Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer
Georgette Heyer was so skilled at getting to the heart of a relationship, and in this novel of Hero and her “wild” husband, Sherry, both must undergo trials and find that they need to discover so much more about each other. This is a book that proves that getting married is not a simple happy ever; indeed, in the Regency period as in many other historical novels it is only the beginning of getting to know each other. This beautifully written novel is a charming comedy of farce, misunderstandings and growing up – and of a group of friends who offer good, bad, and hopeless advice. Heyer has created a group of young men who mean no harm, but collectively they get into all sorts of muddles. There are also some misguided older people who ought to know better, at least one man whose terrible reputation goes before him, and some completely unintentional mishaps. Some brilliant running jokes (Nemesis, anyone?) and the risk of inflaming at least one character’s ambition to duel make this a book which is constantly amusing, consistently entertaining and a favourite of Heyer’s romantic novels.
Hero knows that she is not a “Brilliant Match…I have no fortune you see”. Sherry, or Lord Sheringham, is not much older, but says “it’s not likely I shall change at my time of life”. Change is exactly what they must do, however, as their hurried marriage is only the beginning in every way. Hero may have loved Sherry from afar for many years, and he has long regarded her as one of the more tolerable girls from his youth, but the convenience of marrying her is perhaps challenged by his discovery that he must change his way of life. After all, he has spent some time in the fashionable pursuit of that season’s acknowledged Beauty, the Incomparable Miss Milborne, but she has given him another put down, as she is quite certainly spoilt for choice. Desperate to end a Trust that means he cannot control his own fortune until he marries, he has an interview with his overly dramatic mother and Uncle, and declares “And I’m going to marry the first woman I see”. As he encounters the young Hero, his choice alights on a ‘poor relation’ whose destiny is to become a governess, as she has been brought up in a relatively wealthy home with no prospects, fortune or realistic hope of a good marriage. Whisked off to London, Sherry soon discovers his friends who give advice and become a sort of informal support group for the young couple. Not that they have much of a clue about how to be married and respectable, and Sherry has little idea of how to be married and steady beyond obtaining a house in a fashionable location. Hero, who is likely only to be about sixteen, has never been brought up to understand the importance of reputation or economy, and spends money freely. Not that that would be a huge problem, but her affectionate and trusting nature gets her into all sorts of scrapes, which Sherry and their friends help with in their confused way.
This is a novel to be enjoyed for its jokes, its wonderful dialogue and most of all its characters. Ranging from imperious dowagers to thieving horsemen, they are brilliant creations not only of their time but any time. The characters can be robust, and there may be one or two sour notes from a twenty- first century perspective, such as Hero’s young age at marriage, and the exasperated threats of her frequently misguided husband. Overall though this is a book that makes me laugh for its basic good nature and well intentioned comedy, and I thoroughly recommend it to those who enjoy historical romantic comedy and escapist reads.