In the world of too many books and too little time, the phrase “auto-buy” is tossed around with almost cavalier meaning. Although I have very few “auto-buy” authors where I buy everything they do no matter what, Tamara Allen has to be on my list. The Only Gold may not be as beloved as Whistling in the Dark, which if you haven’t read do so now immediately, but it showcases Allen’s meticulous attention to detail, flair for complex yet fascinating characters, and impeccable writing.
Set in 1888 New York, Jonah Woolner is married to his job at the bank. Having spent fourteen years working his way up to the position of Cashier, Jonah thinks today is finally the day he’ll get his hard fought promotion. Yet he’s thrown for a loop when the board announces they’ve brought in someone from the outside to bring a fresh perspective. Hurt by the rejection and worried about the reputation of the bank Jonah immediately clashes with Reid. Despite his numerous charms which seem to work on most everyone else, Jonah initially refuses to acknowledge Reid’s quick policy changes or his attempts to get to know Jonah. As time passes, Jonah gets to know Reid and realizes they might have more in common than he thought. However a deadly blizzard sets Jonah and Reid on opposite sides and just may put a stop to their budding happiness.
Once again Allen has delivered an incredible story. The writing is simply superb with an amazing eye to detail. The New York setting is very vivid and the story is steeped in the details from small to large. The time period with threat of war and conflicting tensions plays out in subtle, yet important ways. Subtly and complexity are used brilliantly as every character offers nuance and depth. The story tends to be a leisurely walk rather than a race and even during some of the most dramatic times the pace tends to drag a little. This is especially so when the fight scenes read somewhat stale and rote but the real eloquence of the writing comes out with the characters, their dialogue and actions.
Both Jonah and Reid are fabulous. They’re flawed, complicated, irritating and totally absolutely wonderful. Jonah starts the story so uptight and rigid that you can’t help but adore him instantly. Well I did at least. He’s so married to his job and against change that Reid’s slow seduction plays out over time in a variety of ways. From brash and bold to subtle and entreating, the dance between the two is beautiful and lovely to watch. Reid is so over the top charming and impossible to fluster that he is the perfect foil for the prematurely tight fisted Jonah. The only stumble amongst the characterizations comes towards the end when Jonah uncovers some secrets about Reid. I expected a wholly different reaction from Jonah, perhaps a reversion to his first personality. Instead Jonah’s reactions are in another direction and I couldn’t quite reconcile this in my head. I kept thinking he should have reacted differently, stronger.
Other than that slight quibble the story plays out with drama, romance, intrigue, and rescue amongst a graphic and intense setting. The story is filled with warmth, laughter, tension, and a host of scene stealing secondary characters. One of the best attributes to Allen’s books is that the female characters are often as interesting and dynamic as the men. Here Liliane delights in her dialogue and behavior as equally as the older sisters running Jonah’s boarding house shine in their motherly natures. The real stars are of course Jonah and Reid who have an obvious chemistry with a lot of sensuality, yet leave the explicit language behind closed doors.
The Only Gold is another stellar story that is incredibly easy to recommend. The slight issues are just that and those that appreciate a subtle romance filled with innuendo, quips, banter, and gentle love should really adore this. The writing is wonderful and considering this is the third book in a row from Allen I’ve loved, I’ll continue to buy whatever she writes. Here’s to hoping there are a lot more to come.