Georgette Heyer – Friday’s Child and April Lady

9 September 2009

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I mentioned yesterday that Heyer wrote some books that seemed to completely turn the conventions of romance fiction on their head by beginning with the marriage and then following the couple as they worked towards an understanding. One such book was The Convenient Marriage, in which Horatia decides to offer herself as a bride to the Earl rather than let her elder sister, who loves someone else, marry him. The marriage seems doomed to disaster (Horry is seventeen and a schoolroom miss while the Earl is much older and a practised roué with a long term mistress) but the unlikely pair manage to find happiness with the usual misunderstandings and entanglements along the way.

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Another such book is Friday’s Child, which is one of the first Heyer’s that I ever read. The book opens with the hero, Lord Sheringham proposing to the accredited society beauty, Isabella, who he has known all his life. She turns him down and in a fit of picque he vows to marry the first female that he encouters on the way back to London, who turns out to be a neighbour’s impoverished niece, Hero Wantage who has hero worshipped him ever since childhood. It seems like a bad move on the part of Sherry but this being Heyer World, Hero may well be impoverished and dependent on her nasty relatives BUT she is also a lady and born of good stock.

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The young couple muddle along delightfully towards their inevitable happy ending, when the immature and self centred Sherry realises that actually he loves his adorable and adoring young wife more than he loves himself. However, it is unlikely that he would ever have realised this had she not had enough of his behaviour and run away to Bath.

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Another book that begins with a marriage is April Lady, in which the lovely blonde Lady Eleanor (or Nell) Cardross is madly in love with her much older, very sophisticated husband but is unable to let him know in case he thinks that she is pretending in order to get him to pay her vast millinery bills. He, of course, is just as in love with her but feels constrained as her behaviour is so cold and unfailingly polite towards him that he feels sure that he is in for a huge rebuff should he ever declare himself. It’s a bit of a dilemma but you know that you are in capable hands as Heyer steers them and you through the mindfield of an upper class marriage of convenience that turns out to be anything but.

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