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The Arrangement


The Arrangement

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. Those who have read THE PARTY and HER PRETTY FACE already have Robyn Harding on their “must-read” list, which is appropriate, given that her latest is one of those books that everyone, regardless of genre preference, simply must read.

Its initial premise is something that most of us have heard about, though not necessarily experienced. The catalyst for what occurs is a New York art student named Natalie Murphy. She is as far from her small town as she can get, attending school on a scholarship, but barely able to meet the big city cost of living while sharing a tiny apartment with two other women. A friend at art school who is living comfortably and well beyond her seeming means lets Natalie in on a secret. There are websites that enable young women to meet older men of wealth and accomplishment, and engage in a mutually beneficial relationship that is emotionally rewarding for the man and financially rewarding for the woman. It’s a sugar daddy/sugar baby dynamic, and no one is heavily invested on any level.

"Harding has a masterful ability to make the semi-plausible believable while keeping the pitch and pace of her prose perfect."

Natalie takes a chance, and after a couple of false starts meets Gabe Turnmill, a high-powered and extremely wealthy corporate attorney who spends his weekdays in Manhattan. Gabe isn’t completely honest with Natalie about his marital status, and she doesn’t ask a lot of questions anyway. She is only interested in being his arm candy for a hefty fee. At least at first. She gradually starts to become more seriously attracted to him, which leads to a hot and heavy physical relationship between them. This is just fine with Gabe, until Natalie, not unreasonably, begins demanding more of his time.

This complicates matters for Gabe, who happens to have a wife and daughter with whom he resides outside of the city on the weekends. His arrangement with Natalie is anything but his first rodeo. He has ended things with other young women before, and with a minimum of drama. Natalie, however, isn’t walking quietly into the sunset. She interjects herself into Gabe’s other life. Things go way too far, leading to a series of surprising revelations and conclusions that most readers may never see coming.

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.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 2, 2019

The Arrangement
by Robyn Harding