Flanagan (a story collection, Bad Girls, 1985) is an American who lives in London. Her writing may reflect some of the zeal of the convert--it's full of ""wellies"" and ""plimsolls""--but her ability to gaze right into the hearts of her English characters makes it all pretty irresistible. Here, when Eleanor Linnane, a redheaded off-beat heiress, sets up a secret trust fund for her ex-lover's daughter, the plot begins to thicken. Mix in a ""worthy"" London attorney, an amoral art-dealer, several hushed-up scandals, plenty of unrequited love, and the whole thing becomes as thick and delicious--and as English--as treacle tart. Clover Englefield, the trust fund's recipient, is part Heidi, part Lolita. She lives with her irascible artist father, Jason, and, after Eleanor leaves, with a series of Jason's young mistresses--who try to play mother in a slapdash way. Clover's real mother, married to a rich man, has agreed to stay away from her daughter. In the novel's 14-year span, Clover grows up to have a daughter of her own. Along the way, she samples whatever life can offer--from raising cats in the Sussex countryside to having an affair with an unscrupulous man three times her age and losing her bearings for a while. It is the money, Eleanor's trust, delivered by the trustworthy attorney Charles Bevan, which, finally, puts things to rights, untangling the web of past scandals and allowing Clover the luxury of her simple dreams. Flanagan's prose style is powerful, and she knows how to put a story together. If the ending here seems a trifle sweet, it shouldn't spoil our appetite for more of her work.