September in Scotland is a little like April in Paris, according to Pitcher. And since she lives there, she ought to know. So in this fat, cuddly semi-sequel to The Shell Seekers (1988), she sends a brace of interrelated highlanders invitations to a ball--one to be held one Indian Summer night at a manor house near the village of Strathcroy--and then shows what happens in the months before the champagne flows. As before, Pilcher's central character is an elderly gentlewoman, here Violet Aird, who's retired to a cottage on the local laird's estate to watch her garden grow--and to see son Edmund make a hash of his second marriage to lovely young Virginia. The sources of marital discord are wee Henry, whom Edmund intends for boarding school against overprotective Virginia's wishes; and Pandora Blair, the laird's smashing sister, who ran away from home some 20 years before after having an affair with Edmund, and who has now returned (Virginia fears) to rekindle banked fires. Then there's dear, dumpy Alexa, Edmund's daughter (by his first wife), who's fallen in love for the very first time with Noel Keeling (Penelope Keeling's schmucky son in The Shell Seekers, here whitewashed); and Vi's friend, Archie Balmerino, the laird who's come upon hard times, with a leg lost fighting the I.R.A. in Ireland; and the faithful old retainer, nanny Edie, who's saddled with her half. crazed cousin Lottie when she escapes from the loony bin the night of the ball. Of course, everything gets sorted out come September--since, as ever in Pilcher's fiction, there isn't that much to sort out to begin with. And though there are far too many slim blond beauties to keep track of, Pilcher fans will revel in the easy intimacy created between character and reader, and in the prevailing tastefulness of it all--which is the one ingredient Pilcher has added to the commercial women's fiction formula.