A dozen stories that show a slightly darker tinge than Roberts's novels (The Bluest Blood, 1998, etc.) about Philadelphia schoolteacher Amanda Pepper (Roberts obligingly includes two Pepper stories, one of them a short-short whose heroine is technically anonymous, for purposes of comparison). To be sure, Roberts treats her favorite subject here the psychopathology of middle-aged matron-hood with a light touch in the routine ``The Shrine of Eleanor'' and ``Love Is a Many Splintered Thing,'' giving the male of the species his due in the otherwise interchangeable ``Goodbye, Sue Ellen.'' And when she ventures into deeper waters, the results are sometimes overwrought (``Hog Heaven''), strained (``Heart Break''), or unbelievable (``Clear Sailing''). Roberts's best stories nail the darker side of her inimitably frustrated postmenopausal singles and couples with a concept as witty as her mad-housewife interior monologies. ``Where's the Harm in That?'' sets a sheltered heroine loose among the personal ads. ``What's a Woman to Do?'' pits a ``standard issue Little Old Lady'' against a tirelessly barking dog. Best of all, ``After Happily Ever'' follows Cinderella and her prince through the marriage that was supposed to end their story. Just a bit tarter than Pepper.