When reading Wharton you never have the safety net of knowing that things will end happily. In fact - most of her books are tragedies in the most profound sense of the word. This is the first of her books that I have read in which the focus is primarily on a romance. Now I'm not much of a romance reader so when I realized that this would be a romance novel, I was a bit concerned. Lucky for me there was nothing sappy about this book.
Suzy and Nick enjoy each other's company, however neither of them has a fortune of their own. They live their lives sponging off of their wealthy friends because they are considered "interesting" by the wealthy. Even though the two of them have not a penny between them, they decide to marry and use their honeymoon to sponge living in vacation houses off of all of their acquaintances. Since neither of them had previously considered marriage - they make a deal that neither of them will stand in the way of the other, should a better or wealthier prospect arise.
Suddenly, much to their dismay, not only do they discover interested prospects with mountains of riches - but they also have fallen in love with one another. Pride, stubbornness, miscommunication, and their unwillingness to admit to any of the above leads them in to a year long series of events that open their eyes to the reality of their hearts, minds and situation. The only way for them to afford the lifestyle to which they are accustomed is to split and remarry wealthy suitors. The only way for them to stay together in their love is to give it all up and live a life of poverty. With a Wharton novel you never know where the ending will take you, so it can easily be expected that things will not go as your standard romance novel would. The reader follows Nick and Suzy, hoping desperately for them to end up together, to find a way to make things work, and to grow beyond the materialism that off of society deems a necessary part of life. Will they give in to the materialistic pleasures of high society and throw off their chance at love? Or will they cast off societies burdens and live a life of true passionate love?