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Lisa Kleypas is best known for the steamy historical novels she's written for more than 20 years, including the vastly popular Wallflower series. Her latest book, Sugar Daddy (Mar., St. Martin's), is
a departure from her usual fare, however: It's a contemporary romance set in Texas featuring a heroine named Liberty.
Also, in another first for Kleypas, the story is told in the first person. She says, "It was instantly clear that telling the story from Liberty's point of view gave the book an honesty and directness that I couldn't achieve nearly as well in the third person." Readers experience the heroine's ups and downs right alongside her, rather than through a narrator's eyes. "The tone of the book," Kleypas says, "is very much like Liberty is a good friend sitting at the kitchen table and telling you her story."
Sugar Daddy's Liberty Jones is a smart, hardworking girl living in a trailer park and pinching pennies in Welcome, Texas. When her mother dies, she takes over raising her younger sister, goes to cosmetology school and gets a job in a fancy salon in Houston. A wealthy older customer offers her a job as his personal assistant, but his handsome son thinks she's a gold digger, and their fighting sets off sparks. Add some revelations about their families' past connections and the sudden appearance of Liberty's unrequited hometown crush to the mix and you have the makings of a fun and exciting story.
Switching from a historical to a contemporary perspective was easy, Kleypas says. She discovered that she had "a distinct contemporary voice," which she says was "a relief, since I didn't want my historical roots showing." But readers will find
a lot of the well-loved elements of her previous books -- alpha males, fiery relationships, sexy love scenes, an emotionally intense story -- translated successfully to modern-day Texas. "The story is so strongly anchored in Texas," says Kleypas, a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State, "that I'm not sure it would work anywhere else." Though definitely a romance, Sugar Daddy educates readers about how Texas became the emu capital of the world, why tornadoes are drawn to trailer parks and what meal to serve a Texas man if you want him to propose.
While she found the challenge of writing a book set in the present day exciting and plans to pen a connected novel in the near future, Kleypas has no plans to stop writing historicals.
"I love to read sci-fi and paranormal, but I'm afraid my mind doesn't work that way. My real delight is to try to find sparks of passion and magic in more conventional settings. There is still a lot I'd like to accomplish in the historical genre."
And for readers who are concerned about the dwindling number of new historical romances, Kleypas says: "I definitely think the historical is gearing up for a reinvigorated presence in the publishing market." Her next historical, Mine 'Til Midnight, to be published by St. Martin's later in 2007, may just lead the way. -- Stephanie Klose
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