Clare Naylor, . . Ballantine, $22.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-345-47053-9

The goddess of this entertaining fourth novel (and first Ballantine hardcover) by British author Naylor (Dog Handling , etc.) is an aging French screen star named Mirabelle Moncur. We know Mirri is French because she says non and merde and because she likes sex and knows her way around men. Heroine Kate Disney also likes sex, but she doesn't know her way around men, especially Jake, her caddish lout of a boyfriend. When Mirri commissions Kate, a painter of animal portraits, to immortalize her pet lion cub, the two become friends; soon Mirri is teaching Kate how to dress properly, stand up for herself and enjoy a man's attentions. For a time, Kate is a model student: she romps in Capri with Felix, a French playboy, and has casual sex in a swimming pool. The supporting characters are pat romantic comedy types: there's Kate's appropriately Byronic suitor, Lewis; her reliable best friend, Tanya; and her older, gay mentor, Leonard. The subplot, involving Mirri's search for her one true love, is engaging, as are the multiple twists of the main plot. When Jake returns to the scene, relentlessly courting and then winning the affections of a newly free-spirited Kate, Mirri's disappointment is palpable. The action Mirri takes to bring Kate to her senses is predictable but satisfying, which is also an apt description of this light, fun read. Agent, Carole Blake. (Mar.)