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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book Review: The Angels' Share (Book #2 in the Bourbon Kings series) by J.R. Ward

Right off the bat, I have to say that despite the fact that I think The Angels' Share has a lot of the same problems that The Bourbon Kings had, I actually liked The Angels' Share even more than I ultimately liked The Bourbon Kings. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure exactly why that is. In many ways, this book didn’t really introduce any new storylines; it pretty much just continued the storylines that were featured in The Bourbon Kings. The main storyline that J.R. Ward continued to focus on in this book was the aftermath of William Baldwine’s death, and the family having to deal with all of the debt that they’re in. While my thoughts on Ward not really introducing more subplots into the series as it continues with future books may change, I honestly really liked that Ward pretty much just continued the storylines from the first book. I think that really helped add to the soap opera quality that this series has, which is what drew me to The Bourbon Kings, and made me want to read it when I discovered that book. Plus, it makes a lot of sense to me that Ward didn’t just completely move on from the subplots and the various conflicts that were featured heavily in The Bourbon Kings, since it was established early on in this book that it had only been about a week since Lane had returned to his family’s estate in order to check on the family’s cook, Miss Aurora Toms, who had had a health scare at the beginning of The Bourbon Kings.

One of the things that I definitely loved the most about The Angels' Share is that I felt like J.R. Ward did a much better job of writing this book in such a way that it felt like much more of an ensemble story compared to The Bourbon Kings. The Bourbon Kings really focused primarily Lane, and Lizzie to a certain extent, since she’s the woman he loves and wants to be with, and while they are two of my favorite characters from the series, as I was reading The Bourbon Kings the first time that I read it; I just found myself wishing that Ward had been better about giving all of the other characters more “screen time” in that book. When it comes to The Angels' Share, Ward really seemed to do more with the character Sutton Smythe by having chapters where Sutton was interacting with people outside of the Bradford family, such as her father and various people that she does business with. I really liked seeing Sutton get some more character development beyond her relationship with the Bradford family in this book, but it did feel rather random to me that out of all the characters in the series that Ward could have focused on some more in this book, she chose to focus on Sutton a little bit more. That being said, I’m not complaining about Sutton getting a little bit more character development in this book. It just seemed rather odd to me that Sutton was one of the characters that Ward chose to develop a little bit further in this book.

Speaking of character development in this book that felt rather random, I really felt like Ward was trying to add some depth to Gin towards the end of the book by having her show concern for Amelia (Her daughter with Samuel T.) and actually acting like a mother to her after pretty much completely ignoring Amelia for what sounds like her entire life, if I understand correctly. I honestly didn’t entirely understand what exactly caused the sudden shift in Gin’s attitude towards Amelia after she leaves her boarding school rather suddenly, and tells Gin that she wants to go to a school that’s closer to home. However, I was rather intrigued by Gin’s behavior when she sold the diamond from the engagement ring that Richard Pford had given her for gold that was supposed to be given to Amelia in the event that she died. Perhaps I missed something, but it really made me wonder if Gin was afraid that Richard is going to kill her, or if she has something else up her sleeve that will be expanded upon in the next book in the series; which is apparently going to be called The Devil’s Cut. Regardless, I found that all rather intriguing, and I really liked seeing Gin display at least a little bit more depth in this book, especially in regards to Amelia.

One of the biggest problems that I think both The Bourbon Kings and this book has is that for a series that’s essentially a soap opera in the form of a book, the characters are for the most part rather black and white. The characters in this series don’t really have any shades of gray to them, and there aren’t really any characters that fit the mold of a character that people can love to hate. When it comes to the characters in this series, I feel like they’re either the kind of character that you like, or you just absolutely hate them. Chantal is a character that I think could have possibly been a character that readers love to hate, if she were written a little differently and had some genuine depth to her; but ultimately she’s sadly just a rather shallow, annoying and unlikable character. As far as I’m concerned, Chantal deserves the disdain and frustration that the other characters, namely Lane and Lizzie, display towards her.

