Stella works as an agony aunt for a teenage magazine. She lives on Pansy Island, a self-consciously arty community on the Thames, where her husband Adrian writes erotic novels in a summerhouse by the river. She has two teenage children who are preparing for adult life in ways not necessarily recommended in the pages of their mother's advice columns. Stella's friends assume she has no problems of her own and shamelessly come to her for advice she dishes up for a living on the magazine. Stella however finds herself with a problem she can't handle when Abigail, her rich and glamorous friend from university, comes to stay. Abigail has been deserted by her third husband and has decided that Stella's life, and in particular, Stella's husband (with whom she once had a fling as a student), will be just the thing.
Research for this one has to come under chapter one in the Essential Guide for Lazy Writers. I simply looked out of my window and thought: what if... In the middle of the river in front of my house is just such a place as Pansy Island (although with much lovelier and - I promise - better-behaved inhabitants). The summerhouse that Adrian writes in exists and perches on a riverbank wall. There were craft workshops, artists' studios and a sculpture garden. Very sadly, just as I was finishing the book, we woke in the middle of the night to find much of the island covered by raging fire. No-one, thank goodness, was hurt but a tremendous lot of irreplaceable work was destroyed.