Sugar Daddy, by Lisa Kleypas

Sugar Daddy, Lisa Kleypas’s first contemporary romance novel, is entertaining, well-written, and—best of all—free of anachronistic sexual politics. (Many authors* producing both contemporary and historical romances have been known to lose sight of the fact that readers have different expectations for modern characters than they do for historical ones.) Sugar Daddy features an unusually well-adjusted romantic interest, and further separates itself from the majority of romantic melodramas by resisting the urge to subject its heroine to continuous soap opera-worthy suffering.

Liberty Jones grows up in a Texas trailer park, pining after bad boy Hardy Cates, whose wild behavior conceals a streak of kindness. When Hardy leaves town and her mother dies in a car accident, Liberty is left with no money, little education, and the custody of her two-year-old half-sister. She manages to get a beauty school scholarship, which leads to a job in an exclusive Houston salon. There she meets elderly investment mogul Churchill Travis, who, after a horse-riding accident puts him in a wheelchair, offers her a job as his personal assistant. Sparks—both sexual and antagonistic—fly when Liberty meets Churchill’s aloof eldest son, Gage, and things are further complicated when Hardy reappears and Liberty begins to discover secrets in her family’s past.

Sugar Daddy has its bleak moments, but, graded on a curve of other romantic melodramas, Kleypas’s heroine makes out remarkably well—so much so that I spent the entire book waiting for something really God-awful to happen to her, or for her to do something truly stupid. Liberty isn’t raped or attacked. She doesn’t dabble in drugs or alcohol or sleep with abusive men. Following the adventures of a young woman who encounters serious difficulties but faces them in a sane, practical way made was refreshing, but spending the entire novel waiting for the other shoe to drop made for a nerve-wracking reading experience.

Kleypas’s romantic storyline is atypical as well. There are two romantic prospects in Sugar Daddy, and Kleypas makes them almost equally appealing. Hardy and Gage are both rich, they’re both hot, they both truly care about the heroine, and it’s not until their eventual showdown—a scene that most authors would have launched into telenovela territory, but Kleypas handles with surprising restraint—that it becomes clear which guy is the better choice. (Plus, in an amusing twist on the white hat/black hat clue, one guy is involved with oil production, the other with bio-fuels.)

Sugar Daddy’s hot-pink-and-yellow cover art and provocative title clearly mark the book as a romance novel, which might limit its popularity in hardcover. Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that refuses to read romance novels on principle, and another segment that refuses to pay hardback prices for them. This makes me nervous, as I want Kleypas’s foray into contemporary romance writing to be a huge success. A first effort as enjoyable and unusual as this one needs to be followed by many, many sequels.

*We’re looking at you, Judith McNaught.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


robotic princess
robotic princess
03 Apr, 2007 05:37 AM @ version 0

I loved this book. I get so tired of reading books where the heroine just goes from one terrible situation to the next, so this was a wonderful change! And you're right: Judith McNaught TOTALLY would have written that last Gage/Hardy as a soap opera smackdown. (Tears, accusations, etc....) Actually, I think she did write a scene just like it. I'm pretty sure that one of her books features an act of unintentional corporate sabotage, and it does turn into a Very Big Deal.

03 Apr, 2007 05:38 AM @ version 0

This book was a lot of fun, and totally worth the cover price! (Particularly the cover price at Target.)

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