In a family brought up to ride, to sail and to rock climb Michael manages to demonstrate how he is a survivor and an opportunist where his future is concerned. Michael manages to merge studies, business opportunities, women, drugs, sex, plagiarism and family affairs in a variety of ways to advance his own future. Around this character of Michael, an intelligent but self-centred young man, the story describes the concerns and efforts of Anthony and Sylvia Lord, Michael's parents to understand their son as well as their three other children. The challenge of the second child in the Lord dynasty has been repeated in each previous generation.
Just after Michael's twenty-first birthday, when he partially achieves his annual objective the story concludes with Michael being pressured to find a supposed lost or hidden part of the Lord family inheritance. In his efforts to find this at all costs Michael ends up paying a high price.