Orion £16.99 HB

Cathy Scarlet has always dreamt of setting up her own catering company. The daughter of a cleaner and a compulsive gambler nothing has ever come easy to her. Marriage to Neil Harrington, a successful lawyer (whose mother Mrs Scarlet cleans for) was also an upward battle as Neil's family felt he was marrying beneath his station.

Tom Feather is an eldest son, inbred with a sense of duty. His closest friend is Cathy, whom he met at catering college. Hopelessly in love with Marcella, a beautiful model, he realises his own dream when Scarlet Feather is formed. Backed by Cathy's glamorous aunt with dubious connections and supported by a lonely accountant they set out to face the world.

As the business blooms so does their friendship. And as Neil gets more caught up in his "do-gooder" role and Marcella grows more obsessed with her appearance, they grow closer and closer.

They may be happy, but many other people are not: Tom's father cannot accept that he has turned his back on the family business, Neil's mother hates to think of Cathy as a "career woman" and Neil and Marcella don't really understand what all the fuss is about.

In true Binchy style 'Scarlet Feather' draws us right into the lives of Cathy and Tom, who are supported by an admirable cast.

Not the best novel Maeve Binchy has every written, but commendable and somewhat poignant as it is probably her last.

Charley Maine