New Release Group Review + Excerpt: The Angels’ Share by J. R. Ward


The angels shareThe Angel’s Share by J.R. Ward
Book #2 in The Bourbon Kings
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: July 26th, 2016
ARC Provided by Penguin

Synopsis from Goodreads: In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior…or the worst of all the sinners?

With as much as we loved The Bourbon Kings, there was no question of whether or not we’d be reading The Angel’s Share – only a matter of when. Once again, we were swept up in this whirlwind saga from J.R. Ward. We can’t get enough of these Bradfords and whatever obstacles they’ll face next!

Our Review

AH: Raise your hands if this book wasn’t what you expected. I think I was looking forward to more of a romance and less of a soap opera. I thought that the books would focus on a key couple (like the first book). I really enjoyed the first book and I loved Lane and Lizzie. Instead, we got a book that suffers from middle book (sophomore?) syndrome. Nothing really seems to get any better; there isn’t really any resolutions to the family’s problems.

Wendy: *Hand raised* I totally agree, it did read more like a soap opera.  I also expected it to read more like a romance, changing couples with each installment.  I think I anticipated that since it’s always been JR Ward’s style.  Although, I actually found that I liked this more.  I like that it’s showing the family more as a whole, rather than splitting up the stories per usual.  It gives it more of an ongoing saga feel, and reads more like Downton or Dynasty, which was what I liked about it to begin with.  My only issue with the book was that, like you, I felt like the book didn’t progress much, at least not in terms of character growth.

Angie: It was exactly what I was expecting, and I lapped up every word. The only thing I maybe wasn’t expecting was the number of hilarious one-liners the author kept giving us. I was going from being in stitches one minute to being in a ‘WTF?’ state the next. I loved it. And what I really liked was that, like a soap opera, it seemed to be written in a way so that it jumped seamlessly from scene to scene in a sort of cliffhangery way.

For me, with this particular series, I’m not looking for progress – not yet, anyway. We’re getting day to day living here without big time jumps. Too much character growth so soon wouldn’t be credible. I want drama drama drama, and Ward delivered. Give me sunglasses, a lounge chair, and a pool, and I could read about this family all day long.

AH: Did anyone notice the “Wardisms” in the narrative? See any names with extra h’s and funny spellings? I did. Was it to placate her Black Dagger Brotherhood fans? I mean,  Tiphanii ??? Huh? Actually, this book reminded me a little of the author’s earlier books when she wrote as Jessica Bird.

Wendy: Haha!  I didn’t pay attention to the ‘h’ in Tiphanii since it was needed to create the ff sound.  Whereas in Zhadist, the word isn’t affected with or without the h.  I focused more on how Tiphanii was supposed to be ‘that girl’.  Like Joolia, or Jesika, haha.  I was more bothered that she reused the name ‘Beth’.  Really?  There are a million other names you could have used.

I only read one Jessica Bird book, and didn’t really like it.  I know what you mean, though.  Either way, I think her writing style has come a looong way since those days.

Angie: I wouldn’t notice the Wardisms because this is really my first foray into Wardland where I feel like I’m all in.

Wendy: I think that puts you in a better position than us actually, Angie.  You don’t have any expectations or comparisons.

Angie: I think you might be right.

My favorite character is Gin. She may be between a rock and a hard place, but she’s weighing her options. (Even if they’re not all legal.) Edward’s right up there. I can’t help but be glued to him, too. I love that he can leave his wallowing behind long enough to make sure someone’s feeling don’t get hurt. Who’s your favorite?

Wendy: I’m very interested in Gin’s story, but I can’t say she’s my favorite character.  I don’t think I actually like her.  I really love Edward.  He’s definitely up there as one of my favorites, and I’m eager to figure out what Max is all about.  I had ideas and hopes about why he was the black sheep, but so far I think they’ve been dashed.

Surprisingly though, one of my favorite characters wound up being Shelby.  One of my issues with Ward is that I don’t think she writes original women characters.  I feel like they all fit one of the traditional ‘woman’ tropes.  Shelby stood out to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily feel like she belongs with this family I just found her refreshing and unique.

