The Perfect Passion Company by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Perfect Passion Company by Alexander McCall Smith

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: An antidote to depressing news cycles, this is a safe place to sit for a while and read a gentle, charming story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 360 Date: February 2024
Publisher: Polygon (An Imprint of Birlinn Limited)
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781846976599

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The Perfect Passion Company is a dating agency in Edinburgh, run by Ness and operating as an alternative to all the online apps in providing a more personal, tailored service. Ness has asked her younger cousin Katie if she could come and look after the business, as Ness is planning to take a trip to Canada to get away for a while. Katie is coming out of a break up with a bad boyfriend, and so jumps at the chance to come home to Edinburgh. And so begins this new story from Alexander McCall Smith, bringing us to an Edinburgh we already love, thanks to 44 Scotland Street and the Isabel Dalhousie novels, but with some new characters who quickly begin to charm. Katie has no experience in running a business, or in match-making, but Ness has full confidence in her abilities, and there's always her very helpful (and rather handsome) neighbour, William, to lend a hand…

It is always a happy day when there is a new AMS story to read, and this one did not disappoint. In a world where the relentless barrage of desperately sad news hits us from whichever screen we look at, his books are a balm for the soul. He continues to write with compassion, and with a gentleness that eases you back into a world that feels hopeful. The people who come to the Perfect Passion Company are just normal people, with their own foibles that perhaps have led to a difficulty in finding a partner; one is a lady who talks rather too much, another a farmer who is basically asking Katie to find someone to cook his dinners for him! Katie quickly finds she has a natural empathy, and thanks to Ness' helpful notes on all the files of clients that she holds, Katie is soon working hard to find a match for everyone who comes asking for help.

Ness was immediately an interesting character, as the first thing we learn about her is that she has been married three times, which seems a lot for someone who is working in a business to find people their happy ever after! We do get a little bit of news about Ness in her new life in a small town in Canada periodically through the story, but the book really is about Katie, and her neighbour William. He is very quickly, and quite obviously, the love interest but the difficulty for Katie comes from the fact that he is engaged to a girl back in Australia who is studying to be a doctor and so as far as Katie is concerned, he is off limits. Their friendship steadily grows through the story however, and I enjoyed reading the small steps forward they would take, and wondered how it would all resolve. William, a knitwear designer, is reassuringly just a very nice man, if perhaps a bit trodden upon, and I enjoyed his efforts in helping Katie with her match-making endeavours.

Being back in Edinburgh was also rather lovely, this time on the imaginary Mouse Lane. Katie does head out to the deli, Valvona and Crolla, in the story and it was so nice to feel we were in the neighbourhood of our friends at 44 Scotland Street. I have friends who now live in Edinburgh, and going to see this deli is very high on my list for next time we see them! I think that creating a sense of place, and creating characters you are interested in, or recognise in some way, are key selling points of AMS' writing. Of course, there is always a moment as you start a book when you miss your favourite characters from the other series. But this one begins playfully, and you quickly forget that you've been wondering what Mma Ramotswe is doing, or whether Bertie is getting along okay at school, and you settle into a different street, and a different glimpse into the lives of other characters.

I always feel safe when I am reading his books. This one I read in a post-Covid recovery slump, and it was absolutely what was needed, to take my brain up to Edinburgh, immersed in the lives of these new characters. I enjoyed the steady pace, and the small, gentle matchmaking stories, as well as Katie and William's budding relationship. I hadn't realised until after I'd finished reading that the first two parts of this book had been released previously as e-book short novellas, which explains the only small qualm I'd had - that it had felt strangely divided somehow with the three differently named sections. Just ignore that, and read it as if it was written as an entire novel from the beginning, because if you're looking for a book that will help you escape real life for a little while, then I would definitely recommend this.

If you'd like to read more of his Edinburgh stories, then you might want to read Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series or for someone else in Edinburgh who finds herself constantly involved and interfering in other people's lives try Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie Novels

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