Much of what I like in Alexander McCall Smith books is humorous, but it is always based on real human emotions, like envy, pride, or insecurity. In Love Over Scotland, like in his other 44 Scotland Street novels, the characters struggle with these emotions to make ethical decisions. After a bad start with many misunderstandings, novelist Antonia Collie recognizes that she must reconcile herself to the gruff artist Angus Lordie to maintain her friendship with anthropologist Domenica Macdonald. Near the end of this book, Antonio has this moment of thought:
She arose from the chair and looked out the kitchen window. The sky was perfectly empty now, filled with light; the rooftops, grey-slated, sloping, pursued angles to each other, led the eye away. When Domenica came back, thought Antonia, I shall do something to show her how much I value our friendship. And Angus Lordie, too. He's a lonely man, and a peculiar one, but I can show him friendship and consideration too. And could I go so far as to love him? She thought carefully. Women always do this, she said to herself. Men don't know it, but we do. We think very carefully about a man, about his qualities, his behaviour, everything. And then we fall in love.
The reason Antonia is in the story is that Domenica has loaned the novelist her apartment in Edinburgh while she goes to tropical Malacca to study the rural village society of pirates. She has to negotiate an invitation to the village, where she learns of the death of a previous anthropologist. After dismissing an unreliable translator, she finds the true nature of piracy.
Meanwhile, her friend Pat is attending art history classes at the University of Edinburgh, where she meets a handsome young man who calls himself Wolf. He even likes to howl. Shy Pat does not know what to do about the attention he gives her, especially after her flatmate (his girlfriend) threatens her.
Fans of Bertie Pollock, the six year old who is studying Italian, learning to play the saxophone, and undergoing unwanted psychotherapy, will be please that he has more adventures in this new book. His parents again lose their car, and his mother insists that the Edinburgh Teenage Orchestra let him audition for its upcoming season and trip to Paris. Bertie, who just wants to be allowed to be normal, finds his early introduction to adolescence to his liking. He especially enjoys his free day in Paris.
Love Over Scotland is the third book in the 44 Scotland Street series, each of which ran in daily installments in The Scotsman newspaper. Readers do not have to start with 44 Scotland Street, but I think they will enjoy the series more if they do. All libraries need to have these books.
McCall Smith, Alexander. Love Over Scotland. Anchor Books, 2006. ISBN 9780307275981