Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Book Review: THE ARRANGEMENT by Robyn Harding

Author: Robyn Harding
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Read: August 2019
Expected publication: 1 September 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

Natalie, an art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not find a sugar daddy – a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and a monthly allowance. All that’s required is to look pretty. Sexual favours are optional.

Gabe, a handsome finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate and within a month they are madly in love. At least, Nat is – Gabe already has a family, who he has no intention of leaving.

When he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking Gabe and his family. Their supposedly mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession and, when a body is found near Gabe’s Upper East Side apartment, murder.

My musings:

I love books that transport me into a completely different scene, and Harding’s foray into the world of sugar daddies and sugar babies was a real revelation for me. If you are like me, and haven’t heard of the term before: a sugar baby is a beautiful young woman, often a student, who will date a wealthy older man for a fee. It’s a bit like an escort service, only that the sugar daddy will often pay large sums of money and gifts to his sugar baby for her company. Sex is often involved, but not always. It’s needless to say that this arrangement attracts a fair share of creeps and predators, and that things can go wrong on many different levels. Google the term and you will find a spade of murders related to the whole sugar baby scene.

So when Natalie, a poor art student who has just lost her low paying job in hospitality and can no longer afford her rent in her flat share in New York, enters a sugar daddy / sugar baby arrangement with the confident and rich Gabe, I instantly feared for her. Natalie is a bit of an innocent, a girl from the country who has grown up without a father in her life, and who craves love and stability – probably not the type of girl who is suited to such an arrangement. “Pretty Woman” it is not – for Gabe to pay a princely sum for Natalie’s company, she is expected to perform certain “services” and live up to Gabe’s expectations. Most of all, she is as much a status symbol as a new car, or an expensive suit, and just as expendable when he tires of her. This is never going to end well, is it?

I will not reveal any more about the story, other than to say that it instantly had me intrigued. Harding writes well, and the story moves along at a good pace, setting the scene and building up a degree of danger as we realise what Natalie’s arrangement entails. This was the type of book that made me feel like a tourist on planet earth, because Natalie’s reality was so far removed from my own sheltered life that I often found myself gobsmacked by the things she is experiencing. I could relate to the poor student existence – hadn’t I myself lived on minute noodles in grungy shared apartments in my youth? - but the whole sugar daddy scene was totally new to me. From here, Harding spins a compelling tale that soon ends in someone’s death – the who and how you will have to find out for yourself.

Harding has obviously done her research and states in her author’s notes that she had interviewed several sugar babies prior to writing this novel to be able to give her story a solid background. This really shone through for me in believable characters that were easy to relate to. If I wanted to spark a lively debate, I would read this in a book group, as the mere term sugar baby / sugar daddy would have some of my peers’ blood boiling!


All in all, this was an intriguing, original and compelling mystery that had me glued to the pages. I would have been just as happy to leave the ending shrouded in a bit of mystery, but other readers not similarly inclined will be happy to hear that it all wrapped up nicely and all is explained in the final reveal. I now need to read the author’s other books, in particularly HER PRETTY FACE, which has been on my wish list for a long time!

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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