The Angels’ Share
Bourbon Kings #2
By J.R. Ward
E-Book & Hardcover
26 Jul 2016
Penguin Random House/NAL
Read by: Alexander Cendese
13 hours 26 Jul 2016
Penguin Random House Audio/Penguin Audio
E-Galley provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
#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? http://www.penguin.com/book/the-angels-share-by-jr-ward/9780451475282
The second entry in THE BOURBON KINGS series felt, to this humble blogger, like a dispassionate and glib middle, or possibly an ending, to this series, with a little sex on a table by at least two of the characters, thrown in for good measure.
This is a direct continuation from the last book with the characters roughly broken up across a couple of families and relationships. There are a couple of story lines:
- The who=dunnit – was the death of the patriarch a suicide or something else.
- The family/corporate financial crisis.
- The romance between the semi-prodigal son, Lane and his one and only, Lizzie.
- A mentally ill biological mother living upstairs with her nurses, and a physically ill Momma, ostensibly the family cook who actually raised the children. There’s probably some latent symbolism here but I can’t define it.
- The broken son (physically and mentally) and the two women who love him.
This is somewhat irritating as the nature of his disabilities feels like something out of a 19th century romance. If he were said to solely be mentally unbalanced due to his kidnapping then it would work better. But the medical aspect feels wrong.
A couple of other things get thrown in – there are a few new characters added.
Most of these get wrapped up, but in true decline of the southern family style, the family is a total mess, and in a Faulknerian decline. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on where you come on the line between literary and genre fiction, Ward is not Faulkner.
To me this story felt like Ward started this series and now it bores her; and when the author is bored then the reader is as well.
Why hasn’t anyone in this family, and their friends, had a decent relationship in generations?
I felt no motivation for the relationships between the characters, especially when it came to romantic relationships – I think it may suffer the “Moon Lighting” phenomenon by fulfilling the romantic relationships in the first book and not starting one with anyone we already care about. The financial issues and their solutions felt glib and as if they were handled by a deus ex machina – and quite literally – a guy with a bunch of money flies in on a private jet.
Ward seems to take a lot of her characters’ religious inclinations into consideration. I almost felt she was starting to edge into Christian fiction but there’s a little too much sex for that.
Ward leaves a loose end and brings in three new characters with potential to expand the series, but unless the next book has the same intrigue and romantic tension, it is doomed to have already “jumped the shark.” Ward explains the phrase, “The Angel’s Share” as the disappearing portion of a distilled spirit as it is casked and re-casked. In my opinion the angels can have their share here and failing improvement in the series could take the rest too.