Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Only Gold (e-book) by Tamara Allen

This book is available in paperback format, but it's definitely not cheap. Still, if you like historical m/m romance and prefer print books, it might just be worth it.

Synopsis:

Jonah lives and breathes his work at the bank. There is no doubt in his mind that he'll be promoted, so he's shocked when he's passed over in favor of Reid, a newcomer who, to Jonah's eyes, seems determined to push innovations onto the bank whether they're needed or not. Determined to protect the bank, Jonah keeps a close eye on Reid and fights him every step of the way. Reid takes this in a stride and even seems somewhat sympathetic towards Jonah, but Jonah refuses to thaw, even as everyone else at the bank falls for Reid's charm and easy way of dealing with people.

Gradually, though, Jonah and Reid become friends and more. After years of smothering his attraction to men, Jonah finds in Reid a person who could become vital to him. Unfortunately for Jonah, Reid still has more secrets left to be uncovered, secrets that could destroy everything Jonah holds dear. (Okay, so this is a bit dramatic, and also a bit misleading, but I'm trying to keep spoilers to a minimum.)

Commentary:

I can't seem to help but judge books by their covers, and The Only Gold's cover did not make a good impression on me. The characters look wooden, and they are in what is probably the most uninteresting (and slightly creepy) pose ever. They're not looking at each other, touching each other, interacting with each other in any way, just staring at the reader (sort of - Reid, the guy on the left, seems to be looking at something just past the reader).

I would have never bought this book just based on the cover image. I bought it because 1) so many people in the comments section of one particular Dear Author post (sorry, can't remember which one) recommended her books that decided I should finally break down and try one and 2) All Romance E-books had a really great "applies to everything" sale going on.

I'm so happy that I listened to those recommendations, because, if I hadn't, I would have missed out on what I think is the first Dreamspinner Press book I've read that I feel is really, truly good. If my family members were interested in reading romance novels, I'd recommend this to them, it's that good.

The characters were excellent. Jonah both frustrated me and inspired my sympathy – I could understand why he resisted Reid's proposed changes to bank policies and procedures, but it was painful to see him potentially destroy the career he clearly cared about and had spent his life building. One of my complaints about this book is that it took longer than I would have liked for Jonah to finally thaw towards Reid, but it's only a complaint because I was so emotionally invested in Jonah that I wasn't sure how many more mistakes I could stand to see him make.

Those who like slow-building romances will probably love this book. This was no insta-lust, or even necessarily instant attraction. Their respective positions were too painful for Jonah (and possibly also for Reid, for different reasons) for anything like that to have been the case. I think it took 80 pages or so before stronger hints of romance appeared.

This book didn't have plentiful and graphic sex scenes, which I appreciated – it meant that the  characters and the story were front-and-center. I liked getting to learn more about Reid and Jonah through their conversations with each other – Reid was revealed to be more alone and lonely than his outgoing workplace demeanor suggested, and Jonah's past gave me a greater understanding of his reasons for living so completely for the bank, increasing my sympathy for him.

For a good long while after Jonah stopped freezing Reid out, nothing much happened except Jonah and Reid being together and doing their best to keep their deepening relationship a secret from everyone else in their lives. Then came the last part of the book, the bank robbery – suddenly, there was action, danger, and a betrayal that had my heart clenching even though my brain knew that somehow things would work out.

Even though I could tell myself that the robbery and events connected to it would probably work out all right, I wasn't sure how Jonah and Reid's relationship could possibly end well – they could not be openly gay without suffering serious repercussions, and it was unlikely they could be the couple they were starting to want to be, sharing their lives together, without one of the people they worked with finally getting a clue. I prepared myself for a bittersweet ending and was surprised when Allen managed to produce a happy one. Because I wanted Reid and Jonah to have their happy ending, I was more than willing to ignore my feeling that it was a little too convenient.

I'd recommend this to both lovers of m/m romance and those interested in trying m/m romance out. My only complaints about this book were the ending, which I didn't quite find believable, and the pacing – I would have liked it if the romance had gotten underway just a bit sooner. Those complaints feel a bit nit-picky in the face of my general love for this book, though. Expect to see more of Allen's books on this blog in the future – I picked up the rest of her works right after finishing this one. Part of me wishes she were a more prolific writer, and part of me is glad that her backlist is small enough that I can afford to buy it all at once.


Read-alikes:
  • Lessons in Love (e-book) by Charlie Cochrane - Another historical m/m romance. The main characters are professors at Cambridge, and, as with Reid and Jonah, one character is more outgoing than the other. Because someone is killing gay men, these characters have an additional reason to keep their relationship a secret. This book is also available in paperback format.
  • Somebody Killed His Editor (e-book) by Josh Lanyon - I thought Lanyon might be a good read-alike author for Allen, but I haven't read enough of his works to know quite which one to suggest, so I picked this one because it also has a main character whose career has hit a rocky spot. I think this one would be classified as a contemporary m/m romantic suspense (or mystery with strong romantic elements?). This book is also available in paperback format.
  • Kindred Hearts (e-book) by Rowan Speedwell - Another historical m/m romance. I haven't read it, but it sounds a bit more angsty than The Only Gold, although those who enjoyed the "we must keep our relationship a secret" aspect of the book may appreciate a bit more angst. This book is also available in paperback format.

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