Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I’m so honored to be on a list that no doubt will be as exclusive as Wikipedia.”
The Bradford’s troubles are just beginning. The Bradfords are the creme de la creme of Kentucky society and bourbon but their stock is sinking faster than the titanic. Reeling from the apparent suicide of their patriarch, William Bradford, they are shocked to learn it may not be suicide but actually murder. A murder where the suspects far outweigh the mourners.
Especially among his children.
Was it Edward Bradford, the family hermit who hated his father with an unholy passion? A father who not only had him kidnapped overseas but refused to pay the ransom which resulted in his horrific torture?
Perhaps it was Lane Bradford who discovered his father’s mismanagement of company funds and his affair with Lane’s soon to be ex-wife which resulted in a pregnancy.
Even Gin Bradford has her own reasons for hating daddy…after he blackmails her into marrying a known abuser for a lucrative business contract.
Then there is the missing sibling-Maxwell Bradford. He ran away from the family legacy for parts unknown a long time ago but he’s back and no one knows why.
As the secrets of the past come to light, the consequences may destroy them all. Can this family survive the scandals coming their way? Or is the Bradford legacy doomed?
The Angels’ Share is the second installment in J.R Ward’s amusingly melodramatic southern family saga series-The Bourbon Kings. I love the title and think it works well with the overall tone of the story. The “angels’ share” is a whimsical term used to explain the approximate 2% evaporation loss of barreled bourbon. The notion behind it is that sometimes you have to lose in order to gain. The blurb, on the other hand, gives flight to notions that the storyline doesn’t exactly subscribe too.
Written in a style reminiscent to the nightly soap operas of the 80s- think Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and Dallas-Ward introduces us to the well-bred dysfunctional Bradford family. The Bradfords are the cream of the crop of the Kentucky social registry and among Bourbon makers worldwide. But like most of the rich and famous. the Bradford’s many secrets are starting to break free of their bonds and now the family stands poised on the brink of social, financial, and personal destruction.
Many readers assumed that Edward Bradford would be the focus of this installment but if you are at all familiar with soap operas, one couple usually remains the main focus of the long-term storyline. Keeping true to this tradition, Lane Bradford and Lizzie King are once again the main couple with Lane’s voice as the prevailing narrative though Ward divulges deeper into the personal lives of rest of the Bradford siblings, giving us insight into their own personal demons. The story opens with Lizzie seeing Lane on the same bridge his father jumped from and assumes he is going to do the same thing. Lane is at his wit’s end having discovered the sheer duplicity of his father. The family fortune has gone missing, illegitimate children are being discovered, and now his father’s suicide is looking more like murder. Luckily, Lane has his Lizzie by his side after years of being kept apart to help him try to clean up the mess his father left them in.
This family is a molotov cocktail decades in the making. The rather straight forward plot is stimulated with solid writing, a steady pacing, engaging characters, and a multitude of emotionally fueled subplots that leaves the readers blinking at the events playing out. While The Bourbon Kings was interesting in grandiose fashion, it seemed to mainly mock as it set up the world and characters. This installment has clearly has found it’s niche and takes a more serious tone, easing off some of the offensive aspects I found troubling in book one. Ward manipulates the reader’s perfectly as we watch a family whose carefully constructed facade crumbles like a house of cards and there is nothing they can do to stop it.
Each member of the Bradford family is a curious and somewhat repulsive mixture of pride, drama, and dysfunction as we watch them all scramble to find solid ground. Virginia Bradford, the monarch of this family, is wasting away in a drug-induced haze, having left the family years ago. Edward Bradford has never been the same after his kidnapping. He now resides in the stables, drinking and seducing the local help. Still somewhat suicidal, he has broken off with his one true love, the daughter of a local rival distillery. Lane Bradford has sloughed off his playboy persona now that he has reunited with his longtime love though he shows in certain scenes that the Bradford apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as he works to secure funding to keep the distillery and his family afloat. Perhaps the least likable but most sympathetic is Gin Bradford. Raised as nothing more than an ornament to hang off some wealthy man’s arm, she is the most self-destructive of them all as her recent engagement proves.
The romance and mystery work well together, feeding off each other though they remain two completely different entities. I wish the investigative portion behind the mystery of William Bradford’s death had been fleshed out a little more. We are given a list of clues that offer insight to numerous possibilities but nothing is really confirmed. Ward pushes forward on certain storylines but again, nothing is set in stone. The dry wit and facetious dialogue from book is in abundance here and there were quite a few scenes that had me giggling at the audacity of these people. Nothing is sacred.
The Angels’ Share certainly keeps you entertained and guessing all the way to the end. And as with all soap opera dramas, you are left hanging on the edge, wondering how on earth they are going to get out of this mess. Unfortunately, unlike your average soap opera, we will have to wait a year rather than the next day for the next episode.