REVIEW: The Friendly Air by Elizabeth Cadell
The friendly air describes the atmosphere in warm, sunny Portugal where young, beautiful Emma Challis finds herself as the temporary companion to Lady Grantly who has just bought a home there. She took on the task at the request of her fiancé, Gerald Delmont—brilliant, sophisticated and with a promising legal career ahead. A perfect husband for Emma—but would he be? Enter handsome local lawyer Robert Weybridge, some eccentric neighbors, a mysterious young woman with five small children who take up residence in a packing crate, and you have the ingredients for one of Elizabeth Cadell’s finest refreshing romances.
This is kind of a mid-range age Cadell book which was first published in 1970. Cadell has the plot move a bit with the times and there are a few sharper moments between the heroine Emma and her fiance in England than I was expecting. That was delightful as Gerald is a prat. There I might have spoiled things a bit but honestly, I don’t think so. The blurb serves as a jumping off point for all the delicious, lovely froth that Cadell whipped up and dolloped on many of her books.
Emma grew up with her elderly grandparents so she understands and likes Lady Grantly far more than does her fiance Gerald the Prat. Gerald is slightly – okay, more than slightly – stuck up and has a tendency to patronize Emma even though he’s asked her to marry him. Emma has said yes as she wants a family and one must – or ought to – have a husband for that. But Emma is starting to discover that she’s outgrown her automatic acceptance of agreeing to what Gerald and his father tell her to do.
Emma worries that Lady Grantly needs a bit of support during her move to Portugal (the cards told her where to move) and sticks to her guns when Gerald gets petulant about it. Portugal proves to be a revelation to Emma and a reminder to Lady Grantly of better times when she lived in warmer, slower paced places with her husband. The half English/half Portuguese lawyer hired to see to buying Lady Grantly’s house is also a revelation to Emma though Lady Grantly likes him straight away.
Robert Weybridge has left England for a land and way of life he prefers – one that we see as new (to readers) through Emma’s eyes but (probably) described as Cadell herself knew it. Emma and I were surprised at Robert’s slightly unwelcoming attitude but a hilarious scene explains it all. It’s then that Emma and Robert start to change their ideas about each other. Robert proves his legal bona fides when a situation arises which never would in England but which I already knew a bit about after reading “Mixed Marriage.” It frankly flabbergasts Gerald but Robert has a plan up his sleeve for a way to solve it.
The way that Lady Grantly and Emma react to this also shows their sterling qualities. There is right and there is wrong and both of the women are, without hesitation, going to do what is right even if actually legally settling the situation could take years. All of this made me want to stand up and cheer.
But what about the romance? I added the “love triangle” tag but as I’ve already spoiled, it’s really no contest as to who the actual hero is. One thing I did like and also wasn’t expecting is how rational Emma tries to be about it. She’s not one to toss aside something she’s convinced herself about and resists the enticing moonlight; delights of a landscape, lifestyle, and people she’s never realized she wants; plus a man who openly lays his heart on the line and is prepared to offer her everything she’s wanted. When she makes up her mind, I’m convinced.
I would have liked a little more closure on the “situation” but given how well Robert has handled things and how well he knows the Portuguese, I’m betting that what he thinks up will work to settle it. But even if that doesn’t, and things drag on for years, Lady Grantly will see that everything is taken care of at the lovely slow pace of life they’ve found. B+