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The Angels' Share (The Bourbon Kings Book 2) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 426 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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- Book 2 of 3 in The Bourbon Kings
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“Get ready for summer’s most sinful indulgence. The drama never stops in this tale of family secrets, lost love found, rivalries, delightfully nasty villains, and deliciously appealing heroes. The clothes, the whiskey, and the gorgeous Kentucky backdrop will sweep you away. The privileged and the downtrodden never had it so good. Put on your derby hat and join in the fun.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs
“Breathless fun! J. R. Ward moves her trademark dark and sexy from the world of warrior vampires to the halls of the Kentucky elite, where the family members’ claws are just as sharp and the consequences just as deadly. I couldn’t stop turning the pages!”—New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner
“The setting is 80's TV soap opera Dallas meets Downton Abbey...This is high drama, and it’s mesmerizing.”—Fresh Fiction
“I want my Bourbon in bed! J. R. Ward delivers a sweeping saga where family roots run deep and passion sizzles hotter than a Kentucky summer. Potent and heady, one taste just isn’t enough.”—New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter
“The drama and dark secrets behind the Bradford family’s empire propel this irresistible story of high-society scandal . . . a read that’s rich, smooth, and satisfying as a glass of Kentucky bourbon.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“Soapy elements abound in this Dynastyesque tale, from lavish wealth to feuds, dirty secrets, and forbidden love…Ward is a master of pacing and world building, and readers will love that the cliff-hanger ending guarantees at least a second helping of the Bradfords.”—Booklist (starred review) --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Big Five Bridge, Charlemont, Kentucky
Jonathan Tulane Baldwine leaned out over the rail of the new bridge that connected Charlemont, Kentucky, with its closest Indiana neighbor, New Jefferson. The Ohio River was fifty feet below, the muddy, swollen waters reflecting the multicolored lights that graced each of the span's five arches. As he rose up onto the tips of his loafers, he felt as though he were falling, but that was merely an illusion.
He imagined his father jumping off this very ledge to his death.
William Baldwine's body had been found at the base of the Falls of the Ohio two days ago. And for all of the man's accomplishments in life, for all of his lofty pursuits, he had ended his mortal coil tangled and mangled in a boat slip. Next to an old fishing trawler. That had a resale value of two hundred bucks. Three hundred, tops.
Oh, the ignominy.
What had it been like to fall? There must have been a rushing breeze in the face as William had been fisted by gravity and pulled down to the water. Clothes must have flapped as flags, slapping against body and leg. Eyes must have watered, from gust or perhaps even emotion?
No, it would have been the former.
The impact had to have hurt. And then what? A shocked inhale that had sucked the river's foul waves in? A choking sense of suffocation? Or did a knockout render him blissfully unaware? Or . . . perhaps it had all ended with a heart attack from the adrenaline overload of the descent, a stinging pain in the center of the chest radiating down the left arm, preventing a lifesaving swim stroke. Had he still been conscious when the coal barge hit him, when that propeller had chewed him up? Certainly, by the time he went over the falls, he was dead.
Lane wished he knew for sure that the man had suffered.
To know that there had been pain, tremendous, agonizing pain, and also fear, a ringing, overwhelming fear, would have been a powerful relief, a balm to the swill of emotions that his father's watery death caused him to drown in even while he stood on dry land.
"Over sixty-eight million dollars you stole," Lane said into the uncaring wind, the disinterested drop, the bored current down below. "And the company's in even more debt. What the hell did you do with it? Where did the money go?"
There was no answer coming up at him, of course. And that would have been the same if the man were still alive and Lane were confronting him in person.
"And my wife," he barked. "You fucked my wife. Under the roof you shared with my mother-and got Chantal pregnant."
Not that Lane's marriage to the former Chantal Blair Stowe had been anything other than a certificate he'd been coerced into putting his name to. But at least he was owning that mistake and taking care of it.
"No wonder Mother is a drug addict. No wonder she hides. She must have known about the other women, must have known who and what you were, you bastard."
As Lane closed his eyes, he saw a dead body-but not his father's swollen, mottled mess of a corpse on that slab from when Lane had gone to the morgue to ID the remains. No, he saw a woman sitting upright in her office at the family's mansion, her sensible, modest skirt and button-down blouse arranged perfectly, her bobbed hair only a little mussed, grass-stained running shoes on her feet instead of the flats she had always worn.
