by Lisa Kleypas, contemporary (2008)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-35163-2
Sugar Daddy is Lisa Kleypas' debut mainstream women's fiction. I know this is a mainstream story because the heroine has sex with other people apart from the designated hero as she goes through life without being struck down by the lightning bolt of moral righteousness. This is a romance story, if you ask me, only this one is structured as women's fiction rather than a typical romance novel.
Shortly after the death of her father when she was four, Liberty Jones and her mother moved to a trailer in Welcome, Texas. Poor Liberty, whose features are recognizably Mexican, doesn't find complete welcome though as some folks are bigoted towards anyone who does not share the same skin color and religion as they. Nonetheless, Liberty is very similar to a typical heroine of this author in that she doesn't actually seem to experience any genuine problem in this story. The author glosses over Liberty's problems or have them solved easily, either through Liberty's apparently natural state of utter perfection or by the actions of a mysterious benefactor whose identity is easily guessed if you have read "poor girl does good from rags to riches" stories of this kind before.
Liberty has no money to attend beauty school. Here comes a mysterious benefactor. Heck, Liberty manages to get her late mother a better coffin without any effort on her part. Ms Kleypas says that Liberty and her sister Carrington have been unlucky so they are due for some good karma after the death of their mother, but I wish the author has shown me more of Liberty's hard knocks. I don't really think Liberty's life is that bad, to be honest. Sure, it's not perfect and the family could use more money, but Liberty and her mother easily find a pretty good support network of friends and neighbors shortly after their arrival at Welcome. In many ways, they are more fortunate than most people who are in their predicament.
Heck, Liberty even fancies herself in love with a young man three years older than her. Hardy Cates is, in my opinion, a completely unrealistic character who speaks and acts more like a wish fulfillment fantasy than a realistic seventeen-year old young man. Which young man you know will speak in such a manner?
"Hannah, you can't push someone to do something like that before they're ready. You let Liberty deal with it in her own time."
For a long time, I'm starting to believe that Sugar Daddy is going to be some kind of Mary Sue story, where the perfect heroine overcomes some superficially described hardships by the virtue of her amazing kindness and intelligence as well as by the fact that pretty much every man she encounters adores her. However, the last third or so of the story is a complete surprise, if only because I am so smug by that point, convinced that I know how the story will turn out. Okay, the revelations that come out aren't surprising, but who Liberty ends up with and how the story wraps itself up following the revelations are not part of the formula. As a result, I'm pleasantly pulled out of my sleepy daze by the last third or so and I can only wish that the rest of the story has been written in such a manner.
Sugar Daddy does hold some surprises, at least at the very late part of the story, but for the most part it is a pleasantly readable but predictable tale of a woman who breezes through some hardships in life to rise on top. I've read better, but still, this one could have been worse.
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