Thursday, March 11, 2021

Any Two Can Play by Elizabeth Cadell

Title: Any Two Can Play
Author: Elizabeth Cadell
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 1981
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century England
Description: When Natalie hears her sister-in-law has abandoned both husband and toddler twins, she drops everything to head to Downing, the small town where her brother teaches music at a boarding school. Julian is happy to escape responsibility, leaving Natalie in charge of meals, housekeeping, and childcare. More capable than most, she also finds herself involved in village life, particularly with the Downing family for whom the town is named – three eccentric elderly sisters, their handsome nephew Henry, and his young brother Leo – which threatens to upend the peaceful life she left in Brighton.

My Impression: Elizabeth Cadell was known for her light romantic fiction with 20th-century heroines who usually have careers varying in intensity and spend more time avoiding entanglements with Mr. Wrong than working. In 2016, Friendly Air Publishing was informally set up by the heirs of Elizabeth Cadell to republish the 52 books that she wrote between 1946 and 1983. Although my library system still owns a number of copies, I am so glad these books are available again in paperback and electronic form.

Often Cadell’s heroines are dealing with incredibly self-absorbed and selfish individuals; luckily, here the offender is not Natalie’s romantic interest as I find those characters are more annoying than amusing. Between Natalie’s opinionated elder brother and his wife, who want her to marry someone who will elevate their social standing and Julian, who barely gives her or his twins a thought after she moves in to help him cope, her family is dreadful, if amusing. As well, Henry Downing has eccentric but less annoying relatives to spare. In typical Cadell fashion, Henry goes from tripping over Natalie in the woods (falling for her) to winning her over with picnics and by including the twins in most of their outings in an improbable but entertaining matter of days:
“How are our twins?”

“Our twins are asleep.”

“Good. What am I doing here, you were about to ask? Incidentally, you shouldn’t open the front door after dark without putting your lips to the crack and saying ‘Who and what are you?’ Suppose I’d pushed past you with a stocking over my face?”

“You were about to tell me what you were doing here.”

“Aren’t you pleased to see me?”

“It depends what you’re doing here.”

He was opening parcels and putting the contents onto plates which he took from a cupboard.

“It’s a long story,” he said. “I was sitting in the hotel lounge, thinking about you and marveling at the fate which had thrown us together on this urban island . . .”
Henry has an insouciant charm that is appealing even if his immediate devotion to Natalie and her nephew/niece seems out of character. If there is some wish fulfillment in this particular Cadell, I think a pandemic reread merits just that! I also just reread another of her later books, A Lion in the Way, which is much more serious and (I decided) somewhat melancholy, although just as good.

Links: Amazon * WorldCat
Source: Library


Lark said...

I wish my library had copies of her books!

Cath said...

Goodness me, this is an author I remember seeing in the library back in the 1960s. Yes, I am that old. For some reason I never picked up any of her books, perhaps because I was deeply into science fiction and they didn't seem quite my thing. Suspect they might be nowadays.

Unknown said...

Long time fan, but I was really happy for the reprints, some were new to me. Great comfort reads, especially in these pandemic days!

CLM said...

Lark, most libraries at least consider purchase requests. I recommend making it easy for the staff by providing author, title, ISBN, and a review if you can find one (even if it is a 50-year-old Kirkus). My favorite Cadells are a series about the Wayne family which begins with:

Cath, you would enjoy Cadell. They aren't always predictable but they are very entertaining. She clearly loved Portugal and set several books there, which always made me want to visit.

I think some of the reprints are new to me too, although my local libraries always had a large collection. This one actually came from my childhood library. I like to check these and the DE Stevensons out in turn so the library knows they are circulating!

Judy Krueger said...

Thanks for introducing me to this author.

TracyK said...

I usually am not interested in this type of read, but dreadful families are fun to read about, it they are not too horridly dreadful.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

This sounds charming. And I'm all for wish fulfilment, anything that gets me out of my recent reading slump! Thanks ~Lex

Elza Reads said...

I remember my aunt use to love Elizabeth Cadell and I am sure if I search a bit in her boxes, there might still be a few hidden somewhere!

Maybe that's exactly what I should do and read one. This one sure does sound charming.

Elza Reads