Angie: I agree Gin isn’t likable, but there is something about her that I’m drawn to. I want to see her take some control of her circumstances, and more importantly, her happiness and find a way to live a decent life. It’s funny how we like the same books but not the same characters. Shelby wasn’t a standout for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her; she was just sort of a fixture in the book. Aside from Gin, Sutton and Miss Aurora were the standouts for me. Sutton for her business acumen and love for Edward, and Miss Aurora for how deeply she cares for everyone.

AH: I did not like Gin at all. I just saw her as a spoiled princess. She really made a mess out of her life. I was intrigued by Samuel and I hope that we’ll be seeing more of him in the next book.

Wendy: I do like Samuel, Sutton is probably one of my least favorite characters, unfortunately.

Despite any criticisms, I actually am addicted to this family.  It’s not even so much about the money, either.  I want to know if they can all get their shit together.  There’s no way I won’t be waiting for the next book.

AH: Will I read the next book? You betcha! I’m curious to see how it all turns out. I want to know if Lane can save the family business, if Edward ever finds happiness, if Gin ever gets smarter, and just what Maxwell is doing back at home. A real soap opera.

Angie: I’m already anxiously awaiting the next book. I want more of this filthy, drama-filled family, and I want it now! I am most curious about what William Baldwine will next manage to accomplish from the grave!

Our Rating: 4 Stars

Series Reading Order:
1. The Bourbon Kings
2. The Angels’ Share
3. Unknown (Release Date Unknown)

Thank you to PENGUIN for providing an Advanced Reading Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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.

She still did.

But ever since then? He had been both as warm and closed off as a space heater, physically present and completely disengaged at the same time.

Lizzie did not blame him in the slightest.

It was strangely terrifying, however.

Off in the distance, across the river, Charlemont’s business district glowed and twinkled, a false, earthbound galaxy that was a lovely lie, and the bridge that connected the two shores was still lit up in spring green and bright pink for Derby, a preppy rainbow to that promised land. The good news was that there was no traffic, so as soon as Lizzie was on the other side, she could take the River Road exit off the highway, shoot north to Easterly’s hill, and see if his car was parked in front of the mansion.

Then she didn’t know what she was going to do.

The newly constructed bridge had three lanes going in both directions, the concrete median separating east from west tall and broad for safety purposes. There were rows of white lights down the middle, and everything was shiny, not just from the illumination, but a lack of exposure to the elements. Construction had only finished in March, and the first lines of traffic had made the crossing in early April, cutting rush-hour delays down—

Up ahead, parked in what was actually the “slow” lane, was a vehicle that her brain recognized before her eyes properly focused on it.

Lane’s Porsche. It was Lane’s—

Lizzie nailed the brake pedal harder than she’d been pounding the accelerator, and the truck made the transition from full-force forward to full-on stop with the grace of a sofa falling out a second-story window: Everything shuddered and shook, on the verge of structural disintegration, and worse, there was barely any change in velocity, as if her Toyota had worked too hard to gain the speed and wasn’t going to let the momentum go without a fight—

There was a figure on the edge of the bridge. On the very farthest edge of the bridge. On the lip of the bridge over the deadly drop.

“Lane,” she screamed. “Lane!”

Her truck went into a spin, pirouetting such that she had to wrench her head around to keep him in her sights. And she jumped out before the Toyota came to a full stop, leaving the gearshift in neutral, the engine running, the door open in her wake.

“Lane! No! Lane!”

Lizzie pounded across the pavement and surmounted barriers that seemed flimsy, too flimsy, given the distance down to the river.

Lane jerked his head around—

And lost one hold of the rail behind him.

As his grip slipped, shock registered on his face, a flash of surprise . . . that was immediately replaced by horror.

When he fell off into nothing but air.

Lizzie’s mouth could not open wide enough to release her scream.

Posted by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © J.R. Ward, 2016.

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.  The books in her popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series have held the #1 spot on the New York Times hardcover, mass market, eBook, and combined print/eBook fiction bestseller lists and have debuted in the top 5 on the USA Today bestseller list.  Prior to her writing career, Ward worked as a lawyer in Boston and spent many years as the Chief of Staff of one of Harvard’s world-renowned academic medical centers.  Ward currently lives with her family in Kentucky where she has learned to enjoy and appreciate all things Southern.  Connect with her online at,, and

© 2016, Badass Book Reviews. All rights reserved.

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