Sugar, Baby (Hardcover)
January 2024 Indie Next List
“Make sure to put those pearls you’re clutching away before starting Sugar, Baby! This one is electric, jaw-dropping, and absolutely shimmers on the page. Celine Saintclare’s commentary on race and class is razor sharp. An excellent debut!”
— Jessica Nock, Main Street Books (NC), Davidson, NC
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2024 BY VOGUE, ELLE, NYLON, NPR, PURE WOW, SHONDALAND, BOOK RIOT and more!
In the vein of Luster and Queenie, an unflinching portrayal of high-paid sex work in the age of the internet—an intoxicating, bold debut from a dazzling new voice.
Sugar, Baby follows Agnes, a mixed-race 21-year-old whose life seems to be heading nowhere. Still living at home, she works as a cleaner and spends all her money in clubs on the weekends searching for distractions from her mundane life. That is until she meets Emily, daughter of one of her cleaning clients, who lives in London and works as a model . . . and a sugar baby, dating rich older men for money.
Emily’s life is the escape Agnes has been longing for—extravagant tasting menus, champagne on tap, glamorous hotels with unlimited room service, designer gifts from dates who call her beautiful. But this new lifestyle is the last straw for her religious mother Constance.
Kicked out of her family home, Agnes moves in with Emily and the other sugar babies in their fancy London flat and is drawn deeper and deeper into their world. But these women come from money: they possess a safety net Agnes does not. And as she is thrown from one precarious relationship to the next—a married man who wants to show off the glamourous, exotic girl on his arm; a Russian billionaire’s wife who makes Agnes central to a sex party in Miami—she finds herself searching for fulfillment just as desperately as she was before.
A compelling journey of self-discovery that offers sharp commentary on race, beauty, and class, Sugar, Baby is an electric, original, spellbinding novel that will keep readers turning the pages until the very end.
"Sugar, Baby depicts the glittering world of the young women who make a kind of living by showing up at clubs and restaurants to burnish their associations with youth and beauty. Are these women being taken advantage of—or are they on the ride of their lives? This personable novel . . . doesn’t come down on one side of the equation. Instead, it shows the grit alongside the glamor, and crafts a very believable story that feels like a document of the moment, when image is a valuable and fleeting currency." - Vogue
"An elegant coming-of-age tale . . . Saintclare’s language is easy to soak in, even as her nuanced touch pokes and prods and asks—no, demands—real consideration of the reader." - Elle
"Saintclare uses the aesthetics of key bumps and designer handbags to poke at class, sex, labor and power." - NPR.org
"This . . . bold and sexy portrayal of a high-paid sex work in the age of the internet is a must-read with detailed commentary on societal power dynamics in the industry." - Vice TV
"To describe Sugar, Baby as a book ahead of its time feels almost unfairly reductive, considering how smart and thought-provoking a narrative Saintclare has crafted . . . Touching on topics ranging from sex work to race and privilege, Sugar, Baby is entrancing from start to finish." - Shondaland
"Hot Mess Heroine is one of my favorite sub-genres, and this debut promises all the deliciously trifling and raggedy antics that protagonists in books like The Guest, Luster, and Queenie deliver." - Book Riot
"This is a steamy and spellbinding story that will leave you hot under the collar, but also provide a sense of hopefulness regarding our own autonomy over this world . . . Sexiness sells, but the author’s sensitive portrayal of sexuality is what makes this book stand out." - Debutiful
"[A] sultry and humorous debut novel . . . Saintclare’s mastery of creating a memorable and complicated character with Agnes Green makes her . . . both entertaining and touching." - The Masters Review
"Different types of love are on full display in this bold depiction of what it looks like to provide the girlfriend experience. Religious trauma, sibling connections, and weird friendship dynamics pack a punch in this story. It is a must-read!" - HelloBeautiful
"An enticing debut novel . . . Saintclare presents an intimate look into the lives of sex workers--those who are in it for the thrill and those who are in it to survive. Saintclare's risqué narrative exposes the thin line between a woman using her body as a commodity and losing control of it." - Shelf Awareness
"This is a propulsive read that tackles myriad attitudes toward sex work, from condemnation to celebration, through a distinctly feminist lens. Accompanying the partying with perceptive social commentary, Saintclare refuses to romanticize the gritty details of sugaring—inviting the reader into a whirlwind of champagne, sex, and money that is at times claustrophobic, scary, and toxic. Saintclare modernizes outdated sex-work narratives, honoring the bonds formed between women instead." - Kirkus Reviews
"Engrossing and electric, Saintclare's debut finds firm footing as a coming-of-age novel while also providing a nuanced look at sex work . . . Saintclare's complex portrait of a young woman and of sex work makes for compelling reading." - Booklist
"Saintclare debuts with a provocative tale of a 21-year-old cleaner drawn into sex work . . . This powerful story makes [her] one to watch." - Publishers Weekly
"Celine Saintclare’s captivating debut, Sugar, Baby, is, on its surface, about the limitless power of beauty, but underneath that narrative lurks a second, darker one, in which Saintclare shows us in heartbreaking detail that there are indeed limits to what that power can buy. Sugar, Baby is an elegantly crafted bait-and-switch, where a story about the ease and glamour of sex work cracks open to reveal a deeper and more delicious secret: that the true sweetness of life lies not in the comfort of being kept, but in the autonomy we are able to maintain for ourselves. And the beauty of that kind of living—hand-made and hard-won—is priceless." - Destiny O. Birdsong, author of NOBODY'S MAGIC
"A witty, propulsive and intimate examination of sexual commerce, the painful pleasures of self-objectification, and the liberatory power of art-making featuring a tenderhearted heroine I never stopped caring about. Sugar, Baby is everything." - Chantal V. Johnson, author of POST-TRAUMATIC
"Sugar, Baby is a daring novel that explores the commodification of desire and the body and the trappings of respectability politics in a world that profits off our shame. With Agnes, Saintclare has created an unforgettable narrator who is full of bravery, vulnerability, and heart." - Claire Jimenez, author of WHAT HAPPENED TO RUTHY RAMIREZ
"Saintclare’s writing sizzles—she has a knack for the sensual, making even the mundane feel like a revelation. I was absolutely sucked into Agnes’ world, she took me by the hand and didn’t let me go until the final pages, wondering what becomes of all the characters we come to know and love." - Tembe Denton-Hurst, author of HOMEBODIES
"Incredibly glamorous, incredibly dark and incredibly hopeful all at once, Sugar, Baby is a brilliantly compulsive exploration of class, power, sexuality, and our hyper-fixation with youth and beauty. I loved it!" - Katie Bishop, author of THE GIRLS OF SUMMER