Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Angels' Share - Spotlight

THE ANGELS’ SHARE (New American Library; July 26, 2016; $28.00) is the second book in Ward’s series set in Kentucky’s Bourbon Country that will appeal to readers of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles series and fans of Empire, Scandal, and Downton Abbey.

While bourbon ages in its oak barrels, the barrel expands and contracts due to seasonal changes, which causes a small amount of the liquid to dissipate. That small sacrifice of some of the most sought-after alcohol in the world is called “the angels’ share.” While there is a scientific reason behind this, author J.R. Ward has noted that that process can be applied to all of us. “We are, like fine bourbon, a different product at the end—and there is sacrifice involved.” Such change and sacrifice is also true of the fictional bourbon-making family the Bradfords, first introduced in last year’s bestselling The Bourbon Kings.

On the surface the Bradfords were the perfect family. With a thriving bourbon business that has kept them wealthy for generations, they are part of the Kentucky elite society and the envy of many. But the foundation of their prosperity and influence has crumbled. The business is bankrupt and the family patriarch, beloved by no one, was found dead in the Ohio River. When the investigation threatens to point fingers at someone within the family, secrets and lies begin to unravel.

Ward has created an indelible cast of upstairs/downstairs characters whose lives intersect in a page-turning mix of dark family secrets and double crossings, high stakes business deals, and delicious bad behavior. From the now-emotionally and physically debilitated eldest son, Edward, and his recently-returned prodigal brother, Lane, to their wild child baby sister, Gin, and their painkiller- addled mother, Victoria (“Little V.E.”), the Bradfords—and the characters surrounding them—are intriguing, layered characters created by one of the sharpest writers in contemporary women’s fiction.