There had been a horrible grimace on her face. The Joker's mad grin.
From the hemlock she had taken.
He'd found that body two days before his father had jumped.
"Rosalinda is dead because of you, you sonofabitch. She worked for you in our house for thirty years, and you might as well have killed her yourself."
She was the reason Lane had found out about the missing money. The former controller for the family's household accounts had left a kind of suicide note behind, a USB drive with Excel spreadsheets showing the alarming withdrawals, the transfers to WWB Holdings.
William Wyatt Baldwine Holdings.
There were a good sixty-eight million reasons she had poisoned herself. All because Lane's father had forced her to do unethical things until her sense of decency had snapped her in half.
"And I know what you did to Edward. I know that was your fault, too. You set your own son up in South America. They kidnapped him because of you, and you refused to pay the ransom so they'd kill him. Business rival gone while you get to look like the grieving father. Or did you do it because he, too, suspected that you were stealing?"
Edward had survived, except Lane's older brother was now nothing but a ruined shell with an irregular heartbeat, no longer the heir apparent to the business, the throne, the crown.
William Baldwine had done so much evil.
And these things were only what Lane knew about. What else was out there?
Equally important was what to do about it all. What could he do?
He felt like he was at the helm of a great ship that had been turned to a rocky shore-right before its rudder snapped off.
With a quick surge of strength, he swung his legs up and over the heavy steel railing, his loafers slapping on the six-inch lip on the far side. Heart pumping, hands and feet going numb, mouth drying out until he could not swallow, he held on behind his hips with an under-grip and leaned even farther into the abyss.
What had it felt like?
He could jump-or just step off . . . and fall, fall, fall until he knew for certain what his father had been through. Would he end up in the same boathouse slip? Would his body also find the propeller of a barge and be great white'd in the filthy fresh waters of the Ohio?
In his mind, clear as day, he heard his momma say in her deep Southern drawl, God does not give us more than we can handle.
Miss Aurora's faith had certainly seen her through more things than most mere mortals could bear. As an African-American growing up in the South in the fifties, she had faced discrimination and injustices he couldn't even imagine, and yet Miss Aurora had more than endured, triumphing in culinary school, running the gourmet kitchen at Easterly not just like a French chef, but better-while also mothering him and his brothers and sister as no one else had, becoming the soul of Easterly, the touchstone for so many.
The beacon that, until he had met his Lizzie, had been the only light on the horizon for him.
Lane wished he believed as his momma did. And oh, God, Miss Aurora even had faith in him, faith that he would turn this all around, save the family, be the man she knew he could be.
Be the man his father was not and never had been, no matter the trappings of his wealth and success.
Jump, he could just jump. And it was over.
Was that what his father had thought? With the lies and the embezzlement being exposed, with Rosalinda's death a harbinger for the dirge of discovery, had William come here because he alone knew the true extent of what he had done and the depth of the hole that had to be dug out? Had he recognized that the game was up, his time was coming, and even with all his financial acumen, he wasn't going to be able to solve the problem he'd created?
Or had he decided to fake his own death-and failed by succeeding?
Was somewhere, out there, perhaps in an offshore account or in a bank vault in Switzerland, under his name or another's, everything that had been siphoned off?
So many questions. And the lack of answers, coupled with the stress of having to fix it all, was the kind of thing that could drive you insane.
Lane refocused on the waters. He could barely see them from this height. In fact . . . he could see nothing but blackness with the merest hint of a shimmer.
There was, he realized, a certain siren call to the coward's way out, a pull, like gravity, to an end that he could control: One hard impact and it was all over and done with, the deaths, the deceit, the debt. Everything wiped clean, the festering infection that was going to hold no longer and was about to be unleashed publicly nothing to worry about anymore.
Had there been sleepless nights for his father? Regrets? When William had stood here, had there been a to-and-fro about should he/shouldn't he fly for a few moments and be done with the terrible mess he had created? Had the man even once considered the ramifications of his actions, an over two-hundred-year-old fortune wiped out not even in a generation, but in a matter of a year or two?
Wind whistled in Lane's ears, that siren call.
