Obsessively neat Lily, a writer who writes about writers, is asked to interview the enigmatic Rita Boothe, journalist, photographer, self-styled culinary expert, and wit. Sitting in Rita's living room, leafing through a book of photographs from the early '70s, Lily comes across a picture of an incandescently sexy young woman sitting in the back of a limousine, swigging Jack Daniels. It is her mother, Mattie. Lily isn't shocked. She's envious.
While her mother regards the Locarno dancehall as a den of iniquity, for 17-year-old shop-girl, Nell McClusky, it’s the centre of the universe. Where else is she going to meet the man of her dreams who’ll take her away from the humdrum realities of life on a council estate in 1950s Edinburgh? At first Alistair Rutherford doesn’t look that promising. He dresses more like a student than Nell’s idol, Buddy Holly.
Izzy has joined the Air Transport Auxiliary and can’t believe her luck. She’s getting to do the thing she loves most: flying. On the ground she is a woman who longs to be independent, but who is lying to her family about the job she does. But, in the thrill of the air, she can be free. Izzy’s heroine is her friend, Elspeth, who, on an impulse, signed on to do her bit as a lumber-jill and has been regretting it ever since.