Review: The Only Gold by Tamara Allen

New York 1888

Jonah Woolner’s life is as prudently regulated as the bank where he works. It’s a satisfying life until he’s passed over for promotion in favor of newcomer Reid Hylliard. Brash and enterprising, Reid beguiles everyone except Jonah, who’s convinced Reid’s progressive ideas will be the bank’s ruin. When Jonah begins to discover there’s more to Reid than meets the eye, he risks succumbing to Reid’s charms—but unlocking the vault to all of Reid’s secrets could lead him down a dangerous path.

Losing his promotion—and perhaps his heart—is the least of Jonah’s difficulties. When the vengeful son of a Union army vet descends upon the bank to steal a government deposit of half a million dollars during the deadliest blizzard to ever sweep New York, Jonah and Reid are trapped, at od ds and fighting for their lives.

Review by Sal Davis

I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about covers so excuse me while I enthuse about this one. It really is worth viewing in the pop out version (on Dreamspinner‘s site) because I don’t think the artist, Lorraine Brevig (her portrait work is fab), has missed a beat. Covers are so important as a come-on to potential readers and often one doesn’t appreciate the fine detail until well into the book. This one is warm and welcoming with two good figures whose pleasant expressions but wildly differing stances and fashions get across the polite antagonism with which they initially view each other. In the background is the massive romanesque architecture that suggests that the bank’s fiscal foundations are also rock solid, a window with driving snow beyond and a shadowy mystery figure in silhouette that I can’t quite make out.

The period detail of the dress of Reid and Jonah are taken directly from the descriptions in the book and seem spot on to me. Definitely a cover that made me want to read on.

The book is written from Jonah’s POV and right from the first sentence – “Jonah was late” – one can see that he’s a man who lives on his nerves. Very competent, precise, organised, he follows routines absolutely and is as meticulous in his approach to his dress, his manners and his morals as he is to accounting for the bank’s money. That he is drawn to other men is something he has repressed as being an unfortunate aberration. Life is proceeding as planned and his few excitements are restricted to the prestige of the bank and his place within it. He is well liked by his staff, though he is somewhat awkward socially, and as assistant cashier he is clearly valued by the bank’s Board members. He knows his place and is happy with it but now the cashier has retired he is due a step up and is confident of receiving it. He is expecting promotion, but this expectation doesn’t come across as smug or grasping. He has earned it, there is a career structure, it is the way of the bank.

The arrival of Reid Hylliard, therefore, is a tremendous shock on all counts.

Abandoning tradition, the Board members hire Reid for the cashier’s post Jonah should have taken. Everything about Reid is anathema to Jonah. He dresses inappropriately. He slouches. He makes jokes with the junior staff. He invites people to lunch individually and organises staff jollies to Delmonico’s. In short his behaviour is NOT appropriate for a cashier of a state, soon to be national, bank. He is far too frivolous. That he is good at his job is also a source of frustration. From the moment he leans over Jonah’s shoulder and adds a column of figures with a flick of an eye, the reader can sense that there would be fur flying and blood on the mat if this story wasn’t so firmly set in its period.

Some stories can be re-set without any dimishing of vigour. The Seven Samurai, for instance, worked very well in a Wild West setting. But this story has to be in this time and place to work. Everything – dresscodes, manners, living quarters, districts, class divisions, time frame – is combined to make a plot that is foremost about two very different characters combining their resources to combat a threat. The romance between Jonah and Reid isn’t exactly secondary but it is so much of its time that anyone who wants a one handed read had better look elsewhere. The sex scenes are very mild and most of them fade to black. The couple that are described dwell more on the feelings involved than the plumbing. It is an intensely emotional story without being overblown or angsty – a harder trick to pull off than one might think.

I didn’t notice any editorial issues with the book – I read the ebook version – but that could be because I read it in great big chunks over 24 hours. In retrospect there were a couple of minor niggles but nothing historical and since I didn’t notice the niggles while I was actually reading I’m not sure they really count. In short I found nothing in the story to grumble at and plenty to bring a big silly grin to my face.

Author’s website

Buy at Dreamspinner Press

One Response

  1. Thank you for reading and reviewing, Sal!

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