Sunday, 25 April 2010

CBR 46: "Friday's Child" by Georgette Heyer

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Page count: 432 pages
Date begun: April 21st, 2010
Date finished: April 25th, 2010

Vicount Sheringham, known affectionately to everyone in his acquaintance as Sherry, proposes to the Incomparable of the season, the lovely Miss Isabella Milborne, and is summarily rejected. As his inheritance is in a trust until he turns 25, or he marries, and he is in rather dire financial straits, he needs a wife quickly, and after running into Miss Hero Wantage, a kindly orphan girl who has adored him all his life, he decides to run off with her and make her his wife.

Sherry's friends are rather surprised by his impetuous marriage, but the lovely Hero, who is young and inexperienced, but also very generous, charms them all, and they are soon determined to protect and take care of her. Having grown up the penniless relative at a cousin's, facing a future as a governess, Sherry's offer of marriage to Hero is a dream come true. She is only 17, however, and not used to either the polite or impolite society of London. The rather hard-living Viscount and his many friends are also not the best role models a young lady could have. Hero, very swiftly nicknamed Kitten, and subsequently called this by nearly everyone for the rest of the book, keeps getting into embarrassing situations, the young couple both run up rather a lot of debt and while fond of his pretty little wife, Sheringham does not seem to actually know her very well.

I absolutely adore some of Heyer's books, she writes so very well, and I have previously mentioned the debt modern romance writers everywhere owe to her. According to Wikipedia, Friday's Child was Heyer's own favourite. I'm sorry to say I can't share her sentiment. While amusing and charming, like all her books, I had a bit of trouble actually engaging with the characters. Hero absolutely adores her husband, and can't very well speak out against him, since he rescued her from a life of servitude as a governess, but her blind worship of him gets a bit tiresome. Even more so, Sherry's absolute selfishness and failure to realize both that his young wife hangs on his every word, both for good or ill, and that once he's married he needs to mature and embrace his responsibilities. He does eventually clue in to the fact that he's an idiot, but it takes a bit too long for my tastes.

What saves the book for me is in large part Sherry's various friends and cronies, who are all amusing and colourful. Especially amusing is Lord George Wrotham, a rival of Sherry's for Miss Milborne's affections, who broods and pines and challenges other men to duels for the slightest perceived offence to him. Who the Incomparable Miss Milborne eventually chooses is a subplot in the book which also takes its time coming to a satisfying resolution. In comparison to so many other of Heyer's books that held vivid characters and engaging stories, this one just failed to deliver to the same degree.

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