Auntie M loves Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Scotland. Today she’s caught up on two Isabel Dalhousie novels. The Quiet Side of Passion takes the philosopher to new territory. Working from home has its challenges, as does Isabel’s inability to say “no” to her niece whenever she asks for help.

The wife, mother of two, and editor of a philosophy magazine clearly needs help around the house. With her husband, Jamie, suggesting they go forward with help, Isabel soon finds her life turned upside down.

The new au pair from Italy has a very different idea of what an au pair should do or behave. And is she giving Jamie the wandering eye?

The young woman who seems the perfect fit as an assistant editor is intelligent, and seems dedicated to her work and her studies. But does she place too much emphasis on her work?

Alongside these distractions, Isabel meets the single mother of one of Charlie’s friends at nursery. Raising her son without help from his father, Isabel soon finds herself entangled in the kind of mess only she can get herself into. It’s her unfailing kindness, often in short supply at times in others, and her ability to question both sides of every question, that is Isabel’s undoing.

The Geometry of Holding Hands brings Isabel several of her most difficult decisions. A wealthy Edinburgh gentleman who has large land holdings and once knew Isabel’s father asks her to be the executor of his will.

After initially thinking she was not the person to do this, she soon learns he has little time left to live, and seeks her guidance on which of three cousins would be the best to leave his large Highland estate in care of.

Then, too, her niece, Cat, has increased her demands on Isabel’s time at the deli she runs. This seems tied in to her new man, the leonine Leo, who looks as lion-like as his name, with the same cunning attitude. Is Leo sincere in his affection for Cat, or for her part of the family trust?

These are the kinds of dilemmas Isabel most navigate with her usual intelligence and grace, and often a major jolt of good sense from Jamie. Set these inside a loving and realistic portrayal of Edinburgh, and you have books readers will enjoy and often think of long after the last page is turned.

One of the hallmarks of the series is Smith’s ability to illustrate the character’s and their personalities. His dialogue is astute and often hilarious. But it’s his warmth toward Isabel and her determined search for what she sees as the truth to complex situations where Smith shines and makes reader return again and again.