When awkward teenager Liberty Jones meets self-assured, loner Hardy Cates her life is changed forever. Liberty and her mother have just moved to a trailer home in Welcome, Texas. Hardy lives in the same trailer park with his mother and three siblings. Both the Cates the Jones families don't have much in the way of money, but their ties to their family make their lives complete. Liberty's mother works hard to support her daughter on her own, and when she becomes pregnant, Liberty steps in to help shoulder the extra burden. Likewise, Hardy also comes from a single parent home (his father is in prison) and he works hard outside the home to provide extra income for his family.
Liberty is going through puberty when she first meets Hardy and she falls for him hard. He is her constant advocate, helping her with tests, teaching her to play basketball, helping her see her own inner and outer beauty. But Hardy wants nothing more than to one day leave the sheltered trailer park life behind him and make something of his life. He is determined to not wind up like his father and he knows that falling in love with Liberty will only make it harder for him to go. To both of their dismay, he refuses to get involved with her and he walks away from Welcome and Liberty without turning back. Shortly after, Liberty loses her mother in an accident and is left to raise her two-year-old sister alone.
Forced to act as a single mother to her sister Carrington, Liberty makes sacrifice after sacrifice to ensure they are both fed, healthy, and happy. She sets out on a career path as a hair stylist and moves with Carrington to Houston to work at a prestigious salon. Once there, she meets Churchill Travis, a successful businessman who the other stylists tell her would make a perfect "sugar daddy." Liberty has never considered such an arrangement, but when Churchill takes a personal interest in her and offers her a live-in position as his assistant, she lets herself be swayed for the sake of her sister. Living with Churchill will give Carrington opportunities Liberty could never afford on her own. Soon Liberty has found love, happiness, and contentment in the Travis home and things are going well. But when Hardy steps back into her life after nearly 10 years, she has to decide if she's willing to sacrifice the happiness she's found for the future she'd always dreamed of.
I was skeptical when I found out Lisa Kleypas, one of the leading authors of historical romances, was going to be writing a contemporary novel. I mean, her historicals are so good--why ruin a good thing? Well, I'm here to admit that I was wrong. I forgive her for going the route of contemporary, and if they're all going to be this good, I say keep at it. Sugar Daddy was "unputdownable." I read it in six hours and stayed up until 3 in the morning to do so (and I have to go to work in the morning). But there was simply no other choice. I became absorbed in the characters, in the story, in the outcome and I just had to know how things were going to work out. Liberty Jones is a well-drawn character who develops from a shy, awkward teenager into a self-assured, confident guardian to her sister. She puts herself second to ensure that Carrington is well cared for and even sacrifices her own love life for the good of her family. When she finally finds someone to love, I was so happy for her, but then Hardy stepped back into her life and I had to wonder if she'd made the right choice. Hardy Cates was the stereotypical first love, but more than that he helped Liberty find her own womanhood. When she felt awkward and uncomfortable he put her at ease, and when she went through hard times, he picked her up. I wanted things to work for them, but at the same time it took Liberty so long to move on that I almost resented the easy way in which he walked back into her life. I've read enough romances that I can usually guess how they'll end (happily, of course), but Sugar Daddy's ending was a pleasant surprise for me. This story ranged from laugh out loud funny (the emu story) to heartwrenchingly romantic, and every emotion in between. Pick up Sugar Baby when you're in the mood for a stellar contemporary romance that will keep you on your toes, but make sure you have a few hours to spare because you won't want to put it down.