While I’ve always believed that Lane is ultimately one of the good guys in the Bourbon Kings series, he’s definitely capable of doing morally questionable things, so in a sense, I suppose it could be argued that Lane is kind of a character that people can love to hate. After all, at one point in the book, Lane manipulates his best friend, Jeff into helping him with his family’s financial problems. However, I’m very hesitant to say that Lane truly fits the mold of being the kind of character that people love to hate. Lane is ultimately a pretty good guy, who I’d say is simply acting out of desperation at times throughout the series. That being said, I can’t say that I entirely blame him for acting desperate at times, given all of the financial problems that his family is having.

While Ward didn’t really introduce any new storylines in this book, she did give Lane, Edward, Gin and Max’s mother, Virginia, a more formal introduction in this book by having Virginia come out of the drug induced haze that she usually spends her days in, and Virginia attended William Baldwine’s wake. Personally, I really love that Ward had Virginia be physically present in this book, after having her pretty much just be a character that didn’t have a physical presence in The Bourbon Kings; and people only talked about her in that book.

Max also returned home for William’s wake under somewhat mysterious circumstances. It was definitely great to see Max have a physical presence in the present day scenes in this book, after having only been featured in flashbacks in The Bourbon Kings. Sadly, neither Virginia nor Max were featured in The Angels' Share all that much, which I found rather disappointing. I was especially disappointed about the fact that Max wasn’t actually featured in The Angels’ Share all that much since the plot summary that’s on the cover of the book made it sound like Max returning home was going to be an incredibly important plot point in the book, and that Max was going to be prominently featured in this book. Ultimately, I felt like Max coming home to visit his family wasn’t treated with the slightest bit of grandeur in terms of how his return was handled from the standpoint of the writing for the book; and instead it just seemed like Ward was treating Max coming home for the first time in years as more of an afterthought than anything else. I really hope that Max is going to be featured a lot more in The Devil’s Cut.

Ward also kind of built upon the idea of there being somewhat of a Sutton/Edward/Shelby love triangle in this book, but she unfortunately didn’t do very much with that subplot at all. That subplot barely seemed to be a blip on the radar when it comes to all of the storylines and subplots that are featured in The Angels' Share. Edward is definitely one of my favorite characters in the series, but I really felt like he was kind of stringing Sutton and Shelby along by sleeping with both of them in this book. Sure, Edward only has sex with each of them once in this book, and he’s not actually in a relationship with either of them; but it still seems wrong of Edward to sleep with both Sutton and Shelby, and then not be totally upfront with both of them about that. That being said, regardless of the fact that that storyline kind of frustrated me, I’m still really looking forward to seeing how that storyline progresses in The Devil’s Cut.

When it comes to what this book’s biggest weakness is, it’s definitely that while Ward really takes the various subplots and the characters that were first introduced in The Bourbon Kings in some really interesting directions, she ultimately barely scratches the surface when it comes to exploring those new developments in the various subplots and each of the characters’ character development in this book. That’s especially the case when it comes to Max returning home for the first time in years, and Max having an actual presence in the series. The fact that Ward barely scratches the surface in terms of the new plot developments that are featured in this book really makes The Angels’ Share feel like a sampler platter of what could potentially be a lot of really interesting character and plot development that ultimately doesn’t truly satisfy the reader’s appetite.

All things considered, despite the fact that The Angels’ Share has a lot of the same problems that I think The Bourbon Kings has, I really did love this book even more than the first book. Ward took the various subplots in some really interesting and exciting new directions in this book that left me really looking forward to the release of the third book in the series, The Devil’s Cut. While this series still suffers from a lack of truly complex characters, I do appreciate the character development that both Sutton and Gin got in this book. I felt like the shift in Gin’s attitude towards Amelia came about rather randomly, but it’s definitely one of the things that got me really excited to read The Devil’s Cut when it’s released. The cliffhanger that The Angels’ Share ends on also contributed a lot to my excitement and anticipation for the third book, but Gin’s actions towards the end of the book is honestly the main thing that has gotten me excited for the release of The Devil’s Cut.

After reading both The Bourbon Kings and The Angels’ Share, I have pretty much come to accept that the Bourbon Kings series is most likely never going to be exactly what I want it to be in terms of it basically being a soap opera in the form of a book series. However, I’m still invested in the characters and the series in general for the most part; so unless anything drastically horrible happens as the Bourbon Kings series continues with more books in the future, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m truly invested in this series for the long haul.

That being said, my final score for The Angels’ Share is 8 out of 10.

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