I confess to a deep fondness for women's fiction by English authors. There is a certain good-natured reality about the English style, a sense of compassion that doesn't require a lot of embarrassing over-embroidery. Alphabet Weekends by Elizabeth Noble is a delicious example of the form. When Natalie is unceremoniously dumped after six years, her good friend Tom comes to the rescue with an idea for a way to cheer her up: They'll go on outings corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. By the time they get to Z, surely Natalie will have fallen for him? Alternating among three couples at various stages of life, Alphabet Weekends is a clear-sighted, compassionate and loving look at the ways we fall in and out of love, wound ourselves and each other and get back on track . . . if we're lucky. A warm, readable, lovely story. Barbara Samuel's most recent novel is Madame Mirabou's School of Love.

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