Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? When Natalie meets Gabe, she falls madly in love. When Gabe abruptly breaks things off, Natalie is devastated and what was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception and obsession.
You are officially granted permission (as if you really need it) to believe all the hype and advance press that you may have ingested concerning The Arrangement ... [Harding's] latest is one of those books that everyone, regardless of genre preference, simply must read ... The Arrangement is terrific. Readers can understand exactly why each character does what he or she does, even if they can’t fully sympathize with these individuals. Harding has a masterful ability to make the semi-plausible believable while keeping the pitch and pace of her prose perfect. There is also a bit of a mystery thrown into the final third of the book that takes what is occurring in an entirely different direction, even as it provides for a surprisingly satisfying ending. The result is a novel that is the ideal way to meet and embrace the closing weeks of summer.
The world of sugar babies and their daddies is fascinating, but weak characterizations render Nat and Gabe, and their supporting cast, as little more than cardboard cutouts, and Nat hits every clichéd beat of the scorned lover rendered psychotically hysterical by a powerful, sociopathic man. A lot can be parsed about arrangements with a built-in power imbalance that allow for predatory manipulation, but that’s given only surface-level exploration. More effort is put into heightening the melodrama and engineering soapy twists.
...[a] disappointing melodrama ... Nat’s naïveté...borders on stupidity, and, given her slovenly habits, the sugar baby angle is a bit of a stretch. The arrogant Gabe, his wallet aside, is no catch. Lifetime movies have more tension and twists than this clichéd novel with its cardboard characters.