First US publication for a 1978 novel by the mildly serious, mildly amusing British author of Summer Solstice (1972) and Dames (1981), who this time focuses on tepid sexual stirrings in a comfy, stodgy 1950s English town. Joan Falconer, 18, youngest daughter of horsy, cheery parents, is nearly engaged to Richard Pridaux, 20, son of snobby, super-genteel, nouveau-riche types. (Pridaux Sr. is obsessed with nuclear-related civil defense plans; Mrs. P. is more concerned with drapes and ashtrays.) But, though the proper sweethearts are also secret lusty lovers, secretary Joan--vain, self-involved, with a non-conformist streak--is a bit of an Emma Bovary in the making: she fantasizes about ""going away"" (the big break from provincial life) and about a possible affair with her 35-year-old, married boss, architect Ben Hodges. Meanwhile, Ben himself is not unaware of Joan's subtle seductiveness; but he's also tempted by sultry invitations from bosomy client Mrs. Adderley, by earnest love-letters from his wife's unhappily married chum Liz. And, though Richard is relatively free of sexual restlessness, he's in a stew about his career: should he continue law-clerking--or go into the family business now that his brother-in-law is out (having been revealed as a shameless womanizer)? North treats all these faint passions and itchy discontents with low-key irony and dry detachment, pushing neither for sharp comedy nor emotional impact. So the result, as Joan and Richard head (despite misgivings) for a wedded life as humdrum as their parents', is British social/sexual satire of the palest sort--eliciting a smile here and there, but little more.