cover image HEAVENLY DATE: And Other Flirtations

HEAVENLY DATE: And Other Flirtations

Alexander McCall Smith, . . Canongate, $21 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-84195-466-0

Smith, author of the bestselling The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and some 50 other books, nimbly examines the mysteries of dating in this captivating collection. The stories, which take place in various locales—Africa, Australia, Italy—and in periods from the 1950s and '60s to today, explore the timeless, intricate dance of love and courtship, and make wise, often compassionate observations. In the lovely title story, a young woman summering in Tuscany has an assignation with an angel ("It may be unusual in other places, but here, there seemed nothing extraordinary about it") and finds herself pregnant with a miraculous child. In the arch "Intimate Accounts," the protagonist, a jaded psychiatrist, noting that "terrible things can happen on dates—traumatic things—which can trouble people to the very depths of their psyches," helps a narcissistic patient discover that his best date might be with himself. Two members of a "dating [service] for fatties" share a comic dinner in "Fat Date"; two wealthy Swiss singles make friends with the younger generation and learn the joys of sharing in "Wonderful Date," while in "Maternal Influence," a young man mollycoddled and emasculated by his mother, "the Mayoress," finally takes a stand when he meets a girl he likes. Smith's nine stories, with their light humor and touching moments, should inspire smiles and sighs in tenderhearted readers everywhere. (Sept.)