Edward, his older, formerly perfect brother, was not going to clean all this up. Gin, his only sister, was incapable of thinking about anything other than herself. Maxwell, his other brother, had been MIA for three years now.
His mother was bedbound and drug-addled.
So everything was in the hands of a poker-playing, former manwhore with no financial, managerial, or relevant practical experience.
All he had, at long last, was the love of a good woman.
But in this horrible reality . . . even that wasn't going to help him.
Toyota trucks were not supposed to go seventy-five miles an hour. Especially when they were ten years old.
At least the driver was wide awake, even though it was four a.m.
Lizzie King had a death grip on the steering wheel, and her foot on the accelerator was actually catching floor as she headed for a rise in the highway.
She had woken up in her bed at her farmhouse alone. Ordinarily, that would have been the status quo, but not anymore, not now that Lane was back in her life. The wealthy playboy and the estate's gardener had finally gotten their act together, love bonding two unlikelies closer and stronger than the molecules of a diamond.
And she was going to stand by him, no matter what the future held.
After all, it was so much easier to give up extraordinary wealth when you had never known it, never aspired to it-and especially when you had seen behind its glittering curtain to the sad, desolate desert on the far side of the glamour and prestige.
God, the stress Lane was under.
And so out of bed she had gotten. Down the creaking stairs she had gone. And all around her little house's first floor she had wandered.
When Lizzie had looked outside, she'd discovered his car was missing, the Porsche he drove and parked beside the maple by her front porch nowhere to be seen. And as she had wondered why he had left without telling her, she had begun to worry.
Just a matter of nights since his father had killed himself, only a matter of days since William Baldwine's body had been found on the far side of the Falls of the Ohio. And ever since then Lane's face had had a faraway look, his mind churning always with the missing money, the divorce papers he had served on the rapacious Chantal, the status of the household bills, the precarious situation at the Bradford Bourbon Company, his brother Edward's terrible physical condition, Miss Aurora's illness.
But he hadn't said a thing about any of it. His insomnia had been the only sign of the pressure, and that was what scared her. Lane always made an effort to be composed around her, asking her about her work in Easterly's gardens, rubbing her bad shoulder, making her dinner, usually badly, but who cared. Ever since they had gotten the air cleared between them and had fully recommitted to their relationship, he had all but moved into her farmhouse-and as much as she loved having him with her, she had been waiting for the implosion to occur.
It would almost have been easier if he had been ranting and raving.
And now she feared that time had come-and some sixth sense made her terrified about where he had gone. Easterly, the Bradford Family Estate, was the first place she thought of. Or maybe the Old Site, where his family's bourbon was still made and stored. Or perhaps Miss Aurora's Baptist church?
Yes, Lizzie had tried him on his phone. And when the thing had rung on the table on his side of the bed, she hadn't waited any longer after that. Clothes on. Keys in hand. Out to the truck.
No one else was on I-64 as she headed for the bridge to get across the river, and she kept the gas on even as she crested the hill and hit the decline to the river's edge on the Indiana side. In response, her old truck picked up even more speed along with a death rattle that shook the wheel and the seat, but the damn Toyota was going to hold it together because she needed it to.
"Lane . . . where are you?"
God, all the times she had asked him how he was and he'd said, "Fine." All those opportunities to talk that he hadn't taken her up on. All the glances she'd shot him when he hadn't been looking her way, all the time her monitoring for signs of cracking or strain. And yet there had been little to no emotion after that one moment they'd had together in the garden, that private, sacred moment when she had sought him out under the blooms of the fruit trees and told him that she'd gotten it wrong about him, that she had misjudged him, that she was prepared to make a pledge to him with the only thing she had: the deed to her farmhouse-which was exactly the kind of asset that could be sold to help pay for the lawyers' fees as he fought to save his family.
Lane had held her, and told her he loved her-and refused her gift, explaining he was going to fix everything himself, that he was going to somehow find the stolen money, pay back the enormous debt, right the company, resurrect his family's fortunes.
And she had believed him. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- File size : 1158 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publication date : July 26, 2016
- Print length : 426 pages
- Publisher : Berkley (July 26, 2016)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0191X34KE
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #54,882 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As with most of Ms Ward's books her characters are what draw you in. The storyline is well developed as are the people. One of my favorite characters is momma. You'll have to read the book to understand.
