Title: The Only Gold
Author: Tamara Allen
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical m/m romance with some action/adventure closer to the end
Length: novel, 300 PDF pages
Rating: 5+ stars out of five
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Vivid descriptions of New York in 1888, multilayered characters and interesting plot made this book my favorite historical romance of this year.
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 odds and fighting for their lives.
When I was a child I used to imagine that one day I will get to travel in the time travel machine to some of my favorite eras in the past to see for myself how people lived in those days. Of course I know now that this is not possible, but in a sense this book for me had been a perfect substitute of the time travel machine. It transported me to another era. I felt that I was in the year 1888 in the city that gave me a second home, just as it gave second home to Jonah and Reid. I really loved this writer’s another historical romance “Whistling in the Dark” and I would have been quite okay with this novel if her writing stayed at the level of “Whistling in the Dark”, but in my opinion it improved so much. The settings seemed meticulously researched. It was so much fun reading about Jonah walking on the Wall street, or him and Reid taking a walk on Broadway and thinking about how much these streets changed from year 1888 to our time. The language is clear and easy to understand overall, but it definitely has a historical flavor. You can see, feel and smell everything that is taking place around you.
Jonah Woolner had been an assistant cashier in the New York Bank for the last fourteen years since he was nineteen years old.
His life and his work are basically the same thing, he lives and breathes according to the rules he thinks a banker should follow. He is hoping to be promoted to the cashier since he had been doing this work for months, but when our story begins
Jonah learns that Board of Directors hired the newcomer Reid Hylliard as the cashier instead. Jonah is upset and jealous, he of course keeps his jealousy to himself (mostly anyway) and out of loyalty to the bank he decides to stay instead of quitting. However his style of work seems to clash every day more and more with with Reid’s innovative changes that he is bringing to the bank. Reid seems to be a happy go lucky individual who charms the bank’s staff very fast and Jonah is one person who takes Reid the longest time to win over.
I thought that tension between Jonah and Reid was masterfully maintained throughout the book, even when they seemingly started to understand and like each other better it was like watching one step forward and two steps back dance. Of course Jonah is the one whose insecurities, jealousy and mistrust feed into the tension, since Jonah does not have the complete information of what had been happening around him. Here is just one example of their delightful banter:
Reid stood, meeting him eye to eye, seemingly in all seriousness. “You may be as forward as you like.”
Taken aback, Jonah regarded him warily. “I may?”
“I’d prefer it.”
Well, then. “A morning coat is not a frock coat.”
“A morning coat is a compromise.”
“Between dressing respectably for the bank and looking as though I’m old enough to have fought at Gettysburg.”
“Dressing respectably?” Jonah eyed Reid’s tie. “A successful banker—“
“A successful banker doesn’t have to look as though he spends his Saturday evenings with a book and a glass of port.”
“No, better to convey, I suppose, that he spends his evenings at the dance hall, consorting with women of uncertain virtue.”
“You might benefit from an evening like that.”
“I daresay you would think so.”
Having just called their banter delightful, I should clarify that Reid is the one who is trying to lighten up their conversations and I have not always liked that. Oh as we get to know him, we see that the man is really genuinely charming and kind and just as zealously devoted to his job as Jonah is devoted to his, but I felt in the beginning that he was dismissive of Jonah’s very real hurt.
I loved how both guys are portrayed as genuinely and very realistically good people, but also having some real flaws. Jonah is really a sweetheart, who treats other people as decently as he can manage, but he did forget for a while that pedantical and proper way to live and work is not the only way to live and work and he is very jealous of Reid initially. As proper gentleman he keeps it mostly bottled up inside, although as I mentioned above it definitely shows in the restrained way in some of their conversations and daily work. 🙂
Reid is also a good person, but I got a vibe from him that he thinks he knows better than anybody else how to handle unforeseen “complications” and thus when Jonah resists, he does not always proceed in a way which is the most considerate of Jonah’s feelings.
I also liked how the story did not revolve around the protagonists’ angsting about them preferring to be with men. Oh it caused them some heartbreaks and painful breakups with family members, of course it did and they are aware of the need to be cautious, but they are first and foremost the professional men, who just happened to prefer to sleep and fall on love with other men. While Jonah at some point refers to their sexuality as their limitations, overall they seem to accept who they are. I really liked it.
I liked how when even they are together Jonah still admits to himself and Reid that hurt is still lingering there for some time, that the fact that bank promoted an outsider still bothers him, even though he grew to trust and like Reid. In other words I liked how the change in his feelings and disposition proceeded at such slow pace. It felt extremely believable. And I liked how supposedly so self confident Reid does need assurance of how Jonah feels about him too.
I found it extremely amusing and a testament to the writer’s skill that despite several hints throughout the book I could not foresee that last 20% of the book or so turn from quiet romance to action/adventure of the sorts. I found it extremely fitting and properly foreshadowed when I was looking back, but I did not see it coming at all.
Overall I loved this story and will be rereading it more than once. If you love quiet historicals with great chemistry and tension between the characters, where you feel transported to the other era when you are reading this book, this one is very highly recommended.