After years of hearing the praises of author Georgette Heyer, I could no longer resist the temptation and dove in head first on the recommendation of Heyer enthusiast Vic (Ms. Place) of Jane Austen’s World, selecting the author’s favorite book Friday’s Child. Since Heyer published 56 books over 53 years, she had a few to choose from and I was confident that this neophyte would have one of the better novels to begin my indoctrination. I now see what all the fuss is about. Georgette Heyer is a treasure.
Spendthrift Anthony Verelst, Viscount Sheringham doesn’t give a fig about his finances until his creditors do. Selfish, impetuous and deeply in debt, he is unable to access his inheritance until he reaches 25 or marries and sets out to acquire a wife proposing to his neighbor and lifelong friend Isabella Milborne, an ‘Incomparable’, whose beauty and elegance are renown. She doesn’t think much of the idea or of Lord Sheringham’s dissipated lifestyle and rebuffs the offer. Indignant, he swears to marry the next girl he sees who happens to be seventeen year old Hero Wantage, the neighborhood orphan Cinderella living with cousins who want to farm her out to be a governess. By no means a scholar, Hero is miffed by the work plan just wanting to have a bit of fun and enjoy the charms of society in London. Seizing the opportunity, Hero accepts Sherry’s proposal and they run away to London to be married. It is here we are introduced to the real heart of the story, Sherry’s three male friends: his two cousins steady Gilbert (Gil) Ringwood and the foppish Hon. Ferdinand (Ferdy) Fakenham, and his hot headed friend George, Lord Wrotham who form sort of a bumbling bachelors club of Regency society dandies. Their influence drives the story as they help Hero (nicknamed Kitten) unschooled in the nuances of social etiquette and a bit lacking in common sense out of all sorts of scrapes that threaten her reputation and infuriate her husband who in turn is as equally clueless about his own responsibilities as a newly married man.
Heyer gives us a delightful view of Regency era London with its social outlets for the rich: fashion, dancing, parties, gambling, romantic intrigues, and the gambit of other frivolous extravagances that entertain the high society ‘ton’ world. Her characters are each distinctive in personality and well drawn out. The three bachelor friends were especially enjoyable as their priceless dialogue humorously captures that uniquely British drawing room chatter of “I dare says” and “dash it alls” that at times from other authors seems trite, but in this case just lifted the colloquial credibility and ambience. Even though this novel was written over sixty years ago, it is surprisingly superior in style and creativity to many being produced today. Friday’s Child reads like an expertly paced stage play, and I felt the influence of Heyer’s contemporaries in playwrights Noel Coward and George Bernard Shaw in the satirical social commentary and humorous biting dialogues. There were a few holes in the plot such as Sherry’s concerns over his uncle’s abuse of the trusteeship of his estate not materializing or Hero’s continual naïveté among others, but they were very minor and did not spoil my enjoyment. The gradual maturity and transition by both protagonists gave for a rewarding end. It is easy to see why so many Jane Austen fans adore Georgette Heyer as they share in the sisterhood of the ‘Gentle Reprove Society’ of comedic social satire. Friday’s Child matched it’s namesake from the old nursery rhyme as loving and giving, and critics marginalizing Heyer’s works as mere romances take heed. Like Austen’s novels, this is so much more than Chicklit.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Friday’s Child, by Georgette Heyer
Trade paperback (432)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, Naperville, IL (2008)