Mary Nell and her girlfriends meet at a fancy New York Hotel to play bridge and gossip. Friends meet to play bridge learn that a friend is being cheated on. As the young women wait on the rest of the invited to arrive, Mary, Iris, and Betsy are looking out of an upper level window as highly their criticized friend Lizzie steps from a hotel with a man on her arm hours following what appears to her friends to be a rendezvous at a neighboring hotel.
The women seem to forget that they too, have secrets. They admonish Lizzie, declaring that she is following in her mother's footsteps acting like rules for “proper” women don't exist. The so-called friends whisper, Mary among them speculating about why Lizzie would be out all night with Billy Holmes who is engaged to their dear friend Clara. While clicking teeth against gums they dog Lizzie out beveling that have never, nor will they ever do wrong.
They all agree that having watched her mother being banished from the community should have made Lizzie think twice before being so loose. They whisper with smugness pulling at the corners of their mouths and deep lines creasing their foreheads in disapproval. Betsy is the elder matron in a crew of twenty-somethings and instead of telling the girls to mind their business she gets involved in the gossip.
Judging Lizzy and talking behind her back while assuming the worse, the young women pretty much accuse Lizzie of being a prostitute while a current of excitement bubbles around the conversation as they wonder whether to share this information with their friend Clara before she marries Billie, or to mind their own business.
Betsy's handsome nephew Geoffrey arrives from Chicago and to spend some time with his aunt and ends up going everywhere with the women. Mary becomes enamored with him early on. She is very cautious and lives for her parents. She swallows the entire game of appearances and is practical to the point of being a judgmental goodie two shoes.
When Lizzie's father hears the gossip he tells the community that he has sent her away to Switzerland as punishment she will learn to cool her heels working as an Au-pair until he can live down the shame of having a loose daughter.
A trip to Paris finds Mary, Betsy, Clara, and Geoffrey together for a month-long excursion, where they spot Lizzie at a farmer's market. She sees them first and makes a quick getaway. She's aware that they talk about her the same way they did her mother.
Geoffrey continues to flirt with Mary who is still being overly cautious. Mary sees Lizzie again and follows her. With curiosity getting the best of her, she knocks on the door. Lizzie lets her in and Mary learns that Lizzie was never in Switzerland, instead she came to Paris to look after her sick mother. Her father made up the Switzerland Au-pair lie to save face.
She also learns that there was never an affair going on between Billy and Lizzie. While it is true that Billie drinks and gambles that was the source of their involvement that evening. Billie was trying to help a depressed young man who committed suicide and Lizzie happened to be at the same hotel bar with them. She made sure Billie was confined to a hotel room and that was the end of things. Gossip stirred up the rest. Mary is outdone, here she had been blaming Lizzie for being loose and she was just trying to help two hurting guys.
As Mary pulls herself together a knock at the door and a familiar voice catch her attention. It's Geoffrey calling Lizzie “darling” and asking her if she is ready to go out. Mary learned more than she bargained for that day. She couldn't blame Geoffrey who had only shown her kindness. She didn't make her intentions or desires known. Her assumptions led and not her heart and she lost out.
Best part of story, including ending:
I hate that gossipy women kept mess going for the length of the novel.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Mary learned the truth about Lizzie, from Lizzie directly. She was never an Au-pair.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked that Mary Nell refused to think for herself and that she was always in the business of others.