De Wildt, South Africa. On an oppressively hot day, an elderly doctor is found drowned in the dam on her home farm by her sixteen-year-old granddaughter. She slipped to her death. Bereft, her community remembers a matriarch of fierce spirit, whose talent for healing and instinct for trouble brought solace to the people yet failed her children. But her granddaughter and detective friend come to question the cause of her death – threatening to expose the fractures in the family with one insistent doubt: she did not slip. From this discovery, this loss, ripples of disquiet will spread beyond the family; extending to servants and to farmhands; to the police, hospital and town beyond. All must face the wave that turns them from the course of their lives, or be swept under.
Anna is a writer whose small but perfectly formed novels sell poorly. When she falls on hard times and tries her hand at erotic fiction, she faces an uncomfortable truth. Though she is in a long marriage, and the mother of two, her stories fail to fly because she’s never experienced true sexual desire. Even her Sicilian grandmother – wearer of diamante sunglasses and knock-off Louis Vuitton – knows more than she does about true passion.
A romance-writing workshop doesn’t help, but Cordelia, a classmate, suggests she borrows an alter ego to banish her inhibitions, a new world opens up to Anna and The Love Factory – a group of writers penning ever more successful sexy stories – is born.
The more Anna writes, the more she sees that for the sake of her stories, and her life, she needs to risk a proper love of her own.
Ten-year-old Flambeau waits for his young mother to arrive from the Congo, along the same dangerous route that the human traffickers smuggled him. Homesick and pining for love, he sees a glimpse of life in his young neighbor, Eleanor, and her gangster boyfriend, Knight – a fellow Congolese.
Eleanor, a pale Scottish beauty, offers Flambeau the warmth and empathy that London has hitherto failed to provide; while Knight – dressed to the nines and dressed to kill – might just have the contacts to find Flambeau’s mother, Bijou.
But Knight’s past is so troubled, and his present so dangerous, that to challenge the traffickers to find Bijou might be more than his life is worth – something neither a lovesick girl nor a ten-year-old boy can be expected to understand.