Review of Sugar Daddy, by Lisa Kleypas:
Sugar Daddy is Kleypas' first contemporary novel, and it is quite good.
Liberty Jones is a young teenager whose family has just moved to a trailer park in Welcome, Texas. There Liberty falls for Hardy Cates, a gorgeous and helpful high school graduate. She and Hardy feel a seriously deep connection, but eventually he leaves town to pursue his own life. We follow Liberty as she grows up, raises her little sister, and pursues a career. When she changes jobs, she finds a new romance, and everything goes smoothly until Hardy re-appears.
Both heroes are great--they're typical alpha males, sweet but controlling. There's really not a big difference between the two men, except what Kleypas almost artificially imposes. And those differences seem to stem from the fact that one was born rich and the other poor.
Liberty is a wonderful heroine and an entertaining narrator. The novel is told in the first-person, in Liberty's easy voice. She's strong and caring, sharp and honest about her emotions, and yet is endearingly protective of those emotions and of those she loves.
The story of Liberty as a teenager in Welcome reads like poetry. I did not feel like I was reading a romance novel, but rather the story of a girl's life. Liberty's restrained relationship with Hardy was believable and had me praying for them every second. As Liberty leaves Welcome, her second major relationship was also well-written, and I couldn't help but adore the couple.
Unfortunately, a lot about the novel pissed me off. It starts going downhill as soon as Hardy leaves, and gets worse once Liberty leaves Welcome. The secondary characters in Houston are nowhere near as rich and believable as those in Welcome. Things improve when Liberty meets her second hero, but the interval is too long. Also, the novel is too predictable.
So this is a tough novel to grade. It has a great heroine and two adorable heroes, as well as phenomenally good story-telling in the beginning. Because of its many flaws, I'm going to go ahead and give it a B. As a first attempt in a new sub-genre, it's pretty darn good.