Friday’s Child is one of Georgette Heyer’s funniest Regency romances. Although some of her novels are a bit closer to being “serious” romances (that is, with the emphasis on the romance, but always with witty dialogue), this novel is endearing in its plethora of foolish characters.
Anthony Verelst, the Viscount Sheringham, is a wild young man who is extravagantly wasting his inheritance on gambling and women, but his estate is left so that he cannot touch the principal unless he marries. He has fancied himself in love with the current reigning beauty, Isabella Milbourne, but he is not tempted to matrimony until he becomes fed up with his mother and her brother, one of his trustees, whom he believes is milking his estate. He proposes to Isabella, plainly expecting an answer in the positive, but piqued by his lack of ceremony, she rebukes him for his dissipated lifestyle. In a rage, he storms off, vowing to marry the first female he meets.
As he is returning to London from his mother’s house in the country, he meets Hero Wantage, a very young lady who is an impoverished orphan and a neighbor. He thinks of her as a little sister, so he has no hesitation in relating the tale of his misfortunes. When he tells her of his vow, she answers, “Silly, that’s me!” So, the heedless viscount throws her up into his curricle and drives her off to London to get married. Since she has long worshipped the Viscount, or Sherry, as he is known to his friends, and has been mistreated by her Bagshot relatives, she is happy to go.
The couple is naturally headed for trouble, for Hero is completely naïve and badly brought up, with no idea of how to behave in society. The heedless Sherry seems to feel that he can go on about his business as always without paying much attention to her, so she begins befriending the wrong people and otherwise falling into scrapes.
This novel features an outstanding cast of secondary characters, especially Sherry’s close friends–Gil Ringwood, a thoughtful young man who vaguely feels there is something wrong with the way Sherry neglects his wife; Ferdy Fakenham, a silly but warm-hearted dunderhead reminiscent of Bertie Wooster; and George, Lord Wrotham, a hot-tempered gentleman who constantly challenges other men to duels and is madly in love with Isabella. As a side comment, I think it is a hallmark of a good Heyer novel that the characters who would be the heroine and hero in a typical romance novel (that is, Isabella and George) provide some of the humor in her own novels, especially the devastatingly handsome George, with his exaggeratedly romantic behavior.
Heyer is one of my favorites for light reading, and Friday’s Child makes me laugh out loud, particularly when Ferdy gets it into his head that he and Gil are being pursued by “that dashed Greek we learned about at Cambridge. Kept lurking about in corners,” in other words, Nemesis. The characters are funny, the dialogue is witty, and the plot is full of twists and turns.