The perils of money—both too much and too little—are well detailed in this debut novel about a couple who live in an ancient English country house and try to avoid financial ruin by selling a collection of souvenir mugs to a rich American. Little Waitling Hall, parts of which were built in the 1400s, is in danger of collapsing into the muddy moat that surrounds it. The occupants, Fliss and Ivor Harley-Wright, do their best to maintain the place, with no help from Ivor’s eccentric mother, Martita, but by 1987, despite their best efforts’sheep farming, Fliss’s handmade pottery, and dried flowers” they—re heavily in debt. Their only hope is to sell the mugs collected by Ivor’s father, some dating from the 17th century, to American billionaire Constantine Ziminovski. Mr. Z sends Tom Klaus, an ambitious and recently divorced lawyer who dreams of becoming super-rich, to finalize the negotiation. Fliss and Ivor do their best to make a good impression when Klaus arrives to inspect the collection. Fliss borrows bed linen, they spend overdraft money to purchase oil for the old furnace and try to spruce up the house. But the visit doesn’t go well: Martita hints at legal conditions that would affect the sale, the furnace stops working, and Fliss has to deal with a drunk and amorous Klaus. Against Klaus’s advice, Mr. Z. buys the mugs, pays half in advance, and invites Fliss to visit New York to get the rest of the money. Meanwhile, though, Mr.Z. and Klaus are arrested for fraud, and the check bounces. Fliss and Ivor survive as new projects prove more fruitful, and Fliss realizes, as the early “90s recession affects once rich friends, that “there’s always something in life to keep your mind churning in the darkest of the night, if you let it.” An unpretentious comedy of manners with an agreeably lower-case lesson about life.