A line from John Updike's "Couples" is recalled in the preface to this novel about married people, their single friends and their various sexual encounters. But Updike's characters spend most of their time in their private lives, with ambition only a backdrop if it comes up at all, while the private lives of Sexton's characters are driven by their ambitions. They either work on Wall Street or are married to people who do. Money and power are the dominant issues. The dialogue and the sex scenes are the real strengths of this novel. Whether it's sex with a friend's wife, sex in the attic or sexual one-upmanship, the sex is breathless, steamy and graphic. The dialogue is clever and real. Transitions are sometimes awkward as the story moves from one set of characters to another. The women are the main study; the men are comparative shadows. And it's not about ambition after all; it's about relationships.