There, I said it. This book was WAY more than I expected. Being a Lisa Kleypas novel, there were certain expectations I had before I even turned over the front-cover. Even though this is a contemporary, and even more so that I hardly EVER dip into contemporaries without good reason, this book was all the reason I could ever need to add a new sub-genre to my repertoire. Wittiness, endearing strength and courage, trying times and immaculate triumph are all reigning supreme as you follow Liberty Jones on her journey of perseverance and '68'-less romance.
In the beginning of the story, we find fourteen year old Liberty Jones adjusting herself to her new town of Welcome, Texas. On her first day at the her new single-wide trailer home, she is sent on an errand to deliver a check to Mr.Sadlek, Manager of the 'Bluebonnet Ranch'. On her way there she is attacked by two crazy pit-bulls and ultimately saved by one of her new neighbors; Hardy Cates. After the gallant rescue, Hardy takes Liberty back to his family's trailer and hoses her knees down, which she scratched up in her attempt to flee from the dogs. They converse for a little while and Liberty is instantly attracted to the 17 year old Hardy. Although she is a plain looking, half-Mexican teenager, Liberty can't help but want to become all the woman Hardy could ever want.
Shortly after 'befriending' the savage pit-bulls who attacked her, at Hardy's insistence, and their owner, Miss Marva, big changes start to happen in Liberty's life. Her mother kicks out her lazy, slacker, live-in boyfriend, FINALLY, and Liberty begins to resign herself to life with just her mom. But that thought is short lived when Liberty finds out that her mother, Diana, is pregnant. Liberty reacts in the exact opposite way her mother had predicted; "Because now I wont be alone anymore" she tells her mother, and quickly assures Diana that she will shoulder as much responsibility as needed.
As a fifteenth birthday present, Liberty's friend Lucy gives her a makeover which even Hardy can't believe (or resist). During a 'tips & technique' sessions of basketball, subtle move are made that leave Liberty wanting more; even though she is provoked beyond comprehension at Hardy's assured confidences in her never kissing a boy before. After some study-dates with a classmate that disproves Hardy's claims, Liberty feels ready to put all the 'practice' to the test. Opportunity presences itself as Liberty is visiting Miss Marva and Hardy is there picking up some artwork she wanted conveyed to the local gallery. Hardy asks if she would like him to help her practice basketball again and soon they are embracing on the asphalt.
Among Hardy's many reasons for forgoing any further overtures, he lists his age and his determination to get out of Welcome, which he couldn't jeopardize by coming to care for Liberty and then not wanting to leave her behind.
They are able to keep their distance from one another until a storm blows a few months later while Diana is in labor. Hardy is called to drive both mother and daughter to the hospital in his pick-up truck. Baby Carrington is born and Liberty takes on a more-than-ordinary role in her life. Mother Diana is slow to warm up to Carrington; choosing to hang out with friends and let Liberty take care of the baby. During one of these 'baby-sittings', the pressure wells up in Liberty and she starts to breakdown; all while Carrington is crying in her arms. Hardy hears the baby's wails and comes to the rescue once again, taking the baby to his mothers trailer to be looked after while giving Liberty time to sleep and then tutoring her in Math so she can pass her test the next day. As Hardy departs, he shares a painfully sweet moment with our heroine, telling her "Don't you know I'd do anything for you", when she asks why he did what he did. Their moment is interrupted by Diana's arrival home and her insistence that Hardy shouldn't spend anymore time alone with her daughter. He agrees and makes his exit, staying away this time for much longer.
In the subsequent years that followed, Liberty gets a boyfriend named Luke whom she tries to substitute for Hardy. Its doesn't work as she plans and after spotting Hardy making out with a girl at some party, Liberty gives her virginity to Luke and it leaves her feeling her loneliness and longing even more keenly. She clings to Carrington like a buoy to stay afloat in the ocean of her disappointments in life. At nineteen years old, Hardy decides to follow a job lead that will take him away from Welcome once and for all, but not before he gives Liberty the goodbye that sent the rest of her life spiraling out of control. They didn't do more than kiss, but those achingly bittersweet kisses brought home the fact that she may never see the love of her life ever again.
After Hardy left, Liberty was dealt another devastating blow. Her mother died in a car crash, and Carrington was now completely and legally her responsibility. She had a hard time getting though the first few months after her mothers death, but with the help of her friends and the lovely Miss Marva, Liberty find a rhythm that isn't ideal, but works. She gets a part-time job at her friend's family pawn shop, went to cosmetology school and took care of Carrington until she receive her licenses and got referred to work at an exclusive hair salon in the ritzier districts of Houston. She dated a few frogs, got a boyfriend who was a total '68' (likes for a girl to go down but doesn't return the favor), and meets a 'Sugar Babies' wet dream in Churchill Travis; an older, wealthy business tycoon.
Churchill took an immediate interest in Liberty, but not for the reasons everyone else assumed. They became friends, confided in each other their deepest thoughts and within the span of the four year acquaintanceship, Churchill convinced Liberty to move into his home (River Oaks-which is luxurious on excess). she met with adversity right-off-the-bat, namely in the form of Churchill's eldest son Gage, whom disliked Liberty whole-heartedly and thought she was sleeping with his father. It comes to pass that Liberty must nurse a stubborn Gage back to health and it is then, where we see a budding romance begin.
Gage is the first man in Liberty's life that she wasn't constantly comparing to Hardy. Gage was extravagant and business-minded and soon became everything Liberty could ever want. That is, however, until an older, more financial sound Hardy waltzes back into her life. She asks Gage to be patient with her while she tries to sort out her feelings for both men; and after some shocking family revelations, she learns from the past mistakes of others and chooses the one whom can give her everything she wants and needs. (Highlight the text in between the >><< if you want to know whom she chooses) >>>GAGE!!!<<<
My Favorite Part of the Book: Is when Liberty nurses Gage back to health. She goes to his apartment, at his fathers request, and discovers a sickly little kitten of man opening the front door. She sees the house is decorated and stocked in the most minimal of fashion and heads out to fetch some groceries; telling him he needs to shower before she departs. She comes back 45 minuets later with the groceries and starts to prepare Chicken and Dumplings. They converse for a little while and you can see the beginnings of a formidable relationship start to form. He offers her a guest room to stay in overnight since its past midnight by the time they finish eating, but she refuses the invite and another layer (Liberty's resistance to her attraction to Gage) is added to an already deep book.
Rating: 5 Aww's
This is the first 5 out of 5 Aww review on the blog and with great reason. This book was a Journey! We sat back and watched as a naive, self-conscious 14 year-old is transformed by life and grows into a strong young woman. The first half of the book was a look at lost innocents; of a girl who was quickly realizing that life wasn't going to give her break unless she worked hard and kept her eyes on the prize. The second half of the book was her acceptance of her new, mature self and her discovery of unconditional love. This book was just GOLD. plainly, and simply, gold.
* The next book in Lisa Kleypas' contemporary series is Blue-eyed Devil. It's the story of Gage's sister Haven and another character we know well ;)/ My Review can be found: here
* The book after 'Blue-Eyed Devil" in the series is 'Smooth Talking Stranger', Gage's brother Jack's story!/ My Review can be found: here