All ambassadors ever do is play bridge with congressmen and run after senators, moans the heroine whose husband has told her he wants to be Canada's ambassador to Washington someday.

"All prestige and no power. High-class lobbyists," Nini Pike scolds husband Barry. "I married you because you were ambitious. You wanted to change things. What are you going to change in Washington?"

Barry Pike goes on to become Canada's prime minister in Sondra Gotlieb's new novel, "First Lady, Last Lady." And in real life Sondra Gotlieb's husband Allan, former No. 2 man in Canada's Ministry of External Affairs, has gone on to become Canada's new ambassador to Washington.

It's one of those ironies that won't hurt the book a bit. Though she calls it "a comedy of manners in diplomatic and political life -- not autobiographical," there are some similarities to Allan Gotlieb's career that will be apparent to those who know him.

Beyond that, it is a story of diplomatic intrigue, murder and blackmail which, as one reviewer described it, gives a glimpse of "life behind the veneer of diplomatic niceties and cool protocol, at the jealousies, the pettiness and the human frailties percolating beneath the surface glamor of embassy life."

Gotlieb has asked her agent in New York to give her at least a month before booking her on the talk show trail. Rather than playing bridge with congressmen during the month they have been here, the Gotliebs have been giving black-tie dinners for Washington officialdom, as well as the somewhat neglected (by their immediate predecessors) members of the press. Tonight, for instance, they entertain for Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Mark MacGuigan; last night's dinner was for Canada's Solicitor General Robert Kaplan.

But if queries to the Canadian Embassy are an indication of interest in Washington's newest author (she's also written several books on gourmet cooking as well as an award-winning first novel titled "True Confections -- Or How My Family Arranged My Marriage"), Sondra Gotlieb certainly is attracting attention.

"So many people have heard about her new book," says one embassy official, "that we've had to send out copies from Mrs. Gotlieb's own personal stock."