Desert Isle Keeper
The Arrangement is Robyn Harding’s third standalone novel of psychological suspense, and in this reviewer’s humble opinion, it’s her best work. Her previous books were enjoyable, but this one really stands out as a story that captivated me from start to finish.
Natalie moved to New York City with big dreams of studying art and eventually pursuing a career as an illustrator of children’s books. She knew finances would be a challenge while she was in school, but she had no idea just how dire her circumstances would become. Her roommates can’t stand her, and she’s just lost her part-time job as a waitress. Now she’s on the verge of getting evicted if she can’t come up with a way to earn some money quickly.
Fortunately for Natalie, a classmate offers her the perfect solution, one Natalie never would have thought of on her own. If she sets up a profile on a website for men looking for pretty, young women to spend time with, money will no longer be a problem for her. Natalie has some qualms about actually going through with this and wonders if looking for a sugar daddy might be a small step away from becoming a prostitute. Still, she can’t think of another way to get the money she needs, so she creates a profile and agrees to go out on a few dates.
When she meets Gabe, a successful attorney, Natalie is surprised by the attraction she feels. After all, he’s thirty years her senior, but he’s handsome, kind, and attentive, and it isn’t long before she begins fantasizing about turning their financial arrangement into a real relationship. Gabe seems to feel the same way, and Natalie’s sure it’s only a matter of time until their relationship will become more permanent.
Unbeknownst to Natalie, Gabe has other ideas. He enjoys spending time with her, but he has no plans to leave his wife and eighteen-year-old daughter. He views his arrangement with Natalie as an extra bit of fun on the side, so when he realizes how intense her feelings are becoming, he tells her their time together is over. Natalie is crushed, but her pleas for him to reconsider fall on deaf ears. Gabe is ready to cut all ties with her.
I can’t tell you what happens next, but trust me when I say you’re in store for a wild ride. Natalie has some deep emotional issues that won’t allow her to let go of Gabe gracefully, and I found myself in a state of constant suspense as I waited to see what she would do next.
One of my favorite things about the novel is the way the author chose to tell the story. I fully expected to see things strictly from Natalie’s perspective, but Ms. Harding made the masterful decision to throw in several chapters from Gabe’s point of view as well, thus allowing the reader to learn certain things about him before Natalie herself discovers them. The story has a bit of a cat-and-mouse feel as a result, and I loved every minute I spent with Natalie and Gabe.
If you’re someone who needs to like the characters you’re reading about, The Arrangement might not be the book for you. I had empathy for Natalie, but I didn’t always like her. She acts rashly more often than not, and it seems impossible for her to take responsibility for the mistakes she makes. As for Gabe, I can’t tell you too much about him without spoiling things, but he’s no prince charming. Even so, I absolutely could not stop reading this book.
The Arrangement is everything I want in a psychological thriller and then some. The plot moves in directions I absolutely did not see coming, and the characters are multi-faceted and authentic. This is a book I recommend to fans of the genre, whether you’ve read Ms. Harding’s work before or not.