Pub Date: 2008 (orig. pubbed as a hardcover in 2007)
Length: 418 pages
FTC: Purchased used
Why it was in the TBR: Wanted to try Kleypas's contemporary debut
I've been meaning to read this book since it came out in hardcover back in 2007. Of course, I rarely buy romances in hardcover, so I waited until I found a used paperback copy at the local thrift store. And then it sat neglected on the shelf for another couple years. Ah well.
I pulled this out thinking it would match this month's contemporary romance theme. Turns out I was wrong. This isn't my idea of a contemporary romance. It's more of a women's fiction/straight fiction novel. The focus isn't on a main couple, something I need to have to qualify a book as a romance.
Told in the first person from Liberty's point of view, this book reminded me of Larry McMurtry's books. Not sure why other than being set in Texas, but it definitely didn't feel like a romance—from the very first page.
The first 2/3 of the book follows Liberty's life from her early teens to her early twenties. We watch as she goes from a bookish teen to a surrogate parent for her baby sister. All the while, earning her own way in the world with hard work and determination. That determination eventually lands her a job working for a rich older man who hires her as his assistant and allows Liberty and her sister to move in to his mansion.
Which sets the stage for the last 1/3 of the novel where Liberty and her employer's oldest son, Gage, go from adversaries to lovers. Just in time for Liberty's childhood flame to reappear out of nowhere to stir things up.
The writing is lovely, filled with emotion and angst. I'm sure I'm not going to forget this book anytime soon. But what didn't work for me was the fact that we spend the first 2/3 of the book with Liberty falling in love with Hardy, pining for Hardy. Then the last 1/3 with Gage. The "love triangle" wasn't a triangle at all. Hardy's reappearance felt a little off. I get that the author wanted Liberty to fully get over her childhood love in order to embrace her future, but this just felt hinky.
Lots of emotion, interesting characters, but I felt a bit cheated by the fact that this clearly isn't a romance. Not sure if that's the publisher's fault or my own to be honest.
My Grade: B-
The (not quite accurate) blurb:
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.