Date published: July 28th, 2015
Synopsis: 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 Thought:
It's been almost a week since I read this book and I'm still struggling to put words to all the feelings this book has given me. I've always heard J.R. Ward's writing was epic, but this is the first time I've had the chance to experience it for myself. Everything I heard about this book was true and then some. I wasn't able to put the book down and it gave me perhaps the worst book hangover ever. I lost sleep over it. Now it wasn't just the usual "I stayed up late reading" hangover but the, "I finished the book and I can't sleep because I'm still thinking about it" kind of hangover.
The blurb on this book is really deceptive. I went in expecting the story to focus on Lizzie and Tulane Baldwine, also better known as Lane. Instead I got a saga focusing on almost all of the inhabitants of Easterly, in particular Lane's siblings and that's not a bad thing. What I found was I loved them as much as I loved Lane. Lane and his siblings have not had an easy time growing up. Edward, Lane, Max, and Gin may have had every material advantage growing up except for what they probably needed most.
I'm not even sure how to describe the plot. The story starts off focusing on Lizzie and Lane and then to Gin and Edward and what's going on in their lives. Each of the Baldwine siblings is seemingly independent of the other and their lives don't really intersect until Lane comes home and the familial empire begins to unravel. And boy does it all start to come apart. Usually when there's a complicated story like this one with multiple arcs, one or more can be neglected while another muscles in and takes most of the spotlight. Not in this case. Whether it was Gin trying to figure things out, or Edward trying to muscle him self into the living again, or Lane trying to cut the dead weight and figure out what was going on with his family, each arc was integrated seamlessly with the other and each was equally important.
I can not begin to tell you how emotionally involved I was with this story. I felt like I was there in Kentucky watching everything unfold and it was really difficult at times. There were few happy times, but there was a lot of rage, both coming from the characters towards the person responsible for ruining the Baldwines and Bradfords, but also from me. I tend to immerse myself in the story. The character's agonies become mine and their joys become mine too. There was so much pain, agony, and suffering in this story. I literally wanted to reach into my kindle and throttle the persons responsible for so much pain. There wasn't just anger, but there was pain and frustration too. I cried a number of times just because it's all I could do. Even though at times it was almost possible to read due to my emotions, I couldn't put the book down. I had to know if things worked out for Lizzie and Lane, Gin and her dreams, Edward and the love of his life.
All I know is this, the book is amazing. It's one of those you have to read and experience to believe. There are so many twists and revelations you won't be prepared or ready for all of them. You'll like and fall in love with the Baldwine siblings, Lizzie, and others you'll meet and you'll loathe and despise others. J.R. Ward has done a phenomenal job with this book. If her paranormal romances are anything like this one, I will be in book worm heaven. As it is, I have no idea how I'm going to wait for the next book in this series. I have so many questions and I'm hoping for some sort of happily ever after. As it stands, I have a feeling there is much more upheaval in store for the Bradford Distillery, the Baldwines, Easterly, and all those who are tied to it and its inhabitants. This is just the calm before the storm.
About the Author
J.R. Ward is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with more than 15 million novels in print published in 25 different countries around the world. Ward is a graduate of Smith College who currently lives in Kentucky. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a lawyer in Boston and also spent many years working as Chief of Staff for one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. Visit her popular website and fan community at www.jrward.com and facebook.com/JRWardBooks.
*Thank you so much to the publisher for providing a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for them in any manner.*