Hey bloggies! Today, for my Rainbow Thursday, I am reviewing one of my best reads so far this year! Tamara Allen is a great historical author, and y'all better read her books. I have nothing but good things to say. This is what happens when I become a fangirl, as you know. Now, enjoy the gay historical love!
Title: Whistling in the Dark
Author: Tamara Allen
Publisher: Lethe Press
Gay historical romance is pretty much the highlight of my reading life. I mean, it has everything that I love. Romance. Gay men. Historical settings. It's just an immensely appealing niche. A friend of mine basically talked Ms. Tamara Allen up to high heaven, so I had to ask if I could review her books. Whistling in the Dark is her first novel, set in the roaring 20's, when jazz and radio are just starting to get big. It's a rich time with a lot of mystery and secret amusement among the younger set, and ends up being a truly marvelous novel on all accounts.
After being expelled from his college for having an affair with a male teacher, Sutton Albright packs his bags and heads to New York City. He wanders the streets, with hardly any money to his name. Sutton comes across a small diner, where he manages to get a job as an errand boy. Working for the diner isn't what Sutton - a piano prodigy and war veteran - had in mind for his life's work, but he can't bear to go home and tell his family the truth about himself. The fact that he likes men.
Jack Baily is the polar opposite of Sutton. After coming home from the war, he was left without any direct family, and moved into his fathers old shop. Jack is restless and doesn't want to sit around selling antiques and useless items. His technical skills are better suited towards running the contraption gaining momentum known as the radio. If he can get the one in the shop up and running, and maybe a music player, he could attract more customers and get out of his debt.
Whistling in the Dark is a romantic expose on the lives of two men haunted by the aftermath of World War I, and their struggle to define themselves in a world where liking other men is a crime and indecent. They may not be able to define themselves as gay, but they know that their hearts will always be searching for someone of the same gender. When they meet, the chemistry is obvious, and before long Sutton is playing piano again. This time for Jack. His skills attract many new customers, but also bring up issues with the relationship. Especially when Jack doesn't want to get too close.
I wanted to take Sutton home and snuggle him. I loved his character to bits, and he is the perfect example of a well-written gay man. He's questioning of himself, but by the end of the book is very assured that he isn't wrong in who he is. Intelligence is obvious, and his piano playing is a wonderful quality that adds to his depth of character. The deep connection he had as a war veteran was also really compelling, and I loved how that tied in with Jack's issues.
Allen's writing is a joy to read. The setting is so vibrant and meticulous without being overbearing. It's a great balance for a historical novel, and Allen doesn't once break it with an anachronism or stylistic issue. For a first novel, it's very mature and seasoned. Every phrase carries a certain weight and importance about it that really speaks volumes about Allen's style and her writing ability.
Since I cannot be subtle anymore: Read. This. Book. You will drool over the romance. You will be amazed at just how good the writing is. You will become a Tamara Allen fangirl like I am, and there is no stopping it. This is what quality gay romance is all about, people. And it doesn't even have any naughty bits, so it's safe for small children. I know. It's like the perfect cross-over book. Now go and buy it and make me a happy LGBTQ reviewer. :)
Cover Comments: For a small press cover, it's good. I like the music notes and the classic photo/snapshot on the front, thought the font is kind of meh.
Rating: 5.0 Stars
Copy: Received from Tamara (signed) for review! Thanks oodles, Tamara!
Thank you John for letting me reprint your review here and please go check out Dreaming in Books!
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