San Francisco venture capitalist Ryn Brennan discovers that Todd, her successful real-estate agent husband of 10 years, has been having an affair with someone nicknamed “Carly-bear.” It turns out to be Carly Santos, the co-founder and chief scientist of BioLarge, a health tech startup in which Ryn’s firm is about to invest. Carly, the 35-year-old single mother of a 5-year-old, is innocently planning her wedding to Todd, whom she thinks is a widower.
Ryn reels from Todd’s betrayal and soon comes to understand he’s been lying to both his wife and his unwitting mistress. The two women come to forge a connection, with Ryn serving as a mentor, professional ally, and close friend to Carly, who has an unusual backstory; she stole from her parents’ church fund and ran away with her boyfriend at 15. She also carries a visible symbol of her chaotic past: an arm-length tattoo of a gun, a bleeding skull, and butterflies.
Removing it would be difficult, she realizes: “Just like her past, it would still have been there, transformed into ghost scars.” Alternating chapters reflect Carly and Ryn’s viewpoints, respectively, and each woman emerges as believable and sympathetic. The well-crafted narrative sizzles with tense, relatable, and realistic scenes involving a dreaded call from a child’s school during an important meeting, unwanted advances from co-workers, and the ongoing struggle for respect in the boardroom. Although Todd comes off as a somewhat stereotypical villain, other characters are intriguing, such as Carly’s entrepreneur friend Dev and Ryn’s assistant, Keisha, a talented young woman who confronts sexism and racism in the workplace. Throughout, readers will root for these women’s success.