Devil's Cut by J R Ward

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Devil's Cut by J R Ward

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Denise Ramsay
Reviewed by Denise Ramsay
Summary: As rich and fulsome a book as the bourbon at the heart of the story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2017
Publisher: Piatkus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780349417028

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I feel as though I came to this book under false pretenses. I requested the book thinking I was getting a murder mystery and instead I was thrown head first into a roaring family saga. Indeed, said murder mystery though pivotal in the history of the family, is more of a quiet subplot and catalyst from where to begin the storytelling for the book. And so it was I was met with the Baldwine family and the Bradford Bourbon Company. The initial meeting is a romantic one as the family are presented high up in their castle on the hill - or in this case from their beautiful Kentuckian Bradford Family Estate replete with tea roses, fruit trees and hazy Southern sunshine. It isn't long however before Ward transports the reader from such rolling splendour to the darkest corners of human psychology wherein fathers and sons may share the same lover, brothers are divided by suspicion and jealousy and women are used as trophies and commodities.

While the book may not quite reach the dizzying heights of The Forsyte Saga, it is a more than apt addition to the tradition of the family saga. What Ward presents is a story packed full of familial disharmony and disloyalty, requited and unrequited loves and secrets upon deep dark secrets - as rich and fulsome in plot as the bourbon itself. Devil's Cut is actually the third offering in Ward's Bourbon King series. As a newcomer to the series I did feel like I was having to piece together quite the dysfunctional family tree for the first few chapters, but it didn't take long before I was completely immersed in the privileged and fragile world of the Baldwines. Whilst I didn't feel at all at a disadvantage for having not read the first two instalments, I do think had I done so my anticipation of the third book and subsequent enjoyment of it would have been greater. As a stand alone however, it is a fine example of the guilty pleasure a book can sometimes offer.

It is not an accident that this novel has so many parallels with the great American soap operas - Ward herself is unapologetic in her admission that the series was born of...old school love for the television show Dynasty . Frankly, I think the book is all the better for such influence and the enjoyment as a reader is in suspending belief just long enough to be swept up into the romance and turmoil of the great and the good. Ward is most famous for her hugely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series - pitted as erotic paranormal romance. It is easy to question then how such a writer founded in the fantasy genre and influenced by the dramatic flair of the great Joan Collins and Linda Evans, could possibly bring any depth and substance to the story of the Badwines. It is there if you look for it. The male characters - though essentially caricatures of southern gentlemen - offer a chance to explore the psychology of male power and dominance in all its forms. And while the women in the novel are used ultimately as supporting characters to the men, Ward is clever in writing small episodes for the female characters covering such issues as spousal abuse, miscarriage and marital rights which all quietly highlight the subjugation of the women in this novel. All of that being said I think we would be missing the point as readers if we didn't resolve to enjoy the novel for what it is - a gloriously over the top and thoroughly enjoyable delve through the mansion doors into the tortured and fractured world of the Family Baldwine. I know I certainly enjoyed my time with the Baldwines and think I may in fact revisit books one and two for a little Bourbon Kings aperitif!

If you enjoy reading a family saga then I'd recommend Here's To Us by Elin Hilderbrand. Set in the beautiful Nantucket and looking at the familial legacy of one man named Deacon.

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