A turn-of-the-century family tale--satisfying as a loch salmon, pleasingly civil--about domestic miseries in a household of landed Scots. After the hideous illness and death of the Laird of Invernevis (tertiary syphilis), son Niall--wounded in the Boer war and emotionally crippled by his father's dislike--tentatively takes charge of Invernevis and a difficult family. Niall's brother Alexander (his father's favorite) is no help: he has divorced himself from the main house and devotes himself to farming, carousing, and wenching. Lovely, fragile, 18-year-old sister Laura has the mental age of ten. Mama, distraught by years of coping with her late husband, has taken to drink. And Aunt Carlotta (Mama's sis) is the scourge of the household--she's a fanatically religious sin-hunter hated by the servants (including poor little scullery-maid Maggie, whom Carlotta persecutes unmercifully), and she's a mean-pursed, mean-tempered tyrant who batters Laura with iron discipline and worse. Niall, laboring under self-doubts and a nasty will which hobbles him financially, flounders in dealing with the villagers and Alexander. But after the tragic, pathetic death of Laura and after experiencing First Love (the sister of a fellow officer), Niall finally stumbles into enough courage to remove Carlotta. And then the ""drab house"" is miraculously rejuvenated: a reformed Mama takes hold of living and house managing; an exhilarated Niall awaits the arrival of the woman he hopes to marry; all ends in a peaceable kingdom with adoring Maggie watching her Laird madly fishing, Alexander sowing seed, and a ""beautiful day"" all around. Coasting along on a narrative ease that will even charm you into believing in Aunt Carlotta, the Dragon Lady of the Highlands--an instantly involving mini-saga.