7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Sugar Daddy

Title: Sugar Daddy

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

Reading Next: Marvel Zombies by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips

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  • Ana
    March 25, 2008 at 7:38 am

    WOW Thea, what a great, thorough review. It makes me want to read it, but I am so weary of Contemps….

  • Sarai
    March 25, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I am dying to tear into this book. I was able to get the hardback for super cheap discount

  • Mollie
    March 25, 2008 at 8:06 am

    I really liked SD. I just got it’s sequel this morning from the library! Looking forward to Hardy’s story!

  • Thea
    March 25, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Ana–you definitely have to read this one! I loved it, Liberty is all kinds of awesome. Such a sweet, pickmeup story.

    Sarai–Awesome! Just so everyone knows, Sugar Daddy is now available in paperback for the standard $7. Oh and I got mine at target so it was a bit cheaper 🙂

    Mollie–I’m such a dolt, I wrote this review not realizing that Blue Eyed Devil hits stores TODAY! Wahoo! I’m excited. Hardy and Haven Travis!

  • Li
    March 25, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Thea – What you said re the “going contemporary stigma” – I think it’s less a preference for historicals, and more a wariness about whether what worked for these authors in historicals (be it language, writing styles, plot devices, characters, etc) would transfer successfully to contemporaries.

    Take Julie Garwood for instance, her historicals were wonderful, but her contemps didn’t have the same magic. Same with Judith McNaught’s recent books (though you could argue she wrote a couple of contemporaries early on as well)…

    And as for the book, I liked it, but I’m holding off on “Blue-Eyed Devil” until I read some reviews!

  • Kate
    March 25, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Agreeing with Li here…I used to read all sorts of Jude Deveraux historicals, and her moderns just don’t work as well (except Sweet Liar, which I loved.) I sort of feel like there are so few really good historical writers that when one goes the contemporary route I’ll end up losing an author that I liked.

    Glad you enjoyed SD 🙂

  • Thea
    March 26, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Thanks li (and kate) for the insight. That makes perfect sense, and definitely warrants some caution on the reader’s part. Especially if there have been other disappointments in the past with other authors.

    In general (just out of curiousity because I’m new to the genre), is there some distinction/separaton from contemporary romance readers/books and historicals? Most romance websites and blogs that I have seen seem to focus on historicals (or to a lesser extent, paranormals) and it is very rarely I see a contemporary or “chick lit” book on there. I take that as there must be some kind of distinction between “romance readers”. Or just in general I get the feeling that these books aren’t held as highly in regard as ‘traditional romances’. (Presumably there are romance authors in the genre that focus on contemporaries without writing historicals at all)…

    Any thoughts?

  • Christine
    March 26, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Great review, Thea!

    I, too, loved Sugar Daddy for all the same reasons you did. I actually read it last year when it came out in hardcover, and was even lucky enough to meet Ms. Kleypas at a book signing in my neighborhood days after it was released. So this story, and Ms. Kleypas, have left an even more wonderful impression on me.

    Your review was a great refresher for me, as I’m about to start reading Blue Eyed Devil!!! I can’t wait to find out how she’s going to make me route for this hero again! If anyone can do it, I know Ms. Kleypas can…..

  • Li
    March 26, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Thea – I should have said also that I would feel the same reserve about contemporary authors moving to historicals… though I can’t really think of any off the top of my head! Oh, I should have pointed out one author who happily writes in both subgenres is Jayne Ann Krentz a.k.a. Amanda Quick. In fact, she writes (fluffy) futuristic romances as well under Jayne Castle name.

    Re your question about whether there are two distinct groups… I can only speak for myself – I read quite a few historicals but very rarely read straight contemporaries (i.e. not a subgenre such as romantic suspense, etc), mainly because I feel the author’s got to be really good without having the historical setting or something *extra* to keep my interest. Ahhh – I’m not making much sense, I hope you sort of see what I mean.

    But big names in the field are Susan Elizabeth Philips, Rachel Gibson, err… have to think about this – you can tell I’m not a big fan. If you’re not talking straight contemps, then the line is very blurred, you have Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie (? never read her myself), Suzanne Brockmann – all who pop up quite frequently on romance review sites.

    It is a trend thing though, I mean 5-10 yrs ago, you couldn’t find any paranormals in the romance section, now you have vampires and werewolves crowding the shelves 😉

    Gosh – super-long post!

  • Thea
    March 27, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Li 🙂 Wow! Thanks for the info. Hmm, I’m not much into the romantic suspense/crime solving sort of books, but I think I might give a few of the contemporary romance authors you mention a try! I know exactly what you mean about the extra sumthin-sumthin’ to keep your attention in certain genres though (for example I’m not a fan of crime/thrillers, but throw it in an urban fantasy setting or outer space and I’m putty in the author’s hands!).

    It certainly does seem to be a trend thing, what with the paranormal creatures that are the rage now.

    On a random note, I find it so interesting that just the order of the words can make such a difference in the type of book something is (e.g. “historical romance” versus “romantic historical” or “paranormal romance” vs. “romantic paranormal”).

    And there is a great review of Blue Eyed Devil up at amazon:


  • Kate
    March 27, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Thea and Li,

    I probably should have clarified in my previous comment that not every historical writer who turns contemporary turns out badly, but my two experiences (Deveraux and Kleypas) were less than exemplary, though I know I’m in the minority about Sugar Daddy. And Jude Deveraux is completely capable of giving us fabulous reads in any time period, she just hasn’t been recently (and here I feel bad in light of her recent personal tragedies) and had been moving in the contemporary/crime-solving/light paranormal route since the early 2000s-ish.

    I don’t particularly find that there’s a split or a rift, whatever, between the genres; I think it generally has to do with the readers’ preferences. I tend to prefer historicals but generally I’ll read anything if the writing is quality (and really, I’ll read some crap too but I won’t be happy about it.) I think you can definitely see a few trends in the last few years: crime-solving detective mystery/romances on the rise, more paranormal in all sub-genres than I’ve ever seen, and this mass exodus of historical writers turning contemporary post-Bridget Jones (my opinion). I don’t necessarily think there’s a hierarchy of romances, so to speak, but it’s all very trend-based, and I’m sure a lot of authors will go where the sales are regardless of their specialties. Does that sound jaded? Maybe I’m tired.

    In terms of contemporaries I’m a big fan of Jennifer Cruisie (particularly the books she writes without Bob Mayer but those are good too) and Nora Roberts trilogies. Rachel Gibson I’m not so hot on, but I could have picked a bad one to try out.

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