Stubbs follows her excellent, complex Light in Summer (1991) with this less successful tale of a female chef who transforms a crumbling English villa into a prosperous country inn--wherein the heroine's motives remain less than clear and the plot surprisingly predictable and trite. At nearly 40, Flavia Pollard has already paid more than enough dues, having lost custody of her two sons to a vindictive ex- husband, launched a successful London bistro only to be forced to sell when her partner/lover betrayed her, and ended up alone in a basement apartment with little more than half the proceeds of the restaurant sale. By chance, Humphrey Jarvis, an old admirer, sends Flavia to recuperate at his sprawling country manor in Cornwall, and Flavia realizes almost instantly, despite Kelly Park's extremely dilapidated condition, that at last she's found a project she can love. Within weeks, Flavia has convinced Humphrey to help finance the mansion's transformation into an up-market country hotel, featuring a gourmet restaurant, with Flavia as chef and hostess. A few minor problems arise when Tom Faull, a handsome local rake who's down on his luck, prevails on softhearted Humphrey to let him fix up the stables as a place to live--thereby siphoning off money that might have gone to Flavia--but a real wrench is thrown into the works when Flavia's ex-partner tries to force her to let him in on this promising new venture. The solution is obvious: Lonely Flavia and floundering Tom must unite against their common enemy. That they unite in the biblical sense as well comes as no surprise; neither does Humphrey's sudden and very convenient heart attack; and the ensuing, elaborate treasure hunt for the all- important will is no more than an embarrassment. While Stubbs manages one or two vigorous, unvarnished scenes, on the whole Flavia remains a sullen enigma, Tom a typical romance-novel hero, and their love affair an inert literary contrivance. A minor disappointment from an accomplished writer.