In the BDB series each book highlights a certain specific character. In this series you're continually exposed to each of the major players lives with each book. This type of writing makes the storyline the center and allows you to see how each, in this case, family member, is effected by what's happening. I like seeing each character's life progress throughout the series, assuming that will continue, and discovering what their part is in the whole picture as well as their backstory continuing to unfold. Love Lane and Lizzie.
However, I've read a lot of reviews concerning people's disappointment that each story doesn't end with an HEA for the character that's highlighted in the book. If you're expecting this series to be the Kentucky version of the BDB you WILL be disappointed. That's absolutely NOT what this series is. This series is a family saga that's going to continue with each new book. I wouldn't say it's a soap opera as others have described it but it definitely is a sweeping saga right now centered around a specific event and the trainwreck that event leaves for others to clean up. This series doesn't have a lot of hot steamy sex. Instead it allows you to imagine what's going on. It's not really a romance but has a definite romantic tone. I don't know about you but I'm glad JR is writing something so different than the other books she's written.
The plot centers around the death of the patriarch of the family who was an evil bastard. At first it's thought of as a suicide but then turns into something else entirely. The saga looks at each family member, their character pros and cons and to some degree how the father effected their lives and shaped who they have become as adults. In one part Lane talks about how, if he had been the brother kidnapped, that Edward would have come and gotten Lane himself and how Lane didn't have it in him to do the same for Edward. That confession was really movin, honest and a real insight to the character of Lane. This is where JR excels. Lane is a good guy but like all of us he's flawed and JR shows that. I find seeing a whole person much more interesting than seeing only the hero. I'm also really happy to see that not everyone is 20 years old ( as an aging women lol.) I like experiencing characters of all ages. A book seems much more mature, adult and real when there is a wide range of people in different spaces of life, but that's me.
JR is a very good writer. In the romance genre which the BDB is in, she stands out as her books don't come across as so formula being banged out every other month like a James Patterson. Her writing in this series excels as well. I'm looking forward to future books in the series.
SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
I don't think Edward did it.
On the surface, it was easy to form opinions on all the Bradford siblings, but once you got to know them, you realized there was much more to them than what was on the surface. The more I got to know them, the more I sympathized with them.
There were twists, turns, secrets and more than a few revelations. The deception and the pure... well I'm not sure how to describe exactly what drove the head of the Bradford family to do what he did to pretty much everyone he should have cared about. The more that was revealed, the more that I had no problem cheering on whoever put an end to his reign - as long as they got away with it. In the end, I'm still not sure that the right person was brought to justice.
There's so much more to come, which means that since Devil's Cut is the last book in the Bourbon Kings series, it has a lot of ground to cover. The are more than a few loose ends, at least one person that needs to be taken down a notch and a mystery or two that needs to be solved.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is set in a rich but gloriously dysfunctional American family whose dynasty is based on the production of alcohol. There are a lot of sub-plots and story lines but the main thrust of the narrative is that the head of the family is dead and that he has almost certainly been murdered. The playboy heir (Lane) has returned from self-imposed exile and found his long lost love (Lizzie) - he is also investigating missing monies from the business and trying to keep it afloat without anyone knowing that they have financial problems. The other siblings are barely functioning and although this book concentrates on another son, Edward, and presents him with a love triangle, Lane is still at the centre of the action. The author piles challenge after challenge on to the family and just when you think you can take a breath someone does something amazingly self-destructive or you find out a hidden secret which has damaging consequences.
I am not a huge fan of family sagas set in rich households but I am very much enjoying this series. I like the writing which is tight and ironic in places. I am enjoying the fact that I have absolutely no idea where the author is going to take the story next. I love the different characters and am absorbed in watching how they get into bigger and bigger holes and musing on how the author is going to extricate them, if she is. I can take or leave the bourbon and horse racing backgrounds and I do have some issues with the stereotypical housekeeper/substitute mother figure. Despite a couple of quibbles I am committed to this series and very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.
This second book, however, is fast paced from the start. The characters became more rounded and if you had told me before I read this that I would actually feel sorry for Gin I would have laughed at you.
Can't wait for the next book!
The characters are evolving and I'm interested enough to anticipate the next book. I'm involved in the story lines and plots more than I thought I would be. I like the love interests too. I do have mixed feelings about this series.