Deep winter, 1900. Charlotte Heath, married to the stuffy scion of a family of lawyers and financiers in suburban Boston, is struggling to recover from a ''brain disease.'' Leaving the house on a snowy winter day for the first time in 10 months to race her beloved chestnut horses around the town square, she sees her husband embracing another woman. So she flees the family's luxurious compound for Boston and the Beechmont, an elegant hotel where the Heaths' former cook is employed. But the Beechmont, as she soon finds out, is no ordinary inn. What A private hotel for gentle ladiesprovides, along with meals and maids, is service of a very different kind from its good-looking young male employees. The only disappointment in Ellen Cooney's oddly charming story is its denouement: It comes as no surprise that Charlotte's sexual awakening gives her the courage to take control of her destiny.