Regency Turns 80 — Friday’s Child

Silhouettes of a man and woman in Regency dress against a background of the number 80

Sometime after Friday’s Child was first published, Georgette Heyer received a letter from a woman in Romania who had been held as a political prisoner for more than twelve years. The woman wrote how she had been able to save her own sanity, and that of her fellow inmates, by telling and re-telling the story of Friday’s Child though the course of those twelve long years of imprisonment. From the day she read that letter, Friday’s Child became Heyer’s favorite among all of her novels. Though she was able to support herself and her family with her writing, Heyer never thought her romance novels were particularly important in the scheme of things, until she learned how much her story had meant to those women imprisoned in Romania.

Today, romance author, Vonnie Hughes, shares her views on the delightful tale of a young couple who marry for all the wrong reasons, but grow up and learn to love and respect one another over the course of the story. This is not a typical Regency romance, which may explain why it was so popular with those women in that Romanian prison.

Of course, visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts on this Heyer Regency romance in comments to the article.

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Brown-haired girl in white empire-style dress resting her head on the back of a slat-backed chair.

Friday’s Child is said to be Georgette Heyer’s favorite of all the Regency era novels she wrote. Lord Sheringham, known as Sherry, has been rejected by the beautiful Isabella and vows to marry the first woman he sees. This turns out to be Hero Wantage, a socially inept orphan, whom he has known since childhood. Sherry regards her as someone to be molded to his way of life, a blank slate on which he can write. She knows nothing of the social world he lives in but sees him as a paragon, and does her best to behave as she thinks Sherry expects her to, often with hilarious results.

Needless to say, some of Sherry’s behaviour is hardly a good model for an impressionable, inexperienced young woman, barely out of the nursery. Sherry discovers that it’s hard work, being an example, and Hero finds out that her beau ideal has feet of clay. Both of them struggle to come to terms with the shibboleths of marriage, especially when a villain named Sir Montagu Revesby enters the stage. But by the end of the book, Sherry comes to understand just how selfish he is and how important his new wife is to him.

Sherry is one of Heyer’s beta heroes. He is not aggressive and his morals are all over the place, but he does have a core set of values that the reader can admire. It is a satisfactory novel in that the protagonists are well suited and their unconventional love is sincere. And Sherry finally comprehends that although Hero might not be as up-to-snuff as the sought-after Isabella, and although she keeps him on his toes, she is far more precious to him than the conflicted, demanding beauty could ever be.

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  1. This is very much a coming of age story, I think, and so much fun. Thank you for bringing it to the forefront of my memory once more. Off to read the book again.

  2. My favorite scene has to be the duel (or better, the scene instructing how not to fight a duel). This story is just too much nonsensical fun – proudly ignorant aristocrats, a nameless Greek ghost, a heroine named Hero and her “scrapes,” and that Pug. The only negative feeling I have about Friday’s Child is in the romance. It just never connected for me. However, I laughed out loud so much while reading that I do think it’s a novel I’ll revisit.

  3. Love this book – especially when George Gil and Ferdy are trying to protect Kitten from Sherry in Bath and when they turn up at the inn where Revesby is with Isabella – priceless!
    I have all her books and have read them many many times!

  4. I love this book so much!!! The humor is sublime. And I think Heyer is meta-commenting on the conventions in novels (including some of her own), as well as the period code of “what gentlemen do” and “what ladies do” and such. And Hero, in her innocence, and Sherry’s friends, in their idiocy, keep accidentally tripping on paradoxes and inconsistencies in these codes and conventions.

    For example:

    “It isn’t Sherry’s fault!” Hero said, firing up in defence of her free-spoken husband. “He is for ever telling me what I must not say! The thing is that I don’t perfectly remember what I may say, and what I may not. I dare say I ought not to call that dancer a fancy-piece either?”
    “Upon no account in the world!” Mr Ringwood said emphatically.
    “Well, I must say I think it is very hard. What may I call her, Gil?”
    “Nothing at all! Ladies know nothing of such things.”
    “Yes, they do. Why, it was my cousin Cassy who first told me about Sherry’s opera-dancer, so that just shows how mistaken you are!”

    The entire scene, by the way, is much longer, and much funnier. I do love Heyer!

  5. Although this book isn’t one I’ve reread numerous times, I do appreciate Heyer’s humor and her characterizations in it. I do remember the scene where Sherry comes upon Hero after deciding to marry the first girl he sees. And that’s one of Heyer’s talents. We may not instantly connect with a particular book or set of characters, but they are memorable. Good review and comments!

  6. How have I missed this Heyer delight? You’ve spurred my curiosity ~ time for me to get reading. Thoroughly enjoying all these Georgette Heyer blogs.

  7. This isn’t one of my favourites, mainly because I don’t like the way Sherry treats Hero (although he’s barely more than a child himself, in terms of maturity). However, it is memorable for the wonderful scenes with George, Gil, and Ferdy. And Nemesis.

  8. I’m one of those who’ve missed this one! It sounds wonderful. I shall have to dig it out and catch up with all these Heyer enthusiasts who seem to carry the whole canon in their heads. Thanks to all those involved with setting up this series: it’s brilliant.

  9. HJ, I’m not happy about Sherry’s treatment of Hero either, but it’s good to see him mature through the weight of responsibility! Appreciate that excerpt Cara. Goes to show how ridiculous those ‘rules’ were.

  10. When first I read Friday’s Child, it actually made me sad. Hero was loving and giving, like the poem, and Sherry was an immature bully. For example, when Hero mentions Sherry’s opera dancer, he actually slaps her across the face! (“No, it was not my opera-dancer, and you may
    take that with my compliments!”) However, over time, this book has become one of my favorites. It has an amazing cast of characters, including Gil, Ferdy, George, Revesby, Pug, and even Nemesis. It is sad, funny, poignant, romantic, and filled with adventures/scrapes. It also shows genuine growth and maturity. Definitely one of Heyer’s books that improves with every successive re-read.

  11. I agree that Sherry’s immature behavior — and even bullying behavior, as Mimi states — makes it not the best romance in Heyer’s books. So people looking primarily for a great romance, a sigh-worthy hero, might look instead at, say, “Venetia”. But for the comedy, the character insight, the originality, I think Friday’s Child is hard to surpass. And Sherry really does learn, and repent.

    And it just struck me: it’s easy to see that Hero needs a parental figure to guide her, but what about Sherry? His father’s gone, his mother is no good at all, and his uncle is a weasel. So no wonder Sherry doesn’t know how to be a hero! He, too, has no one of the older generation to guide him, to model true gentlemanly behavior. Luckily, Hero is heroic enough to be patient with him. 😉 (Slap me with a noodle for that pun — I deserve it.)

  12. Ditto that the secondary characters really make the story here. Gil, Ferdy and George are hilarious. I love the scenes where Sherry confronts first George and then Gil in Bath – you can practically see the steam coming out of his ears! I do think it is a nice romance – Hero has always loved him of course, but isn’t willing to sacrifice herself completely, despite her loyalty to him. Sherry gradually shifts his view of her from errant younger sister to a woman – one he can actually see himself living with happily. I think the violence doesn’t bother me because he does think of her initially as more of a sibling – I don’t see him doing it after they reunite.

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