Sweet and naïve, Joyce Conway arrives in Los Angeles hoping to land an advertising job and to hook up with jazz musician Russ Hubbard, whom she dated in high school and who is now playing at a local night spot. There she meets and favorably impresses the club’s owner and featured singer, tall and voluptuous Vikki Prince, whose heterosexpot performances are just for show. Russ overestimates Joyce’s interest in him and winds up raping her. Vikki then offers Joyce not only sympathy but also a place to stay and an alternative path to sex and love. When Joyce moves into Vikki’s sumptuous house, she finds the place occupied by several of Vikki’s former lovers -- drug-addled model Arlene, androgynous gym teacher Buzzy, and phlegmatic artist Madeleine. Joyce also meets Edith, another ex-lover who lives nearby with her husband and daughter. The cauldron of conflicting relationships threatens to curtail Joyce’s foray into lesbianism.
If she had pushed things just a bit further, Martin would have created an over-the-top parody of what straight people imagine the gay lifestyle to be. As it is, she’s merely created a ridiculous menagerie of overwrought women who have no idea how to behave around each other. (Though in fairness, it should be said that Edith’s husband is a nut case too.) Maybe readers in 1960 expected compensation in the form of exciting scenes. The author recounts the rape in some detail, but when she gets to Joyce and Vikki, she does nothing beyond putting them in the same bed at the same time. By modern standards the book ought to end with Joyce (who was physically attracted to Vikki as soon as she saw her) on the verge of a serious and prolonged examination of her sexual needs. Presumably, the author knew that readers had different expectations fifty years ago.