I might see him one day, Dulcie thought. She imagined herself in various places but could not exactly visualize the meeting. Perhaps, she told herself with a quickening of excitement, it would have to be contrived. Women were often able to arrange things that men would have found impossible.
In No Fond Return of Love, Dulcie Mainwaring is tall, in her early 30s and pleasantly attractive. She is given to wearing tweed suits and sensible shoes and is inordinately fond of Ovaltine: ‘Life’s problems,’ she thinks, ‘are often eased by hot, milky drinks.’ She lives alone, in the large suburban house her deceased parents have left her, and does indexes and odd research jobs for a living. After learning that her fiancé did not want to marry her (‘or that he was not worthy of her love, as he put it’) she attends a scholarly weekend conference as a kind of therapy. At the conference she meets the handsome editor of a literary journal, Aylwin Forbes, and falls (‘ridiculous and impossible though it obviously was’) a little in love with him. In London she begins to research Dr. Forbes, looking up his family in reference books and telephone directories, visiting the church of his vicar/brother, staying at his mother’s seaside hotel, even attending a jumble sale at the house of his estranged wife. When tea is offered at the jumble sale, people choose what they want, then pay, and she observes, it’s ‘rather like life. Except that there you can’t always choose exactly what you want.’ She observes that there are people ‘from whom one asks no return of love…. Just to be allowed to love them is enough.’ – From a review by Jean Strouse in Newsweek, 24 January 1983, p. 68