>> Monday, December 05, 2011
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.Yep, it's taken me this long to get to this book. Much as I like Lisa Kleypas' historicals, she's not one of the very select group of authors I'd automatically follow in whichever new direction they take. I have nothing against the idea of her writing a contemporary, but the descriptions I heard of the book didn't really appeal. It was basically the fact that the book followed Liberty Jones' life since childhood in a trailer park to Houston high society which gave me pause. It made me think of the really crap glitz and glamour books I used to read growing up, such as Judith Krantz.
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.
I'm glad I did pick this up in the end, though, because although there's a little dollop of Krantz here, this is something different, and much, much better.
We meet Liberty Jones at 11, when she and her mother move into a Texas trailer park. Liberty's dad, who was of Mexican origin, died when she was very young, and she barely remembers him. As the book progresses, we follow Liberty's life as she grows up to womanhood: her friendship with other people in the trailer park, her relationship with her mother and the little sister born when Liberty's in her teens, and most of all, her friendship with Hardy Cates.
Hardy, a couple of years older than Liberty, is the sexy wild boy of the trailer park, but always treats Liberty kindly. As they both grow up, though, those friendly feelings turn into something else. Liberty is ready to take things to the next stage, but Hardy, although he returns her feelings, refuses to. He is a very ambitious young man, determined not to follow his family's steps and get out of town as soon as he possibly can. Loving Liberty would make it impossible to leave, so he just keeps her at arms' length and goes away as soon as he can.
Not soon after that, things take a turn to the worse in Liberty's life, but she's a fighter, and a few years later, beauty degree in hand, she moves to Houston where she manages to get a job in one of the city's best salons. That's where she meets Churchill Travis, a wealthy older man, who becomes her friend. All the other girls in the salon mistakenly believe Churchill is Liberty's sugar daddy, especially when he offers her a job as a live-in assistant, and at first, so does Churchill's sexy oldest son, Gage.
And that is where I'm going to leave the description. In fact, I've probably gone into a bit too much detail already.
I knew going in, from the comments I'd read (which actually led me to pick up the book in the end), that there was a very strong romance here, and that rare beast in romance novels, a very well done love triangle. I liked all that very much, as expected. Liberty's relationship with Gage is very satisfying, and when Hardy shows up after many years (what? No spoiler, it's quite obvious from the start that he'll come back at some point!), Kleypas deals with it in a way I've not ever seen in romance, one which generates some lovely angst.
What I didn't expect is that I'd like Liberty's coming of age story quite as well as I did. I feared I might see it as an obstacle, something to get through before I got to the romance, but I was completely absorbed. Sugar Daddy is narrated by Liberty in the first person, and she's someone I enjoyed spending time with. She's strong and down-to-earth, comfortable in herself but not without some insecurities. She's not perfect: I found her a bit too blithely accepting about some things, like the very conservative nature of the world she moves into, but on the whole, I liked her.
Just as Liberty is not perfect, neither is the book as a whole. The big problem I had with it was that when Liberty moves to Houston and starts having contact with the city's high society, first through her work in the city's top salon and then through her friendship with Churchill, there is a bit too much breathless gushing about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's the little dollop of Krantz I mentioned earlier.
Liberty doesn't really change, she doesn't become someone who aspires to that lifestyle, so it felt very weird when the narrator goes into raptures about the Chihuly candelabra in someone's new mansion, and how Liberty spoke to movie producers, or about the luxurious accessories in Gage's private jet. I guess it might have read better when the book first came out, in 2007, but in late 2011, I couldn't hold back the sneers.
I also didn't appreciate a revelation near the end, which I thought took something away from Liberty's success, after struggling with her very difficult circumstances. I would have much preferred it if she'd attained success all on her own, rather than because of those lucky breaks which end up not being down to luck at all. Oh, well.
MY GRADE: A B.