Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Romance (contemporary), Fiction
Stand alone or series: First book in what looks to be a new series by Kleypas
Summary: (From amazon.com)
Liberty Jones has dreams and determination that will take her far away from Welcome, Texas-if she can keep her wild heart from ruling her mind. Hardy Cates sees Liberty as completely off-limits. His own ambitions are bigger than Welcome, and Liberty is a complication he doesn’t need. But something magical and potent draws them to each other, in a dangerous attraction that is stronger than both of them.When Hardy leaves town to pursue his plans, Liberty finds herself alone with a young sister to raise. Soon Liberty is under the spell of a billionaire tycoon-a Sugar Daddy, one might say. But the relationship goes deeper than people think, and Liberty begins to discover secrets about her own family’s past.
Why did I read the book: Kristie over at Ramblings on Romance recently reviewed this one, and having no experience with “contemporaries” I decided to give it a try. Plus, I have read and enjoyed some of Ms. Kleypas’ historical romances, so what the hey.
I was pleasantly surprised by how great a book this is. Push me over with a feather and color me happy I was surprised by this one! From the Amazon reviews, and gauging from comments on other websites, there seems to be some stigma against “going contemporary” in the romance genre. I can’t imagine why, if the books are as solid as Ms. Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy. Is romance is more romantic when it is historical (and therefore more escapist)? I don’t know. But I digress.
Liberty Jones is a small town girl growing up in a town called Welcome, Texas (right off the bat, these names are boss). She lives in a trailer with her pretty young mother, and all they have in the world is each other. Liberty’s father died when she was a young girl, in an accident on an oil rig. As for extended family, all Liberty knows is her momma doesn’t like to talk about them. But this never bothered Liberty, because all she and her mom ever really needed was each other. When her mom gets pregnant (from a deadbeat boyfriend), however, Liberty is ecstatic. Her little sister Carrington is born, and is the love of Liberty’s life. She takes care of the baby as if Carrington were her own, showing her more affection and time than even her mother does. Carrington becomes Liberty’s anchor in her turbulent life. Especially after Hardy Cates.
When they first move to Welcome, 14 year old Liberty gets a first glimpse of Hardy Cates—who will become Liberty’s childhood crush and first love. As the saying goes, the first cut is the deepest. Hardy Cates is ambitious, and is Going Places. He leaves Liberty behind, despite the undeniable pull they feel towards each other, because Hardy doesn’t want to turn into his father, and he needs to get out of Welcome and never look back. Just like that, Hardy Cates leaves Liberty’s life.
Shortly after this blow, an 18 year old Liberty suffers another—her mother is killed in a car crash, leaving both her daughters behind. Liberty manages to retain custody of Carrington, but times are hard. Since her mother did not have any life insurance, and Liberty does not have a job, there are bills that need to be paid. The struggle Liberty goes through to keep Carrington, to feed and care for them both, to find a job and still keep her head up are incredibly endearing. Liberty has always wanted to go to beauty school, and by some divine benevolence is able to secure a scholarship to one of Texas’ best.
Upon earning her degree, Liberty and Carrington (now ready to start preschool) leave Welcome behind and move to Houston. Ms. Kleypas’ rich detail and careful prose lovingly brings the city to life on the page—her descriptions of Houston, from the mannerisms of the people to the temperament of the weather, make the city tangible and very real. Liberty lands a job at a top salon, and is introduced to Mr. Churchill Travis, middle aged billionaire and the best ‘sugar daddy’ catch of them all, according to Liberty’s coworkers. Churchill immediately singles out Liberty, and requests for her. Over many manicure sessions, Liberty and Churchill become good friends. (No they don’t sleep together, and Liberty doesn’t take him as her “sugar daddy”, don’t worry). Such good friends, in fact, that Churchill asks Liberty to work for him as his new personal assistant, offering her a hefty salary, and a place for her and Carrington to live in his mansion. Liberty accepts, and her life is thrown into an entirely new direction as she meets Churchill’s family—most notably, his eldest son Gage (also a successful businessman and tycoon), who has some kind of grudge against Liberty from the start. (you see where this is going, right?)
This book isn’t so heavy a romance as it is just a plain good old fashioned story. Lisa Kleypas writes a remarkable, down to earth and vulnerable character in Liberty. Her struggles with growing up, with her ethnicity, with money and raising her baby sister, all rang true to me and had me rooting for Liberty the whole way. I love the details and descriptions of everything, whether it be the sweet texture of red velvet cake during a southern summer, or driving the streets of Houston at night. I have never been to Texas (outside of the airport at Dallas Ft. Worth), but I feel like I intimately know some alluring part of it because of Ms. Kleypas’ beautiful writing.
The only major issue I had with the style of the book was the early voice for Liberty. Ms. Kleypas writes this book in the first person, which can be a lot trickier than it seems. Liberty begins the story as a young, awkward girl of 14. Her ‘voice’ (the narration), however, feels as though it belongs to an older woman. Having read some of Ms. Kleypas’ historical romance novels before, I am familiar with her signature style—and early on in Sugar Daddy, it feels as though an older, more experienced Lisa Kleypas is narrating, not a shy teen. As the story progresses and Liberty grows older, however, Liberty grows into the voice and everything clicks into place.
I loved this book, I loved the choices that Liberty made, and I can completely agree with the guy she picked. As I know I’ve said before, I am loathe to read about love triangles, but this one is mercifully brief, and ends decisively. If this is any indication as to how contemporary romance works, I’ll gladly buy more.
Notable Quotes/Parts: All of the interactions between Liberty and her smart, lovable baby sister Carrington are just wonderful. In one scene, Liberty comes home with a date to watch a movie at her place. Carrington has a different idea for how the night should go, and she puts her lucky penny in her mouth then swallows it! Eek.
Additional Thoughts: There’s a saying that you should “write what you know”—and it became abundantly clear to me while reading this novel that Ms. Kleypas has some strong connection to Texas. Sure enough, after reading her bio it seems she lived there for some time.
Also, did you know Lisa Kleypas was Miss Massachusetts in the Miss America Pageant in 1985? Pretty cool.
Verdict: Wonderful book that I will keep and definitely reread. I can’t wait for her next in the series, Blue Eyed Devil, in stores March 25, 2008!
Rating: 7 Very Good
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