The dazzling Lytton twins, Adele and Venetia, grow up with the world at their elegant feet: rich, petted, admired, perfectly dressed, wonderfully stylish and absolutely identical, they have a self-confidence that is close to arrogance. Despite being born into the great intellectual dynasty of the Lytton publishing empire, at eighteen they have managed to grow up virtually uneducated, relying only on their own charm and wit to take them through their gilded lives.
It is 1928: the dizzy twenties are passing into the glamorous thirties, and the misery and horror of the First World War are far behind. But, as the twins move into adult life, against their glittering social background the spectre of Nazi Germany, wearing its terrifyingly seductive face of success and prosperity, is growing. Gradually the twins' lives darken in unimaginable ways: Venetia finds herself humiliated and rejected in what promised to be a brilliant marriage; Adele is trapped in war-torn Paris with two tiny children. Then and only then do they find their own worth and what they are truly capable of.
There are other dangers and confrontations: for Barty Miller, rescued from the London slums in babyhood by Celia Lytton - clever, ambitious and a complete contrast to the twins - temptation of the most dreadful kind; and for Laurence Elliot from the New York branch of the family, with an obsessive pursuit of the only person he ever loved.