An unnamed woman delineates her life in terms of her involvement with ten archetypal men.
British newcomer Gray opens her story at the end of the 38-year-old, half-French/half-British narrator’s affair with “the Virgin,” who has chosen her as his first sexual partner but is less sure about her as wife material. The narrator then moves back in time to her own deflowering at 19. She marries and follows her schoolmaster husband to an island boys’ school, where she is lonely and neglected. She uses a meaningless affair with “the Lawyer” as her excuse to end her failed marriage and return to England. Next, she becomes involved with two men: “the Lover,” who is good in bed but begins to seem intrusive, and “the Lord,” an older, wealthy authority figure with whom she has the upper hand as long as she keeps things platonic. But sex changes the balance of power. To escape the ambivalent Lord, she takes a job in Texas with “the Billionaire,” who is not only the richest but also the most controlling man alive. When they break up, he pays for her to go to college, where she studies acting. “The Director” gives her professional help and meaningful looks but stays with his wife. “The Actor” is handsome, but too nice to hold her interest until it’s too late. “The Cerebral Mr. X” wanders through but is even more shadowy than the other men in the narrator’s landscape. Back in London, she works as an actress in commercials. She finds she’s pregnant by the banished Virgin, but miscarries just as the idea of settling down is taking root. Then on the last few pages she meets a single father with a charming son, and Cupid’s arrow finally hits its mark. “Frank’s dad” turns out to be “the One.”
Brittle wit turns to sentimental taffy by the end.