Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer ***

This is the 3rd story in the 3-story book: Hummingbird. It's also a full novel, not a short story. I had already read the 2nd story, Separate Beds.

This review contains spoilers, as in the secret identity and the resolutions. If you don't wanna know, don't read.

Hummingbird is a historical novel that takes place in Colorado, but I can't recall the year exactly - 1870s sometime. After The War. Before electricity and cars. During trains being built across the nation - and the story is that there's a train robbery, and a passenger stops the robber by shooting him, and gets shot in the process. So now we have 2 men shot - the passenger in the big toe and the robber through the upper thigh. The passenger is awake and aware; the robber is unconscious.

The heroine is an uptight spinster of 33 - her backstory is that she had a fiance at 20, but he jilted her, supposedly because she had to take care of her invalid father. Her mother, already dead at that point, was the one who drummed Puritanical ideals into her, and we learn that the real reason she was jilted was because the hero decided she was too much of a prude, and the father/invalid was the only excuse she could admit to herself. The father is now dead - the spinster holds herself a leeetle above everyone else now, and the town respects her but doesn't exactly consider her friendly or approachable. Oh - she's now out of money and needs a job.

So she is pressed into the long-term care of both the patients because the doctor is overwhelmed with work, and no one else will care for a Bad Guy. The passenger is considered a hero (not The Hero of course) for shooting the robber; the robber stays unconscious for several more days while she tends to him, doing her best to keep him alive in spite of his alleged sordid deed.

Spencer builds a believable story around her relationship with the passenger - he's gentle, kind, appreciative and the heroine believes she could have a second chance at love with him. Then he sees her in bed with the robber - well, she was did crawl into the bed and fall asleep, but it was in the line of duty, trying to keep his wound from bleeding or something - and he leaves, mad, accusing them of consorting. So now we concentrate on her relationship with the robber, who is now awake and aware but surly and rude and all things bad. Plus now he's saying he wasn't a robber at all - but he doesn't elaborate or try to convince her of his name and status. And I think his manhandling her, with her being truly shocked and not submitting - bordered on assault, not "forced seduction". It started with a couple of kisses but went past that pretty quickly, although not yet All The Way.

Of course - the Big Misunderstanding is: he's the train's owner - he's rich and he's also a photographer, and he was never robbing the train (the passenger's mistake). He does understand that he messed up her chance at love with the passenger, so when the passenger sues the train for his disability, the Hero (aka the robber aka the owner of the train) pays him off enough with stipulations that he remain in the town. He knows that will mean the heroine has another chance at love with the passenger - which she takes.

Except. Well, she didn't realize any of this (his being the owner, the passenger returning to town), and insists on losing her virginity to the Hero - ooops - and he does try to convince her it's the wrong thing, but he doesn't exactly own up to the reasons. It Happens, then she learns The Truth, and the Hero is well now and leaves. Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am.

The passenger and the Heroine do some courting, and the town accepts him and her and all is peachy except she keeps thinking he isn't making her feel the way the Hero did - he won't even really kiss her. But hey, she's ok with all that, thinking this is really her last and only chance. Plus it's nice to have the town folk being so nice to her. And she has goals and aspirations now - the shoe store, a life.

They set a wedding date; it's now the day before the wedding - enter The Hero, who just can't stay away - he seduces her, and ooops the fiance walks in on them going at it. That's ok, the Hero just grabs her and they take His Train and leave town forever. The End.

I dunno, this story just didn't 100% work for me, even though maybe it's sorta credible for the time period? Still, with Spencer's story telling and prose, I had to give it 3 stars - I didn't hate it, but really - he did physically overwhelm her waaay against her will, the way I read it, several times. Not in a "I'm so attracted to you I can't help it" way, but in a "I can do it so I will" way - I just wasn't convinced he was attracted to her. And she seemed sort of fascinated by him, but not really attracted to him, enough to give in, on those first few times. She really does just seduce him in an attempt to learn what it would be like, thinking she'll never have another chance and knowing he was well and leaving, and NOT knowing the passenger was coming back to her.

I dunno. Not heart-wrenching, and plus I still feel she did the fiance wrong.

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