WARNING: This post will contain spoilers for the two books in The Bourbon Kings trilogy
Most romance readers will tell you that discovering the genre was somewhat of a clandestine affair for them. That sack of Harlequin Presents novels they found in Mom’s closet. The lone, well-thumbed bodice ripper they found on the book shelf while babysitting the neighbor’s kids. Not me. My first introduction to the genre was watching Dallas every Friday night with Grandma and getting hooked on The Young and the Restless during summer vacation because Mom had been watching it since 1978. I loved everything about soap operas: the angst, the love affairs, the break-ups, the never-ending drama. However the real selling point on soaps has always been the characters. Yes, they’re fictional and obviously viewers know this. But when a soap is firing on all cylinders those fictional characters begin to feel like real people. This is exactly what J.R. Ward has done with The Bourbon Kings. She’s reminded romance fans why soaps are a branch of the same family tree.
The series has been marketed as a trilogy, which means we’re down to only one book left to wrap up all the sudsy shenanigans, The Devil’s Cut, due out in August 2017. Immediately after finishing The Angel’s Share, I’ll admit, I had doubts. Even with these books running longer at over 400 pages, Ward has set up a mess of family drama that still needs to be tied up in the final book. The deck almost depleted, let’s take a look at the cards we’re still holding for book three, shall we?
The biggest nut left to crack is the murder of family patriarch, William Baldwine. What was initially ruled a suicide quickly turned to homicide when his severed finger was found buried in the bushes at Easterly, the family’s estate. We now know that eldest son Edward, has been arrested, and he’s got a doozy of a motive–what with Daddy Dearest orchestrating his kidnapping in South America and leaving him to die. Edward is not a happy man.
Then there’s the various relationships still left twisting in the breeze. Lane, fully invested in the role of family savior now that Daddy’s financial shenanigans have come to light, is madly in love with head horticulturist, Lizzie King. There’s just the minor, pesky detail of his wife, Chantal, who is claiming she’s knocked up with Daddy Baldwine’s child. Seriously, that William got around.
Pampered Princess daughter Gin, so desperate to not lose wealth and social standing, agrees to marry the odious Richard Pford, despite carrying a torch for family lawyer, Samuel T. Then there’s the fact that Samuel T has no clue that Gin’s “secret baby” teenage daughter, Amelia, is his child. I’m fully expecting the resolution to this storyline to be one of the messiest.
As if that weren’t enough? There’s Miss Aurora’s illness, which is quickly progressing, the return of long lost son, Maxwell, and the revelation that Willaim Baldwine, besides being a philanderer, apparently had issues with birth control. Turns out Rosalinda Freeland, who committed suicide in the first book, left behind a teenage son, Damion, who is the spitting image of Lane.
So with all that still left twisting in the breeze, how is Ward going to wrap all this up in the final book? It will be a lot for reader’s to chew on, but it won’t be impossible. For one thing, the most involved storylines left are the murder of William Baldwine and the nightmare that is the Gin/Samuel T. relationship. The Angel’s Share is a quintessential book two, with Ward slyly setting up major revelations for book three, while boxing some minor storylines into corners for easy conclusions. Lane and Lizzy are a couple—which means the process of divorcing Chantal is a foregone conclusion. She’ll fight like a wet cat, but there’s not enough meat left on that bone to draw it out much longer. Likewise, while it looked initially like Ward was moving us towards a love triangle between Edward, his lost love Sutton Smythe and employee Shelby Landis, readers now know its Edward and Sutton who are meant to be. Only time will tell if Edward can dodge the murder rap. Miss Aurora’s health is what it is and if soap operas have taught me anything it’s that if a miracle cure doesn’t happen, family funerals are a great place for unfolding drama. Assuming Miss Aurora meets her maker, expect her funeral to somehow further at least one major plot point along.
It’s been a hot mess (and I mean that in the best possible way) of a series. A reminder of why so many of us love soap operas and cannot get enough. That said, while it’s tempting to always want more of a good thing, the potential trap to avoid is one of exhausting the reader. As much as I love them, it’s easy to get burnt out on soaps. They tend to be all about the drama, not so much about closure (at least until the series finale). Ward needs to wrap this all up in The Devil’s Cut and resist the temptation to prolong the saga. That said? It’s not like she needs to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Lane, Edward, Maxwell and Gin all need their final moments in the sun. However, there’s still Gin’s daughter, Amelia and William Baldwine’s son with Rosalinda, Damion. In a few years will we get The Bourbon Kings: The Next Generation? Hey, they rebooted Dallas. Anything is possible.
Learn more about or order a copy of the books in J.R. Ward's Bourbon Kings series:
|The Bourbon Kings|
|The Angels' Share|
|The Devil's Cut (available August 1, 2017)|
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Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.