Author: Georgette Heyer
UK Publisher: Arrow
Genre: Historical romance
Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.
When the dashing Lord Sheringham proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.
But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.
The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.
This is the Heyer that I’ve been trying to find for ages, and every time I end up picking up Charity Girl instead and get frustrated. It’s a similar set up of sorts, a young country gentleman in an impulsive mood stumbles across the poor cousin of a local family, and offers her shelter. Except in Friday’s Child, the gentleman in question is in a bad mood because his childhood friend just turned down his proposal, so he decides to elope with the young waif he has acquired.
It’s a bit of a weird one. Hero is barely 16 at the beginning of the book, which I think is the youngest heroine of any Heyer book I’ve read, and she definitely feels young. Equally, I’m not entirely certain how old Sherry is – he gets married because that allows him access to his full inheritance, which otherwise he would not be able to access until he was 25. In my head, I assumed he was 21 (I can’t quite remember why), but there are a few throwaway comments talking about it being 9 months until he gains his majority, which I suppose emphasises his impulsive, thoughtless nature that he’s willing to get married to gain his fortune when he’s less than a year away from getting it anyway. And he’s clear from the start that’s all this marriage is, a business arrangement, even though Hero is clearly besotted with him. She becomes completely reliant on him for her protection, her social training, and he absolutely does not care about this.
Re-reading this, for some reason this age gap made me feel a little more uncomfortable than the one in These Old Shades, even though that age gap is significantly bigger. I think in that case, we are continually reminded that although Leonie is young, she is very wise and mature beyond her years. Equally, Avon works hard to ensure she is far less reliant on him alone, so there is a different power dynamic. In Friday’s Child, Hero is very sheltered and young, and she feels like it, and while Sherry is older he also lacks the maturity to be able to really care for her and protect and support her, but his blunders and mistakes emphasise where the power really lies in their relationship. For example, he takes her to a masquerade, but – getting overexcited when he thinks he sees one of his mistresses – he leaves her alone in the box, only for her to get harrassed by another man there. It’s fortunate Sherry sees this and comes back to intervene, if he hadn’t then Hero could have found herself in real danger.
This happens repeatedly throughout the book – Hero misreads a situation, or follows his lead, ends up in real danger or socially uncomfortable situations, and Sherry then has to rescue her. This is usually followed by him getting angry at her, which feels quite ridiculous when you consider her age and the fact that she had literally never left home before she married him. And she doesn’t have any woman friends, or older female figures to guide her! It’s literally Hero, Sherry, and all Sherry’s idiot friends.
I say that in the nicest possible way, however, because one of the loveliest things about this book is the way that Sherry turns up suddenly with a wife, and all his dozy bachelor friends immediately take her under their wing and decide she’s their new little sister. Each of them is dim in his own unique way, almost like a manufactured boy band of Regency bros – there’s the smart, thoughtful one; the tempestuous, romantic one; and the fashionable, affable but dim one. And then there’s Sherry, the ringleader. What is lovely, however, is that as the book progresses their loyalty shifts from following Sherry to protecting Hero. The three of them will do anything to ensure that she is safe and happy – and they do! When they finally decide that Sherry isn’t good enough for Hero as he is, they concoct an elaborate scheme to get him to buck his ideas up.
In that respect, that’s almost what I read the book for. I remembered it as a fake-marriage-to-real-marriage love story, but it also turned out that the part I thought was the ending was in fact only the mid-point of the story! A lot more happens, and Sherry has to work a lot harder to finally get out of his own business and start caring about his wife. On this re-read, what I found myself enjoying most was the strange mismatched camaraderie of the friendship group, and how that earnest if slightly baffled affection was all turned on Hero. Particularly since she had never really experienced any outright affection before this, and even her husband didn’t seem entirely invested in her. Suddenly she finds herself with a group of older brother figures who will do whatever she wants, and love her unconditionally. Rather than a fake-marriage-to-real-marriage story, this time it felt like a Found Family narrative that warmed the cockles of my heart.
It’s one I’d advise approaching with caution if you’re not keen on age gap relationships, because this really feels like a significant one, even though it’s not the biggest in Heyer. I’d also brace yourself for some mildly unhealthy dispute resolutions, as Sherry has a fairly hot temper and isn’t the best at managing his language when Hero does something wrong, which is particularly rich when she is only following his own example. As a character, Hero is earnest and sweet, while Sherry does seem like a bit of a prat for most of the book so you wonder what she sees in him. It’s clear that this is a childhood crush, which is another element that highlights her very young age.
If these things aren’t dealbreakers for you, however, this is overall quite a sweet story with a lot of Heyer’s trademark chaotic fun from a group of people who understand each other perfectly but who manage to universally baffle everyone else they encounter.
- A marriage of convenience, fake-to-real-relationship trope, but with a lovely dose of found family thrown in. It’s chaotic and sweet at its heart, although not without its issues.
- The primary issue is of course that Hero is barely 16 at the start of the book, while her husband is approaching his mid-twenties. She is far more naive and sheltered than many of Heyer’s other young romantic leads, which makes the power dynamic feel more stark given the relative volatility of her husband’s temperament.
- I do love that Heyer decided to create a specific group of friends but made sure that each member of the group was sufficiently different from the others. They’re like options on a dating simulator, and it cracks me up. It’s really sweet when it becomes clear that some of them can barely get along with each other at the best of times, but every single one of them will drop everything to help Hero if she needs it.
- Particular shoutout to George, clearly meant to be inspired by Lord Byron, whose favourite hobby is calling people out to duel – to the point that the others comment with surprise on how he must really be down in the dumps if he hasn’t attempted to shoot anyone on a given day.