Dazzling black-haired blue-eyed Clara Dolan is born into a well-to-do family and then loses everything in the 1960’s when her father embezzles from his business and vanishes, and her mother dies in childbirth. Determined that she’ll never fall into the same trap as her mother and marry for love, she starts carving out an upward path for herself and her younger sister Bernie and little brother Harry, pursuing money and security above all else.
At sixteen she grits her teeth and marries the older man who collected rent from their tenement block, then when he dies she moves on to nightclub owner Toby Cotton who is a friend – but Clara soon discovers that Toby’s true interests are in men, not women; she’s used Toby and he has used her in return, hiding behind the respectability of marriage to avoid prosecution for his homosexuality.
Still, they make a good team and their clubs start to thrive, even though they have troubles – a doorman called Jacko Sears is obsessed with Clara, and another club owner, the dangerously attractive Marcus Redmayne, wants to buy them out. Then tragedy strikes, and once again Clara is a widow and in serious trouble as one by one her clubs are wrecked by the Sears clan.
Having avoided Marcus Redmayne up to this point, who has been relentless in his pursuit of both her clubs and her body, Clara now is forced to enter into a third marriage to gain his protection for her business. Meanwhile, her sister Bernie is becoming increasingly disturbed, and young Harry the sadistic child has grown up and is now working for Sears against Clara. The murder of one of the nightclub hostesses sets Clara thinking that Harry could be in the frame for it.
Clara tries not to but she is falling in love with Marcus, who she still believes has married her to gain financial control of her clubs. Having married for money or position all her life, how can she complain? He’s only done what she would do herself.
Battling against the Sears clan and discovering bitter truths hidden within her own family, Clara tracks down the murderer and finds out far more than she ever wanted to know about her sister and brother. She also discovers that Marcus loves her. Finally, on her third trip down the aisle, she has found a love match, and is able to let go of her tortured past.