Saturday, May 14, 2016

#21 [2016/CBR8] "Sugar Daddy" by Lisa Kleypas

I have continued with my out-of-order reading of Lisa Kleypas's contemporary romance novels surrounding the lives and loves of the wealthy, Texas, Travis family. Sugar Daddy (2010) is pretty unique and not at all what I was expecting--Kleypas deliberately failed to follow the tried and true romance protocol.

Liberty Jones grew up in the small, dusty town of Welcome, Texas. Her father died on an oil rig when she was younger, and her mother hasn't has the best taste in men since. When Liberty is a teenager, her younger sister, Carrington, is born, and Liberty takes on much of the mothering. The most prominent person in Liberty's young life is Hardy Cates. Hardy is a couple of years older than Liberty, and a neighbor in her trailer park. He often watches out for her. Liberty falls deeply in love with Hardy as only a teenager can do, and Hardy eventually appears to return the feeling. However, he is so eager to get out of town, he doesn't start anything with Liberty because he's afraid of being tied down.

Not long after Hardy leaves, Liberty's mother is killed in a car accident, leaving Liberty as the sole caretaker of her toddler sister. Liberty manages to support herself and her sister by becoming a hair stylist. She meets Churchill Travis when he comes in as a customer. He seems preoccupied by her and the two become friends. Despite the appearance of the wealthy, older man taking an interest in the poor, young, and beautiful woman, their relationship remains platonic. However, Liberty eventually meets Churchill's son, Gage, and that's when the sparks fly.

The book moves on to a genuine love triangle between Liberty, Hardy, and Gage. Now, I knew who Liberty would end up with because I read these books out of order, and I'd already read the love story of the loser in this story, but both Hardy and Gage are natural romantic heroes and good matches for Liberty. I am curious what I would have thought of this book if I didn't already know how it would end.

The main reason this books strays so far from the typical romance novel, is that we don't meet Gage Travis (the real love interest) until the book is almost seventy percent finished. Hardy Cates is introduced early and with all the descriptive glamour we expect from our romantic heroes. Liberty and Hardy are truly close as they grow up, and they would make a fantastic couple. We not only meet Hardy Cates first, but we also get to know him much better. Many of the more negative Amazon reviews did not want Liberty to end up with Gage, and I can see how readers want Liberty to end up with the character they knew first and better. In addition, Gage is really unlikable when he first meets Liberty. He has to improve a lot in a very short period of time. As for me, I knew Liberty couldn't end up with Hardy because I'd read Blue-Eyed Devil, but I kept checking to see how many CD's I'd gone through and wondering when the real love interest was going to show up.

Liberty is a likable character who works hard and loves her sister. However, I was a little disappointed that Hardy could go out and become a powerful businessman, and Liberty only manages to become a hairdresser with the anonymous help of Churchill. It was even more disappointing when she became Churchill's assistant. Really? That's all she could aspire to? And now she's one hundred percent dependent on Churchill. It's a good thing he turns out to be nice.

Now, there is only one more thing I feel I have to mention, and that's because this subject came up in another Cannonball review: Gage Travis buckled Liberty's seatbelt when they went out on a date. I was listening on CD and I almost rewound it because I thought I'd heard wrong. Fortunately he only does it once, but is this the new thing? Does it show caring and protectiveness? I still think it's weird, and I was surprised to see it in a Kleypas book.

Sugar Daddy spends much more time on Liberty's coming-of-age and her formative years. The story of Liberty losing her virginity felt especially realistic and sad in a way that you rarely see in romance novels. However, as a romance novel, it does not quite work, because there is such limited time between the two main love interests. This may have bothered me less because I knew from the beginning that Liberty and Hardy wouldn't get together. Although this wasn't as compelling or romantic as Blue-Eyed Devil, I enjoyed it.

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