Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Fox From His Lair (book review)

Publication: William Morrow, 1966, hardcover
Genre: Fiction, set in England 
Plot: Annabelle Baird has drifted into an engagement with Philip Ancell, and when she travels to Portugal to be inspected by his employers, their differences become all too evident.  He is annoyed that she brought her nephews, and she is disappointed he does not understand that family comes first with her.  In contrast to the uptight hospitality of his critical employers, Annabelle is subsequently welcomed at the Oporto home of the Prendergasts (an expansive family I would like to visit myself).   At the airport, she runs into someone else from her small English town: Angus Pemberton, the irrepressible grandson of her employer. He has been working in Brazil for years but spent his childhood tormenting Annabelle and her sisters.  He is instantly more appealing and easier to get along with than Philip, but Annabelle has never trusted him and doesn’t plan to begin now.   Adding complication to her situation is a mysterious man on his deathbed who puts Annabelle in charge of a precocious child, Luis, going to England.  Once home, Annabelle has to figure out how to resolve her suddenly complicated romantic and family situation.

What I liked: Cadell wrote more than 50 books.  Her specialty was light, amusing romantic fiction full of quirky characters and a practical heroine who usually manages to enjoy them in an uncritical way.  She has a Facebook fanclub and apparently her daughter has written a biography.  Like Jane Aiken Hodge, Cadell must have fallen in love with Portugal as she set several books there and describes it in a very appealing way.  Her books are charming and occasionally laugh out loud or at least smile to oneself funny:

“…[W]e’re going to stay with the Prendergasts.”
“Prendergasts . . . Yes, I remember.  Two girls who stayed with you once.”
“You ought to remember,” she said coldly.  “You cut the ropes of our tent, sank our canoe, put moles into our sleeping bags, played a hose onto our hammocks, and let the bull out while we were picnicking.  Looking back, I’ve often wondered if you weren’t suffering from a case of arrested development.
“Could be,” he admitted readily.  His eyes swept over her.  “You haven’t changed.”
As so often in the past, she was left to draw her own conclusions as to what he intended to convey; now, as then, she had a strong suspicious that he had conveyed anything but a compliment.

What I disliked: The machinations behind the Luis subplot were confusing and not up to Cadell’s usual skill in resolving loose threads.  I would have been annoyed if I were Annabelle to have been so left out of the loop. 
Source:   My mother introduced me to Cadell, and as a teen, I read every one of her books in my library.   I liked that her heroines were independent and mostly had jobs.  I didn’t remember this one well but found this on the shelf in Brookline and decided it needed circulation.  I recommend checking your local library to see if any of her books are still available –  look for The Lark Shall Sing, one of my favorites (the heroine reminds me of myself).

1 comment:

GSGreatEscaper said...

As you know, I am also a fan of Cadell, to whom I was introduced by my mother. Are they gone from Rossie? That's where I read them. They were shelved, along with my Jane Duncan books, in the little alcove at the back of the library, where A - E adult fiction lived when the library was new.....