Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas ****

Well, I guess it's a cold day in hell and pigs are flying - cuz after reading 7 - count 'em, 7 - books by Lisa Kleypas and being pretty darn sure I did NOT like her writing, I have now read one I liked pretty good!

To be honest, it's completely different in every way from the historical romances of hers I read, and I listened to it on audio book, so it's not really that surprising after all.

Sugar Daddy is the first in a series of contemporary women's fiction by Kleypas. The difference between women's fiction and romance is pretty subtle, but there are 2 components of romance - one is the focus on the main protaganists' relationship, and the other is the HEA (happily ever after). What separates this book from the straight romance genre is the relationship - this book is more about the heroine's life and it's not clear until the very end who gets the girl in the end!

In Sugar Daddy, we have a heroine - Liberty Jones - and the story of her life from about age 15 - 25. Told in first person POV, Liberty talks about growing up poor in east Texas, not far from Houston. Her mother is raising her by herself, her father - Mexican American, from whom Liberty got her dark hair and coloring - deceased. They live in trailer parks and scrape by on the meager income her mother makes, with occasional infusions of cash that Liberty never asks about.

Diana Jones has a shiftless, no good live-in boyfriend that she eventually runs off, just before she reveals she's pregnant. After having her second daughter, Liberty's half sister Carrington, Diana apparently goes through some post-partum depression during which Liberty bonds with her sister. When Diana is killed in a car accident, Liberty gets custody and becomes Carrington's legal guardian, raising her.

Hardy Cates is a local boy from another trailer park family. Liberty has a crush on him from the start, even though he's a few years older. He becomes her hero from the first time he manages to save her - and he continues, even after he leaves the little town to make it on his own. He admits right before leaving that he's always wanted her too, but knew if he gave in to his desire for her, he would never leave her and never realize his goals. So she keeps him in her heart as her own true love goal, even as she dates and even sleeps with others.

Liberty meets Churchill Travis at her hair salon job, becoming his personal manicurist and then hairdresser. Although her friends tell her about "sugar daddies", she doesn't have that kind of relationship with him - it's more a father/daughter kind of relationship. She confides in him things she's never told anyone else, including her love for Hardy. He gives her a job as his personal assistant, and insists she and Carrington live with him in his River Oaks mansion.

Because the story takes place in Houston, where I lived for more than half my life, I'm familiar with most of the places she mentions - I always like reading about places I'm familiar with because I can really visualize where things are happening. I guess I should just get over her writing about Katy, Texas, being north of Houston when it's due west and not a bit north!!

When Liberty first meets Churchill's son Gage, Gage is suspicious and not a little angry - assuming that Liberty is a gold-digger, sleeping with his father. But their relationship changes over time, slowly, as they realize they are attracted to each other - which was apparently part of Gage's trouble with her right at the start. Right after they consummate the relationship, though, Hardy Cates comes back into Liberty's life - and she's conflicted. She's still drawn to her childhood hero, even while she's falling in love with Gage.

Herein lies the split from straight romance to womens' fiction. For one thing, Hardy is gone from most of the story. As soon as he leaves the trailer park, he exists only in her mind where she compares him to other men - he doesn't contact her in any way for years. Although other romance novels do have separations, they don't introduce a second candidate for the heroine's heart! For another, in straight romance, there's no question of who the hero of the book is - the one that gets the girl is made clear throughout.

The conflict is now clear - is the love Liberty has held for Hardy strong enough to carry them through, or has she now matured and left that childhood dream behind? But there are other conflicts that arise too - who is Carrington's real father? and... how does Churchill figure into Liberty's and Carrington's lives?

The narrator was pretty good - she managed to develop consistent, distinct voices for each character, even though I didn't particulary like all the voices (her own voice was so young that some of her male character voices just didn't work for me). If I could offer her a critique, I would say she needs to re-think her pauses after commas - she somehow manages to make some of the phrases seem like completely different sentences even though they are related to the previous phrase. An example would be if you used a comma between adjectives, and she paused enough for you to think it was a period instead - a cold, brisk day sounding like A cold. Brisk day. (that's not a direct quote from the book, just an example, by the way!)

All in all, I give it 4 stars - I'm pretty surprised I liked it, although I should not be. After all, I got it and listened to it, even knowing how I feel about Kleypas's writing. I just kept reading about the series and was too curious not to give it a try, since I could get it free from the library!


Cindy W said...

WOW!!!!!!!!! Pigs are flying!!!!!!!! So glad you liked this one, I loved this series.

Carpoolqueen (formerly known as Beth) said...

Yay! Auntie Rowena likes Lisa Kleypas. Yay!