Jon Ryder is at a crossroads. Close to completing his PhD, he can't decide between an academic career and joining the family business. And he is starting to regret his cavalier approach to personal relationships as he feels a growing need for something more stable and permanent. He has a difficult relationship with his mother Sylvia but is very close to his father Gregory, who sees him as his eventual successor as chairman of the family business. Gregory's vision of the business as a paternalistic organisation providing secure employment and prosperity for the local community is challenged by Sylvia and his half-brother, the womanising Russell. Two women play significant roles in shaping Jon and Gregory's futures: Jon's former girlfriend Victoria and Gregory's head of publishing Maddie. Other memorable characters include Jon's headstrong sister Natalie, the urbane academic Professor Charlton and the formidable best-selling author Cassandra Wilson.