I am currently fixated on the the fictional world of J.R. Ward’s Bourbon Kings series.
Since diving head-long into A Song of Ice and Fire fandom a couple of years ago, I’ve been hard-pressed to find material as compelling as the delightfully messy Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Yes, I understand high fantasy, historical parallels, and themes about moral dilemmas, but I didn’t read five 1,000-page books for any of those reasons—I read them because beneath it all, George R.R. Martin wrote a glorious soap opera that also meets the standards of well-written genre fiction.
So imagine my glee when I found a new world (that no one argues about on the Internet) to live in for a while. A completed series. Where none of my favorite characters died. I forgot it could be like this.
If you remember night-time soap operas like Dallas or Dynasty (or their recent modern reboots, available on Netflix), that’s what Bourbon Kings is: a story about an insanely wealthy, insanely dysfunctional Kentucky family and all of their wacky hijinks. Like if you tossed the Lannisters in modern-day Kentucky and gave them a bourbon-distilling empire instead of gold mines.
You have the conniving patriarch who cheats on his wife, treats his offspring like shit, and does some shady business to “preserve the family name.” A PTSD-suffering eldest brother, who is the shadow of the ambitious “heir to the throne” he was before an awful accident. A spoiled socialite sister who is the most Cersei Lannister character I’ve read since Cersei Lannister (including an on-and-off fling with a man who is her messy mirror image—no relation, though). And the charismatic reformed playboy totally unprepared for managing the shit storm coming his family’s way.
Naturally, this hero is in love with the no-makeup wearing horticulturalist on his family’s estate and lovingly refers to his family’s cook as “Mama.” Yes, “Mama” is one of those sage black people who acts as an oracle for the privileged white assholes around her. But problematic tropes don’t keep me from appreciating a good spectacle. It helps that I’m listening to the audio book and the author’s voice is as warm and rich as the bourbon Ward so vividly describes. I’m sure the story’s less charming in print.
I finished the trilogy a week and a half ago and immediately re-started because I was not ready to say good-bye. Not to the characters or that velvety voice filling my apartment with its nearly-erotic twang.
So if you need a light and ridiculous distraction, highly recommend; particularly the audio version. Besides, I need people to giggle with about it.