by Tamara Allen, historical (2009)
Lethe Press, $18.00, ISBN 978-1-59021-049-9
This review is of the initial self-published "first edition" of this book. It has since been re-edited and published by Lethe Press.
Firstly, I'd like to thank Ann Somerville for alerting me to Tamara Allen's Whistling In The Dark. I may not enjoy it as much as she did, but I'm glad I get to read this sweet gay romance. By "sweet", I mean that there isn't any particularly graphic sex scenes here.
Set in 1919, we see Sutton Albright, a former solder whose college term was prematurely aborted after he was caught having an affair with his teacher. He decides to try his luck at New York, determined to make it somehow in that big city. Then we have Jack Bailey, trying to save his late parents' business even when he probably doesn't have the money or ability to do so. Surrounded by a cast of colorful characters ready to break out with pom-poms when necessary, these two will engage in angst and fall in love.
The setting is impressively detailed, from the description of places to the integration of events of that time (such as the flu, the rise of the radio, and the underground world of the gays in the city). However, one thing that really stands out when I read this story is how slow I find its pace to be. Ms Allen tends to spend words after words laboring over every little small thing involving her characters to the point that it is as if she's determined to let me know of every thing that her characters go through, even if the scene in question does not play any significant impact on the overall storyline. The story moves way too slowly for me - it's like watching a five-hour long period drama created by some film student with more aspiration to greatness than the ability to self-edit.
The characters are fine, although to be honest I'm rather weary of reading about all these angst-ridden pretty boys in gay romances. At least this one isn't set in some steampunk fantasy world, I suppose. I don't know, perhaps this book comes my way at the most inconvenient time, just as I am becoming weary of the formula of gay romances, because as much as a part of me recognizes that the characters are pretty well-drawn, the bigger part of me just want to sigh, "Yeah, yeah, more angst-ridden pretty boys - join the queue, buddies!"
The setting is a rarely used one and I appreciate that, but I'm afraid I find too much of the main relationship featured in Whistling In The Dark to be of the same old. The sluggish pacing doesn't help matters either. Sorry, but this one just doesn't do much for me. Maybe next time.
The cover is lovely, by the way.
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