Steven LeConte has all the qualities that propel a young man to success. He is bright, handsome, charming . . . the list is long. Yet, at age 27, this scion of a prominent Connecticut family is teaching tennis in Paris. His journalistic aspirations have produced a few dazzling leads but not a single completed article. If he can take pride in one achievement, which he does not, it is the prodigious number of girls he has coaxed from the tennis club into his bed. A small inheritance from his aunt is nearly exhausted; he faces an uncertain future. As if to highlight his professional shortcomings, he has befriended his neighbor, Sophie Marx, the retired Paris bureau chief of the New York Times. In contrast to his own lack of output, her freelance articles appear at a dizzy pace in the Western world’s best newspapers and magazines.
Sophie has just embarked on a new venture: to chronicle the life of France’s leading right-wing politician. At age 70, she is unable to do the legwork herself, and opts to involve Steven. It is an offer he can’t refuse, though he isn’t sure her plans meet even his own low moral standards. She wants him to go to the Riviera, where her subject’s daughter is spending the summer. And then? He is to follow the guiding light of his golden schwanz (her terminology) and see if he can get close to the father through 19-year-old Nicole. His initial hesitation is quickly overcome by a photograph of this ravishing beauty. How could he have said No anyway: his soul mate, Sophie, will become his protégé and unlock the doors he has not been able to open on his own. Or such is his belief. He accepts, he succeeds – and falls deeply in love.