WHEN US Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin arrived for Donald Trump's inauguration, he had on his arm his fiancée, an eye-catching blonde clad entirely in white. At his swearing in ceremony at the Oval Office a month later, there she was again, standing between Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in a sleek blue dress and looking on proudly as the 54-year-old ex-Goldman Sachs millionaire took his oath on a bible she was holding.

She is Louise Linton. She's 36 (probably), and to quote the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post she's one of “the glamorous gals behind Trump's cabinet picks” and “a shapely blonde” who favours “dangling earrings and plunging necklines”.

She's also an Edinburgh-born, public school-educated Scot who spent part of her childhood living in a castle, has starred in a string of low-budget horror films since moving to Los Angeles over a decade ago and was pilloried last year for the contents of a memoir of her time as a gap year teenager in Zambia. Privilege, ambition, a taste for publicity and a love of showbiz: to many eyes, Linton is a perfect addition to the Trump White House.

On July 18, 2014, I interviewed Linton for a potential Sunday Herald feature. She was back in Scotland to launch a range of handbags for upmarket design company Dunmore. It was to be called The Linton Collection. “Move over Birkin!” she roared while telling me about it, referring to the £6,000 Hermes bag named for the Anglo-French fashion icon Jane Birkin.

She also wanted to talk about a horror film she had just produced and starred in called The Intruder; a rom-com she had upcoming, Serial Daters Anonymous; her film production company; and her part in Warren Beatty's $25 million Howard Hughes biopic, Rules Don't Apply.

Fatefully, Steven Mnuchin was one of that film's producers though it's doubtful he saw much financial return on his investment. Released in 2016, Rules Don't Apply took less than $4 million at the box office.

Linton and I met, oddly, in the show flat of a Leith Docks complex which had some connection to her property developer father. She was vivacious, talkative, likeable and articulate. She first told me she was 28 then admitted to 29, and said she had been born in 1985. Her Wikipedia entry puts her date of birth as December 21, 1980, which would indeed make her 36. Still, she wouldn't be the first actress to subtract a few years from her real age.

The picture she painted of herself was that of a proud Scot trying to make her way in the film industry in Los Angeles, aware of her privileged background but hungry to succeed in her own right.

Educated first at St George's School for Girls and then at Fettes College – two of Edinburgh's most exclusive independent schools – she lost her mother to breast cancer in 1995 and spent part of her childhood at Melville Castle, actually an 18th-century James Playfair-designed house near Dalkeith which her father bought and renovated over a decade from 1991. The family home was then, and still is, a large house in Edinburgh's well-heeled Murrayfield district. She has two older siblings, David and Suzanne.

After leaving Fettes, Linton travelled to California on a 90-day tourist visa. She left the day it expired but by then she was hooked on the sunshine state's positivity, confidence and, yes, sunshine. She won a place at the private Pepperdine University in Malibu to study journalism – “I know it sounds like a Malibu Barbie dream campus, but it was very challenging scholastically and academically” – then set her heart on becoming an actor while also studying law at another private institution, the University Of West Los Angeles. She earned a Juris Doctorate degree there, America's graduate entry law degree.

In the years that followed she founded a production company, Stormchaser; won a series of acting roles both large and small; and found herself a husband – attorney Ronald Richards, 14 years her senior. They divorced in 2010 after “four or five” years of marriage. “I think I was just a bit too young and we weren't exactly right for each other,” she told me. “Life moves quickly, particularly in fast-paced Los Angeles. It's not something I regret. I feel like I learned so much from it, and he and I are still dear friends.”

But prior to finally making her home in Los Angeles she took off to Zambia, aged 19, under the auspices of the Gap Activity Projects volunteer programme. It was these experiences which she recalled in her memoir, In Congo's Shadow: One Girl's Perilous Journey To The Heart Of Africa. And it was that memoir which continues to haunt her.

When we met she was on the 12th draft of the book, it was untitled and she said her literary agent had told her not to talk about it. She did say that things got “a bit hairy” in Zambia and that “three months in, it was that time when the localised civil conflict in southern Congo and eastern Congo, between the Hutus and the Tutsis, was starting to bubble and sort of flow into the surrounding countries”. But she made no mention of experiences she would later recount in print when the book was published in mid-2016 – such as hiding from armed militiamen, fearing rape and trying “not to think what the rebels would do to the 'skinny white Muzungu with long angel hair' if they found me”.

When London-based newspaper The Daily Telegraph published an extract in July 2016, Twitter went into overdrive and using the hashtag #LintonLies, many people in Africa and among the African diaspora took to social media to pour scorn on her account and point out alleged inaccuracies and misrepresentations. The paper published an apology and withdrew the article from its website. The book itself is currently listed as out of print on Amazon.

However you will still find online an Edinburgh Evening News story from May 3, 2016 headlined “Louise Linton reveals brush with death in Zambia” and featuring these words from the “29-year-old actress”: “Gunshots echoed through the bush and seemed to be getting closer. I tried to face up to the possibility that my life was over ... If I were discovered in my bolthole, I would be raped. I would be cut down. Smirking men with deadened eyes would brutalise me before casting me aside like a rag doll.”

The comments section below will make sobering reading for Linton. But sequestered close to the seat of power in America and basking in its reflected glow, perhaps she's insulated enough not to worry. Or maybe her fiance's new boss can write it all off as “fake news”. Either way, though the movie career may now be on hold, the fascinating life of Louise Linton continues apace.