Desert Isle Keeper
Hummingbird was LaVyrle Spencer’s second novel, first published in 1982. It’s a western historical romance featuring a bad boy hero and a prim spinster who bicker and fight and fight and bicker and finally become friends and lovers.
Abigail MacKenzie is the town spinster. She is 33 and has spent the past 13 years nursing her ill and incontinent father. Abigail needs money and is considering becoming a waitress in a genteel cafe when two men are brought into town. There has been a shooting on the train and two men have been wounded – one has his toe shot off and one has been shot in the groin. The railroad will pay for their treatment, so Abigail takes them to her home to nurse them.
David, the man with the wounded toe is kind and polite and a real gentleman. Jesse, the other patient is rough, and crude and not a gentleman. Abbie is attracted to David, but it is Jesse who fires up prim and proper Abigail’s gunpowder temper and causes her to explode with rage, laughter and desire.
Abigail’s mother had been a most proper lady and her exaggerated sense of decorum rubbed off on Abigail to such a degree that her fiance had left her, the town thinks she is snobbish and she had given all her youth to her father and to duty. Jesse rips down her carefully constructed facade and finds the Abbie inside – a woman who loves to fight as much as he does, a woman who yearns for home, family and children – a woman who is passionate and loving. The fights that Jesse and Abigail have are alternately funny (often they end with Jesse and Abbie in tears of laughter) and revealing, when Abbie finally confesses how she resents having had to sacrifice her lover and her youth to duty, decorum and responsibility.
The book’s love scenes are tender and honest. When Jesse and Abbie first make love, the experience is not good for either of them. Abbie is a virgin and experiences pain, and Jesse is hampered by his still sore leg. But they are honest and talk about it and the next time is much better.
Hummingbird is hampered by being about 70 pages too long. Just as Jesse and Abbie realize the feelings they have, he leaves and David comes back into the picture. Abbie agrees to marry him but angsts and anguishes for far too long. The ending when Jesse finally comes back to literally sweep Abbie off her feet is wonderfully satisfying but could have come a couple of chapters earlier.
Even so, Hummingbird is one of my favorite LaVyrle Spencer titles. I have read it several times and it never fails to move me to laughter and to tears. I love it when I can close a book and feel the characters will carry their happily-ever-after ending forward. I felt that Jesse and Abbie would probably spend the rest of their lives fighting, loving, laughing – and having a wonderful life together.