Mateo put his entire life on hold when he found out that his father’s Alzheimer’s had gotten worse. He dropped all of his textbooks and returned home despite his dreams of graduation, never once complaining about the turn of events. It was his duty as a Rosales to provide for his family. So, back to East L.A., back to another job in retail, and back to basics.
But when Mateo’s best friend signs him up for SweetDates.com, a website for older men and younger singles to exchange money for companionship, his life takes a sudden turn. Soon he finds himself talking with the charming, gorgeous millionaire Arthur Danby, and forced to face the uncomfortable moral soul-searching of this new relationship.
Could he really put a monetary value on his time? Is the stubborn pride instilled in him since childhood worth more than feeding his family? And despite the alluring look in his eye, is Arthur hiding something dark?
Content Warnings: mention of suicide by a character before the book takes place, suicide by a character during the book, alcohol and/or drug use/abuse, depictions and mention of child abuse, mention of depression, mention of driving while under the influence, terminal illness, mention of anxiety and situations of anxiety,
* A copy of this book was provided by the author
This review contains spoilers which I’ve marked as such so you can skip them!
I had been waiting for this book for ages and if real life hadn’t kept interfering with my reading time, I would have read this in one sitting for sure. It’s just so good! Daddy simply had everything I really love in a great story: relatable and engaging characters with highs and lows, a great cast of supporting characters, and a captivating storyline.
Unlike other poor character/rich character stories, Mateo is very reluctant to consider a sugar daddy relationship. And it’s actually one of his friends who signs him up on SweetDates. He’s not interested in really using the app, but he still checks the messages he gets. While scrolling through them, Arthur’s message catches his eye. It doesn’t include the expected propositions and snapshots you might find on the app so Mateo decides to reply. After a couple of messages back and forth they decide to meet for dinner. When Mateo first spots Arthur waiting for him, there is definitely a strong connection and a lot of sizzling chemistry between them. They hit it off and Mateo decides to give the whole sugar daddy thing a try, most of all because his family could really use the extra money.
When they start off their sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship it’s with an understanding that nothing sexual has to or will happen between them unless they both consent. Mateo obviously gets money out of their agreement of being Arthur’s sugar baby. And in exchange, Arthur has someone who will accompany him to events or when he travels and such. Because of this Daddy felt like (a very queer) Pretty Woman kind of story at first. But it didn’t take long for me to realize how wrong that assumption was because it is so much more and hit so much deeper in the feels. (More on that later.)
What starts as a business kind of relationship slowly but surely changes and becomes more personal than either of the characters anticipated. It was beautiful to see Mateo instinctually relaxing when he was with Arthur.
I found both Mateo and Arthur to be extremely likable characters. Whereas Arthur is a more reserved character Mateo is outspoken and very vocal about what he wants and thinks. He’s not cowed by Arthur’s wealth, which surprises Arthur a bit but also makes him fall even more for Mateo. I really enjoyed how they both challenged each other. And getting to know Arthur was… interesting to say the least. Throughout the book Arthur felt like a hard-working, just and reliable character; then there’s a twist that makes you question if everything was a lie and then…the reveal about the secret felt a bit anti-climatic? I’m not going to spoil what it was but it didn’t feel like it was such a big thing.
While I found aspects of myself in both characters I could especially relate to Mateo. Not only because I’m also the oldest of three, but because I somewhat understood his struggles of wanting to help his family while sometimes wanting to detach from the situation for a bit. “The situation” here mostly meaning his father’s illness. For Mateo Arthur is the perfect opportunity to disengage from real-life every now and then.
SPOILER INCOMING! I want to preface this by saying that I love when I can really relate to a character and experience a story along with them. And it’s definitely something that I loved about Daddy too. I want to commend Harbon for including content warnings in the beginning of the book. But they only mention suicide ideation and familial death, not that there is a suicide on page. Had I known about it beforehand, and perhaps known who it was, I don’t know if I would have read the book quite so soon. Because it came so suddenly I couldn’t prepare for it and I’m sad that this did in the end shape my reading experience a bit. I know that this is a personal thing and that other readers will react differently. But I found that – and especially the aftermath of it all when Mateo is the first to find his dad; the funeral that follows and most of all Mateo’s grieving – very hard to read. It hit too close and personally I was not ready for those kind of storylines yet. END SPOILER!
The relationship between Mateo and his family, and in particular Mateo and his siblings was something I truly treasured. He is the oldest of them and I loved how whenever he spent time with them the reader could feel the love they share. Of course them being siblings means that they fight too, but at the end of the day they’re a very close-knit family who despite struggling financially always have each other’s back.
I also really appreciated how Harbon handled the inherent power imbalance between Mateo and Arthur. They come from completely different worlds and their experiences couldn’t be any more contrasting. You have Mateo on the one hand, whose family is constantly short on money and has to live frugally, who helps his family whenever and however he can – even if it is too much sometimes, who even dropped out of college because his family needed him.
And on the other hand there’s Arthur, who grew up not ever having to worry about money. Arthur could enjoy all the freedoms he wanted when he was younger while Mateo learned from a young age to take on responsibility. Not that Arthur is irresponsible – he did take on his mum’s business at a young age after all – but Arthur had a lot more choices that Mateo never got.
Harbon acknowledges and handles that really well in my opinion. It’s one of my favorite moments in the book when Mateo and Arthur decide to have a relationship that is not a sugar daddy/sugar baby one and when Mateo tells Arthur that he will not let him pay for everything from now on. While the imbalance between them wasn’t eradicated it still helped make Mateo feel more equal.
Lastly I want to mention that because of the title for this book being what it is I went into it thinking that the daddy kink would feature far more prominently than it ended up doing. That wasn’t a bad thing but I think it’s important to mention it so other readers are not disappointed. Overall, Daddy is more on the sweet and slow burn side while not being fluffy. (The story features a couple of themes that you really should be aware of before reading and I strongly advise you to heed the content warnings listed above.)
I really loved this book and was sad when I turned the last page. I’m sure I’ll read it again eventually, especially because I now know what happens. And if y’all haven’t read anything by this author yet, I strongly recommend you check out Kitten too!
Jack is your typical eccentric college student, writing stories much more interesting than his real life. If he’s not writing, he’s either reading books about magic girls, watching shows about blackmail and murder, or baking coconut macaroons.