Book Reviews

Book Review – Whiskey & Roses: A Thriller by Bradley Wright

Alexander King is the son of an oil tycoon from humble beginnings. Having once had the seemingly perfect family life, it was snatched from him when both of his parents were brutally murdered in front of him. Since then, he’s been consumed with avenging their murder. He joined the Navy and became a Seal just to get the training he believes he needs to accomplish that. Now, he’s left the military and using what he’s learned to rid the world of people who slip through the cracks of the system; sort of like a one-man “A-Team” except he has no problem killing them.

He’s just finished up a job when he goes to the launch of his new line of Kentucky Bourbon, King’s Ransom. Coincidentally, that’s also the name of his horse that’s about to run in the Kentucky Derby. At the launch party in Hollywood, he becomes enamored of movie star Natalie Rockwell; so much so that he invites her and a girlfriend back to Kentucky with him for the running of the Derby.

However, his past and present won’t stay quiet. He’s on the CIA’s radar for what he’s been up to and they’d like him to come work for them. The idea is to dangle the information about who killed his parents in front of him in exchange for him working for them. His own sources come up with some information as well, and before the CIA can act, he’s off on a mission of vengeance.

I was reading a later book in this series and it just seemed like so much was missing that I had to come back and start at the beginning. I don’t know if that was beneficial or not. The problem is Whiskey & Roses feels like it was written towards being a screenplay. It has the feel of a film and not a great one. As a hero, Xander King is Mr. Incredible. He does no wrong. Yes, he’s enacting vigilante justice being judge, jury, and executioner of people who “deserve” it. They are cartoonish villains with no redeeming qualities who deserve death, and Xander always avoids killing “innocent” people. Oh, yay.

He’s got a side-kick, of course. Kyle is his closest friend and always goes along with what Xander wants, even when the likely result is death. He’s written more like a puppy following his owner rather than someone with an independent brain. But there are the women, right? Kyle is getting action long before Xander with Natalie’s friend. Xander and Natalie seem to think they are soul mates after spending a whirlwind 48 hours together. They are perfect together. They are handsome and beautiful, and both are perfectly NICE as well. I mean, it’s like the two of them have no faults at all.

Except, of course, that vigilante thing.

It does sort of get in the way once Natalie finds out Xander isn’t all that he seems. Eleven trained killers break into Xander’s Kentucky mansion and he just about single-handedly takes them all out, in his underwear, without a weapon. I expect that suspension of disbelief in an Avengers movie. After going through a near execution at Xander’s mansion, Natalie says she needs time to think before they talk again. What does Xander do that same night? Crawl into bed with another lover. So much for “soul mates.”

The real action takes place after that. Xander’s other side-kick is Sam, short for Samantha. She’s a former MI-6 agent who gets information leading to someone they think is the person who murdered his parents. Doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, he’s a pretty bad dude anyway and deserves to die. This leads to another potential suicide mission.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading too many books lately with heroes who are supposed to be engaging but I don’t end up liking them. I like Michael Connelly’s characters because they aren’t without faults. Harry Bosch has plenty of faults but I like him because he seems all the more real because of them. Even the smart-alecky characters such as Nelson DeMille’s John Corey are written to not be perfect so while they grate on me at times, I enjoy the books. Xander just has little in the way of real character. He’s more of a cartoon: rich, good-looking, generous, perfect. He’s like Bruce Wayne only with no brooding and not as likable.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I read it on Kindle Unlimited, so I’ll give it at least one more book before I decide.

Next book in the series (link): Vanquish by Bradley Wright

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