When April moves into Hummingbird House, she is intrigued by her mysterious landlord, Dai.
With a bruised heart and a distinct lack of furniture, she spends the summer getting to know the other occupants. As she smartens up her home and makes peace with her recent past, she befriends Paul, a solitary ex-chef, and Betty, an elderly lady who lives in the basement flat.
But Hummingbird House holds many secrets, and the relationships of the tenants are not as straightforward as they seem. April learns some shocking truths one eventful night, and realises that victims and villains can look the same.
The Landlord of Hummingbird House is a contemporary novel exploring unlikely friendships, unexpected love interests, and family relationships. Here, everyone is in need of a second chance – and appearances can be deceptive.
Jane has kindly shared an extract with us today. Enjoy.
*****beginning of extract*****
April (a 32-year-old Primary School teacher) has had to move to a new home following the break-up of her long-term relationship. Immediately before this scene, April and her sister are working away to improve her new rental home. As she works, April starts to dwell on how she renovated her last home, which leads to reflections on the end of the relationship. She has just described how she and Tom seemed to be drifting further apart, and how he was working long hours, following a promotion.
Eventually, he invited her to a black-tie do, for his work. April knew the date off by heart for weeks, building this one evening into something special, something that would help to salvage things. Take them back to how they were. They would have a wonderful time. They would laugh and eat and drink. Maybe dance.
She had no idea what to wear at first, and ended up having to get a new dress, and buying sparkly sandals when she couldn’t find heels that she could walk in. She had always had a problem with shoes. They both dressed up: physically pressed and booted; emotionally crumpled and tired. It was the first time they’d been out together in months.
When they were seated, April struggled to make conversation with his colleagues and acquaintances – her work stories revolved around little Jamie’s lost trousers after P.E rather than how the office intern had nearly lost them half a million. She felt like someone’s little sister. Like she’d been asked along by mistake, or out of pity, with her costume jewellery and too-tight Spanx.
It struck her that there was a time when they would have been accomplices at these events – saving each other from dire conversations with dribbling, drunken Non-Executive Directors, or giggling behind menus, thick as thieves. But Tom was off, working the room, and chatting amiably to everyone. It was expected, he said. He had to show his face.
She tried not to mind. She tried hard to be proud of him, as he moved confidently about the space, spending an age at table nine, where more of his colleagues were. He was a handsome man, his body at ease in his expensive clothes; his smile natural and broad. And he was hers.
Then, at the end of the night, while Tom was queuing for their coats, a young woman appeared at April’s side. She was about twenty-eight – maybe younger – and immaculate. April found herself wondering, vaguely, if she’d had her make-up and long, dark hair done professionally, and how long it had taken. She wanted to touch her waves, see if they felt as soft as they looked.
“Hi,” she said, firmly sticking her hand out for shaking, manicured nails gleaming, “I’m Susie.”
April took her hand. “I don’t think we’ve met?” she said.
Susie gave a wan smile. “I love your dress,” she said. “Did you manage to find any shoes in the end?”
April was confused. She found herself automatically sliding one foot out from under the table for her to see.
“Ah, O.K.” Susie said, in a manner that seemed to mean: “That’s a shame.” April looked down to Susie’s shoes, gold, studded, and sharp, heels three inches at least.
“You’ve got quite a catch there. He talks about you all the time.”
“Really? What does he say?”
Susie didn’t answer. “Has he taken you to that new Japanese place yet? I told him to. Not fair to keep taking me there and not you. That place is wasted on work talk.”
“Not yet,” April said, tight-lipped. Tom had never been keen on sushi.
“I’m sorry I keep stealing him, but the Longstone Project is just taking so much time. Thank God I’ve got him by my side. I don’t know what I’d have done without him.”
“Have you finished the flat yet? Ready to get it on the market? I’m dying to see it. I’m looking to get a do-er up-er myself – “
“- Oh, but it’s not really a…” April started to correct her.
Susie was looking away, hardly paying attention.
“Here he comes now.” She called across the room, raising her voice, “I hope you got me the right coat! Not like last time!”
Susie was laughing, head back a little, straight white teeth exposed. April looked in the direction she had been calling, to see Tom, not laughing, but looking horrified to see them together.
“Oh, you two have met,” he muttered, “Talking about anything interesting?”
They had not slept together. He promised her that. Had kissed once, O.K., no, twice. Both times just a kiss. Just a long but drunken kiss. Clothes on.
It wasn’t an affair.
She was easy to talk to, and yes, he fancied her. Yes, he admitted it. Who wouldn’t? And O.K., yes, they spent a lot of time together. But much of that was involuntary. What choice did he have? It was her he had been with that Thursday before Easter. She was there every Friday for drinks. There was usually a crowd of them, not just them alone. Usually. Well, yes, we did sometimes go for dinner as well as drinks. Yes. Sometimes on our own. But he did that with other colleagues, sometimes. Maybe not recently – that’s just the way it had worked out. But that really doesn’t mean anything. He didn’t know why he’d never mentioned her.
But April did.
*****end of extract*****
About Jane Harvey:
This is lucky, because in real life her (prize-winning) fiction is a little bleaker. She was born and raised on the island of Jersey, and lives with two males and a dog. She owns an admirable collection of animal vases and unusual lighting.