Felicia Simmons and her family have fallen on hard times. Ever since her mother’s death and her father’s subsequent mental decline, the resourceful and kind young woman has labored intensely to maintain her unusual household. Charitable as can be, Felicia collects stray, socially-outcast servants and insists on feeding poor children. She gives up her place in society, teaches music lessons, economizes, and even polishes her own brass doorknob (though so early in the morning that no one on her fashionable street can see her–except for the cynical Sir Christopher Wilde, newly arrived from India).
Wilde has little love for society, nor does he care for his new title and social position. He is, however, rather intrigued by the young woman who lives across the street from him. Why does she have a peg-legged veteran sailor and a pock-marked former actress and prostitute in her service? Why does she dress like a maid and wash her own doorsteps? And why does she teach music for her bread?
When Felicia’s dotty godmother and her sober-minded husband return from years of living abroad, opportunity arises: Felicia gets invited to society events and Sir Christopher seizes the chance to do something for his mysterious neighbor. Suddenly, Felicia finds herself thrust into the Ton, even as she must support herself by letting rooms to obnoxious lodgers (one of whom becomes her implacable enemy). Both situations cause her considerable difficulty. After all, how is Felicia to operate in society when she can’t even afford a bonnet? Or face society when her jealous tenant makes it public that Felicia is just her “landlady”?
Of course, Sir Christopher is “damaged by love” and thus has little use for women. So why does he feel compelled to help Felicia–albeit in secret? Could it be that he’s . . . falling in love?
Nonsense! He and Felicia just tend to have rather . . . intense . . . conversations. And he just happens to get a bit over-protective and over-bearing. And she just happens to resent it, leading to one of the most fabulous and horrid proposals of marriage that I have ever read (I mean that in a good way, I think).
I like Barbara Hazard, and I really liked Tuesday’s Child, which I have read twice. What I don’t like about the book is Sir Christopher’s fairly negative opinion about women–though it is somewhat balanced by his even more negative opinion about the Ton. He shows some pretty unflattering sides, though Hazard does give him motivation and reasons for his protectiveness and bossy concern.
Felicia is a fabulous heroine. We see her in so many different situations: dealing with a sick father with tenderness, struggling alone to maintain an unconventional household, putting aside any lingering class prejudice and working to live, dealing with crazy rumors and an overbearing patron, and so on and so forth.
I have reservations about Hazard’s portrayal of an abandoned black boy who was put out on the streets after he outgrew his page’s uniform. It was stylish for a while to have black children serve as pages, and they often suffered terrible fates when they got too old to be “cute” or to fit their clothes. For a real life example, see Ignatius Sancho. It’s unusual to see this ugly side of society exposed.
However, I found Hazard’s George to be stereotypical: he comes without a name (and names himself, stereotypically, after the king). He’s armed with an insatiable appetite, a strong dialect, an obsession with nice clothes, and a penchant for theft (At least the little waif white girl also has criminal inclinations . . .).
Understandably, George’s characterization dampened my enthusiasm for the book. I wish the author had made her abandoned pageboy more nuanced. I’m not sure how much to dock from this book–which was a wonderful read–for this unfortunate portrayal. I want to give the book a “5,” but somehow it doesn’t seem right.
All that said, the protagonists have depth (especially Felicia), the secondary characters are memorable, and the settings are vivid. Sir Christopher and Felicia’s developing romance is compelling and humorous, and appreciated that Hazard’s heroine is not one to bend to a rather difficult and controlling man.
Any book that I can read twice with pleasure deserves accolades, even if they come with caveats. It is not uncommon for authors of Regency romance to stumble when they have to face the reality of racism and slavery. I’ve noted it several times before, and I can understand their struggles with integrating such brutal systems into a romance novel.
So . . . all things considered, I recommend Tuesday’s Child. Just be prepared.