Once upon a time, a dazzling, clever woman, Cynthia Parkton, shares a naughty incestuous lifelong relationship with her first cousin, Harden Alden. She also maintains a love affair with her childhood lover, Reginald Haley, throughout her life, including three marriages.
The 1950s setting begins in Wisconsin around a historical romantic lake community. Here young Cynthia, utilizing her beauty and wits, seeks wealth. She intends to marry for it-with or without love, through her first marriage, which ends in rapid divorce after her daughter’s birth.
Her second marriage takes her from the lake to the city Port Michigan. The death of the child from this marriage endows Cynthia a considerable financial settlement to squander. With this divorce pending, she vacations in Mexico and cements her covert affair for marriage with moneyed man Carel Van Kampen of the Dutch Mafia. Manipulating moves by her cousin Harden encourages the situation so he can have her move close to him in Connecticut.
The Lake is the focal location throughout the story. The events there transport the reader from the 1950s to the 1980s with laughable and tearful enchantments. Meanwhile, Reginald waits to hold her tanned body next to him. Will he ever have enough money to win her love for only him?