WITH just over a week to spare before her wedding, London-based wealth counsellor Charlotte Fairfax barely flinches when a major bank seeks her help to resolve an awkward financial predicament in Spain.
A powerful client’s billionaire father, on the brink of losing his life to cancer and now crippled by a stroke at the age of 98, is moving to bequeath the entirety of his generations-old business portfolio to a mid-40s café worker in Madrid – a woman completely unknown to the aristocratic family and its advisors, giving rise to the assumption that she must be the latest in a line of mistresses. Mateo Mendoza is worried; if his papa, Carlos, succeeds in transferring his assets to this stranger, the prestigious Mendoza empire will cease to exist.
Charlotte’s mission is simple: fly in, convince this mysterious interloper to accept a million-euro payoff in return for relinquishing any further claim on Carlos and his estate, and fly out just as quickly, all in time to take pride of place at her rehearsal dinner and attend one final gown fitting over the weekend.
What should be a straightforward negotiation becomes infinitely more challenging, however, when ghosts from Charlotte’s younger days resurface.
The investigation into Carlos’s links to his apparently unwitting beneficiary soon begins to draw Charlotte ever-deeper into the Spanish heartland, leading away from the glamorous capital with its galleries and cocktail parties to Ronda, a spectacularly situated, white-washed village in the Andalusian countryside where the echoes of civil war atrocities still reverberate.
Will doing her professional utmost to preserve the Mendoza inheritance mean sacrificing more than Charlotte is prepared to give up on the personal front? As her supposedly routine assignment becomes more complicated with every passing hour, Charlotte finds herself questioning her own identity and values just as closely as the waitress’s.