It is immediately following the First World War. It is 1920s Paris. Times are changing rapidly for women. Society is turned on its head.
Twenty-two year old Tessa Garcia, half-Spanish, half-Irish, tells a friend and colleague at the Coty Perfume Headquarters that sometimes she wonders what life would be like if she wasn't working as Francois Coty's personal assistant. When asked why she gave up Pêpé Sandes, the only man she ever loved, she says it is because unlike Coty, Sandes never understood her. This declaration unleashes back-stabbings and betrayals and Tessa having to decide what has become of her life-long dream working for the most successful businessman and perfumer of his generation.
For motives as yet unknown Coty ensnares Tessa to stay in the company by dictating his life story and it is by learning how his choices have panned out that she begins to see clarity in her own. This increasingly intimate relationship dramatically changes however when the manuscript is stolen from Tessa's safekeeping and Coty releases his legendary anger that his closely guarded personal life will be exposed. Forced into exile she visits the female members of her family and sees the possibility of other choices that she had never before considered. In central France Carmen puts instinct before common sense, travelling through northern Spain Mariquita places order before spontaneity and her mother Ann beaten down by parenthood finds freedom in the vineyards of Jerez de la Frontera. Is working for a global corporation really the most important part of Tessa's life?
With Tessa's struggle to find who has stolen Coty's manuscript and why as the driving force of the novel the question of how to successfully combine a career and a personal life crash head on.