As one of the most anticipated books of my entire life—and that is not an overstatement—my expectations of The Bourbon Kings finale were sky high. This is a series that, even with instalments coming a whole year apart, has kept me so unbelievably invested, that every detail of this great saga stayed at the forefront of my mind regardless of how much time had elapsed. So I was not surprised when I found myself sobbing uncontrollably through the last few chapters of this book, overwhelmed by the storyline, the characters, the flawless way the puzzle pieces all finally came together, but above all, by J.R. Ward’s commanding prose and vivid atmospherics that held me rapt until the very end. Returning to Charlemont, Kentucky for the very last time has been a bittersweet experience, but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
With the Bradford Bourbon Company still drowning in debt and the family trusts thoroughly depleted by its former patriarch, the youngest Bradford son is running against time to stop the dominoes from falling and to save the centuries-old dynasty from ruin. But with his eldest brother, Edward, in prison for a crime he did not commit, Lane is not only scrambling to save their company from bankruptcy, but also to find the person responsible for their father’s murder.
Sometimes the only solace one had was to do the right thing. Even if it required great sacrifice, there was peace to be had in knowing that loved ones were finally safe from a nightmare. Like his father.
Edward’s incarceration has effectively put an end to any further investigation into the death of William Baldwine, his confession aimed at protecting his beloved siblings from harm. And as hard as they try, he won’t let anyone change his mind, not even the woman he’s loved all his life but never allowed himself to claim. Regardless of how much he pushes her away or how desperately she wishes she could move on, however, Sutton Smythe cannot give up on the only man she’s ever loved, and she remains confident that Edward’s innocence would be proven before long.
“My guess is you’ll be out of here in two days. Three days tops. And if you want an opportunity to prove to me that you’re not the coward I think you are, you’ll come find me, and you’ll apologize for ever sending me away.”
“What then? Happily ever after? I didn’t fancy you as a romantic.”
“Oh, no, I was thinking straight-up raw sex. Until I can’t walk right, either.”
The storyline I was most anxious to see unfold is that of Virginia “Gin” Baldwine and Samuel Lodge, two people who have spent the last two decades of their lives in a ‘War of the Roses’ scenario, loving and hurting one another in equal measure. But as we watch Gin trapped in an abusive marriage she believes she deserves, we learn just how much of herself she is willing to sacrifice in order to protect the person she loves the most. And how much she is willing to lose for their happiness.
“I will never forgive you for this.”
“I know. And I do not blame you.”
As we learn more and more about the Baldwine siblings through their individual perspectives, we begin to slowly piece together a collective past of abuse and neglect that could have given any of them reason to kill their father. But the closer we get to the truth, the clearer it becomes that in a society where bloodlines and family heritage are the defining characteristics in establishing an individual’s identity, those who matter to us the most in the end are often not the people whose blood runs in our veins.
With multiple driving voices in the story, J.R. Ward weaves a complex narrative with many interconnected storylines that simultaneously forge ahead, keeping the reader constantly on the edge of their seat. With deep emotional insight into her own characters, Ward delivers a page-turner that’s impassioned and dynamic, creating an atmosphere of both tragedy and hope, but only to accentuate the true beauty of the grand love stories within it. I have loved these books to the point of tears, and would recommend them to anyone unreservedly.
“Why are…you here?”
“Because I can’t not be. With you, I can’t not be here, goddamn it.”