Jaie Baxter, an African-American Ph.D candidate at Philadelphia’s Allerton University, is determined to win a prestigious writing grant. In order to win the Adamson Grant, Jaie initially plans to take advantage of one of the competition’s judges, Jennifer Renfrew, who is also a University official. Jennifer has spent the past ten years alone following the murder of her lover, Patricia Adamson, in whose honor the grant is named. Jennifer is at first susceptible to Jaie’s flirtation, but is later vengeful when she discovers the real reason for Jaie’s sudden romantic interest in her. A lunch with an old cop friend reveals that Jaie may very well have ties to Adamson’s death.
Jaie is confronted with painful memories as she prepares an autobiographical essay for the grant application. She recalls the emotional trauma of her older brother’s death, the murder of a police detective, her dismissal from her dream high school, and her victimization at the hands of hateful homophobic students. She remembers her constant struggles with her mother’s alcohol-fueled jealousies and physical abuse she had to endure. This wake-up call causes her to look at her life in new ways.
But Jaie is not the only student applying for the grant. Terez Overton, a wealthy Boston woman, is Jaie’s chief competitor. Jaie is drawn to the New Englander immediately but is also unnerved by her. She has no clue that Terez is trying to decide whether she wants to accept an opportunity to write an investigative article about an unsolved murder. Writing that article could put her budding relationship with Jaie in jeopardy.
And just when the angst of old memories and the uncertainty of her future with Terez are complicating Jaie’s life, her manipulative ex, Seneca Wilson, returns to Philadelphia to reclaim Jaie using emotional blackmail. Senecas actions serve to wound and break Jaie in many ways. Will Seneca drive the final wedge between Jaie and Terez? Who will win the Adamson grant? And what did Jaie have to do with the death of Patricia Adamson?