The Only Gold by Tamara Allen

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: The Only Gold
Author: Tamara Allen
Genre: Historical (late 19th century)
URL: Dreamspinner Press
Price: US$6.99 (ebook), US$ 17.99 (paperback)
Other Information/warnings: violence, sexual (non-explicit) content
Summary [from the publisher]:

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.

My review:
The only thing you need to know about The Only Gold is that it’s written by Tamara Allen. If Ms Allen’s name does not make you shiver in sheer pleasure, then either you read Whistling in the Dark and didn’t like it, in which case, you’re a hopeless case and I abandon any attempt to improve your clearly defective taste, or you haven’t read Whistling in the Dark, in which case you have untold treasures to discover, and I shall guide you towards them with the greatest pleasure.

Ahem. I’m a bit of a fan 🙂

But seriously, folks, this is a wonderful, wonderful book. It’s not a book I fell instantly in love with as I did with Whistling in the Dark. Jonah is a very different character from the brilliant damaged Jack or the lost and gentle Sutton, and Reid spends rather a lot of time poking at Jonah’s apparent pomposity. But make no mistake  – you will be in love with them, and this story, by the end of it, because Jonah and Reid are adorable, and the plot, set in Manhattan, 1888. Like Whistling, a savage, bitter war casts a shadow over the story, only this time it’s the American Civil War, its many injustices and the thousands and thousands of damaged families reaching long into peacetime to disturb the orderly lives of good citizens.

Jonah at first appears to be insufferable. Wedded to duty and the welfare of the Grandborough Bank, he seems obsessed with the minutiae of his tidy, narrow life. Every detail, every procedure, every relationship with his underlings – even the clothes he wears to work – are dictated by rules and precedent, and the need to maintain the good reputation of the bank and of himself. The shocking appointment of an outsider, Reid Hylliard, over his head into the treasured position of bank cashier, throws his life and his emotions into turmoil, and Reid seems to take delight in keeping Jonah off balance and two steps behind. Yet Jonah’s stuffiness hides a deeply passionate, if proper, heart which has suffered disappointment and disapproval, and Reid’s giddiness is not as mad or bad as Jonah fears. Reid draws Jonah out of the confines of the bank and his boarding house existence, and shows him a world far more exciting – if dangerous – than the concerns of prim spinsters and crotchety investors.

The real dangers come as Manhattan and much of the east coast falls victim to a huge blizzard, in which Reid and Jonah must fight villains, the weather and their own misconceptions about each other, during a thrilling climax which tests their strength and the reader’s blood pressure to the limit. But before that, the two rivals must become friends, and then something more, and this happens in the sweet and lovely manner that Ms Allen has made her trademark. There’s a good deal of sexual interaction between Reid and Jonah though, again as is typical for this author, without being explicit. That happens to be just how I like it, but if you want erotica, this is not the book for you.

There is a supporting cast as delightful and winning as the two main protagonists: the elderly sisters who run the boarding house where Jonas has lived for 14 years in the utmost propriety; Liliane, his French fellow boarder who delights in upsetting propriety and advising Jonah on matters of the heart when he is most of need of such advice; and Jonah’s coworkers at the bank, who he has resisted interacting with outside work for all his thirteen years and ten months there, and yet, when he finally allows himself to do so, find they are warm, kind and generous souls, wanting to help him and just as devoted to the bank as he is. Even the villains come alive and aren’t painted as entirely evil (except in one case.) Once again Ms Allen has made the past live and breathe and become a fascinating place. This is no wallpaper historical.

The writing is of course, utterly superb, the research meticulous, and the line editing perfect (it was perfect even before Dreamspinner accepted it, as I can verify.) It’s a hefty, but not overlong read, with delightful cover art by Lorraine Brevig. Really, what more can I say to convince you that you must read this book? And when you’re done, go read Whistling in the Dark, because it’s not possible to read that one too many times.

Brava, Ms Allen. Brava.

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