ago, and has entered the picture to pay his respects to his father. He and Edward are up to something, in this book, and we'll have to wait until book three to find out what it is...
My favorite character was probably Lane. He is determined to do everything in his power to protect and save his family, as well as all those employed at the company, and the mansion. Lane has grown into the role he was forced upon, and he is showing that he is a strong and capable leader. I like what I see, in the development of his character. I like how faithful and kind he is to Lizzie (especially knowing what kind of poor example his father was).
I mentioned this series being a little soap-opera-y, which it is. There are all kinds of crazy things happening in this book - cheating spouses, surprise pregnancies, massive amounts of money being handled, bribery, threats, possibly murder... the Bradfords are a messed-up family, that's for sure. But Lane and Lizzie are so solid, and totally devoted to each other. Everyone else... fair game.
We're left with a rather shocking final scene! We finally have an answer, in terms of who killed the Bradford patriarch. Lane has had so much to process, and it seems to get pretty rough at the end (not specifically for him, because there were some really great things that happened to him in the end). There is no way this is the last book in the series! I can't wait to read the next installment. Hopefully it is forthcoming!
What I Did Not Like:
One thing I would have liked to see is more of a progression with the plot involving Lane's ex-wife (or whatever), Chantel. The woman needs to be out of the picture. I wanted to see a more concrete direction in terms of her. But I suppose that will happen in future books!
Would I Recommend It:
Steer clear of this series is you can't handle a little drama. No drama touching our main couple (Lane and Lizzie) in this book, but the other protagonists (Edward, Gin, etc.) go through some drama. I like the setting of this book, and the story, and the conflict (I've never read a story quite like this one!), so I'm enjoying the ride so far.
4 stars. So far, I'm impressed! This is only my second Ward novel, and I'm liking this series. Needless to say, I will definitely be keeping up with this series. I can't wait for book three!
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