Yet another matron, unhappily settled in an empty nest, kicks over the traces to cavort into an affair--here, in her native Edinburgh. Emily Montjoy may have had a heated liaison with a West Indian in her youth, but now she's stuck in the ""sluggish backwater"" of marriage to unloving lawyer Farquhar. So Emily's eager to re-enter Life, and she begins at her shrewd dressmaker's tenement-an ""exotic haven"" gleaming with silks, satins, a cosy fire, and the dressmaker's son: actor/gigolo Conal. Soon Emily has a jolly social life as one of a convivial threesome: herself, Conal, and Louisa, a brash but appealing American who's researching Scottish castles. Pub-trotting, playgoing, out to all hours, Emily is riding high--she even finds that she's less depressed about her daughter Carlotta, pregnant and living in squalor with a young man of no noticeable charm. Emily and Conal finally consummate their love after closing hours in the Botanical Gardens; they plan a getaway to France; Farquhar, who has been castling with Louisa, agrees to a separation. But Fate and the dressmaker, who both know how to twist a silver cord into a slip-knot, bring off a grim surprise, leaving Emily bereft, Farquhar alone, Louisa horribly dead. And, at the close, a sober but sturdier Emily will move in with expectant Carlotta. The best stuff here is Conal and his pimping dressmaker mum (a taut, witty portrait of mother and son), while Emily herself tends to be less convincing or engaging. So, from an author known mainly here for her juveniles: a matinee daiquiri with a surprise tang, dragged down only somewhat by the leading lady's rather damp, implausibly chameleon personality.