Adult Romance published July28, 2015
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
What I Think....
I'm going to keep this short and simple, because I really don't have much to say. I'll be honest, I hated this novel. I tried my hardest to get into it, but I just couldn't connect with the characters or the story at all. The characters were catty, rude, and downright dirty...and not in the good way. To me, it was like watching a live-action game of Clue, played by some ageing, self-serving jerkwads. It was all about who could be the most conniving; all else be damned. For a novel that was labeled as Romance, I sure didn't see it. I don't want to give any spoilers away, so I'll leave it at that.
From what I gathered from the synopsis, it was supposed to be about Lizzie King, head horticulturist at Easterly Mansion, falling back into love with her long lost lover, Jonathon Tulane Baldwin, heir of the Bradford bourbon company. That couldn't be further than what it really was about. Yes, they do re-connect, in a way. They banter a bit, which makes you think, "okay, this is about to get good", but then it backs off and switches to a different point-of-view. Which is another thing I didn't like; the story is told from eldest Baldwin brother Edward's POV, sister Virginia's (Gin) POV, Lizzie's POV, and Lane's POV. Not only was this extremely confusing, but I felt like it took away from the original purpose. Since so many people were adding to the story, it became very overwhelming to try and keep up. It's great to have good details and added accounts, but this was overkill.
I do have to give some positive comments though, because I really do love J.R. Ward. She had me with her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I've been a sucker ever since. So I have to tell myself that just because this novel wasn't to my liking doesn't mean I should give up on her. This novel is written in only a true Ward fashion. The details are terrific,the characters are complex and dynamic, and the knowledge about bourbon making and thoroughbred horse racing is out of this world. Combining those components should have made for a great novel. However, it just didn't come together like that for me. I think had Ward focused more on Lizzie and Lane and less on the rest of the polluted household, it would have blown my expectations out of the water.