Author: LaVyrle Spencer
Genre: Historical Romance (1940s)
Published: February 1989 (HC), March 1990 (MM)
Re-Read Challenge 2009
Some mild spoilers ~ doesn't affect the overall enjoyment of the story
Existing. That's what he's doing. Will Parker is existing in Whitney, Georgia. It's August of 1941 and Will has been drifting ever since he got out of prison. He's drifted into Whitney and managed to get a job at the mill. He also managed to lose the job. No one wants to work with a convicted murderer. So now he's drifted to Elly Dinsmore's place. Why go to Elly's place? Because Elly posted a help wanted ad... for a husband.
I don't remember when it was that I first read Morning Glory, probably not long after it came out. I've read most if not all of Ms. Spencer's books, don't recall reading any that I didn't like. She was an auto-read for me. What I do remember about Morning Glory is loving it. Nothing has change that. This book is full of so many emotions: pain, despair, fear, hope, humor, love, acceptance and belonging. And Spencer is brilliant when it comes to portraying those emotions.
Elly and Will at first seem like the least likely of heroine and hero. They're both so tired. Weary is the word that comes to mind when we first meet Elly. And Will just can't escape his past. It's worn him down. These two seem to have gotten old before their time. Slowly, Spencer shows them changing, learning to lean on the other, sharing their burdens. Watching them change is a beautiful experience, seeing the mistrust melt away from their eyes.
Eleanor Dinsmore is known around town as "Crazy Widow Dinsmore". Is she crazy? Maybe a little. But not in an insane asylum way. More in a desperate kind of way. She places an ad in the paper for a husband. The requirements ~ healthy, any age, willing to work. She's not too particular. She can't be. Elly has two little boys and anther baby on the way. Her late husband, Glendon, died earlier in the year. Glendon was one of the few people to treat Elly with kindness but now he's gone leaving Elly pregnant and alone with two children. Taking care of her land, home and children are more than even she can handle. She not very old, nearly twenty-five, but she's had a hard life. Even before she married and moved to her late husband's home her life was full of misery with very little joy.
Elly was a bastard. That's what her grandparents called her. They let Elly's mother live in their home after she had Elly out of wedlock. The Dinsmores kept the shades in their home drawn because of shame for what their daughter had done. Elly grew up in this environment of shame. Shame for what she was and who she was. School provided some relief. It got her out of the house. But school turned out to expose Elly to the children of Whitney. And many of them proved to have as little tolerance of Elly as the rest of the townsfolk. So Elly made her escape to the woods. She would spend her days there, letting her grandparents believe she was at school. Being outside was a treasure to Elly.
Elly the grown woman still loved the out of doors. Spending time with her sons, showing them the different flowers, trees and animals of the woods. But she was not an easy woman to get to know. She doesn't socialize so she has no friends. The experiences she suffered as a child growing up left her unwilling to trust the townsfolk so she keeps to herself, never leaving her home. When Will shows up we see how Elly is torn between her need for help and her wariness of strangers.
Elly's home is about as worn and tired looking as she is. Does this discourage Will when he gets his first look at it?
"It was a mess: chicken dung, piles of rusting machinery, a goat chewing his cud on a back stoop that looked ready to drop off the house, outbuildings peeling, shingles curled, tools left out in the weather, a sagging clothesline with a chipped enamel kettle hanging from one pole, remnants of a weedy garden.
Will Parker felt as if he fit right in." page 12Will Parker is desperate too, just like Elly. With no job, nine dollars in his pocket and only the clothes on his back, he's been beaten down about as low as a person can get. So after being fired and told to leave town he decides to stay and apply for the only job available to him. Will really has no idea what to expect at Elly's place. What he ends up getting is a chance.
Will feels such relief when he realizes Elly wants him to stay. No one ever really wanted him to stay for very long. Even before he was sent to prison he tended to drift. Never putting down roots, probably because he didn't know how. Will is an honest, likable man. Quiet, with a strong work ethic that was part of those hard times. He isn't afraid of hard work, only of disappointing Elly. He seems to relish the huge amount of work that's required to get Elly's home back into shape. It gives him not only a feeling of accomplishment but also a feeling of belonging. Something he's never really had.
The changes that comes over Will and Elly are not only emotional changes but also physical changes. They both begin to look better, healthier, less worn out. Elly starts to take time to brush her hair and wear clean clothes. Will's frame begins to fill out from eating Elly's cooking. When we first meet Will he's skin and bones, eating green apples that he took from an orchard. He's eats them, knowing they'll make him sick but he's desperate for anything to eat. By the end of the book they've both come a long way both physically and emotionally.
As the story progresses Will not only develops a relationship with Elly but also with her sons. The gentleness and patience Will shows towards the two boys goes a long way in winning Elly over. Her boys mean everything to her. They're her last link to Glendon, whom she loved very much and still does. Will's actions towards the boys shows what a good soul Will has since his upbringing gave him very little experience in gentleness or patience. When he first meets the boys he has no clue how to interact with children. He learns, just like any new parent, by doing and by watching Elly.
Will and Elly do marry and begin to establish a healthy relationship when World War II comes knocking on their door. Will joins the Marines, knowing that he would eventually be drafted. By this time Elly has had the baby and has become more confident in her abilities to take care of her self and her children. The reader learns about the restrictions placed on people during the war and what life was like for Will and Elly dealing with combat and home life. The part of the story that takes place during the war includes the letters that Will and Elly write to each other. Neither one had much formal schooling and their writing reflects that but it also reflects their growing love for each other. While Will is away Elly continues to develop and grow into someone with confidence and pride in her family and her home.
There is not only internal conflict for Will and Elly to deal with but also external conflict. When both hero and heroine are such outcasts their dealings with people can and does cause problems. People don't get over their predjudices of others easily. But in the end they do get their HEA.
LaVyrle Spencer retired from writing in 1997 but she has a wonderful backlist full of stories of real people living and overcoming real life situations. You might be able to find Morning Glory at a UBS but if not it is due for re-release in trade size on 3 February according to Amazon. There is no cover yet, which seems odd so close to release day.
There is so much more I could say about this story ~ how much I liked both Elly and Will. How they are the type of people I personally would be pleased to have as friends and neighbors. But instead I'll leave the rest to discover for those of you that plan to read Elly and Will's story. Is Morning Glory still a keeper? Definitely!