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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Run to not walk to buy this book, 7 April 2009
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Erastes (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Paperback)
I've read many reviews of WITD over the past couple of months, and I admit thinking that surely it can't be as good as people were saying. Even though the people saying it were mainly my peers. people from The Macaronis and Speak Its Name, people whose own writing and opinion I value highly. I think that's because I'm the same about any review, be it a film or book or TV programme-I'll take reviews on board, but I'll generally watch or read it anyway.

I wasn't, therefore, expecting to be as impressed as I was.

Whistling in the Dark has a fairly simple premise, a young man from Kansas moves to New York. In this we have a classic set-up for the "innocent abroad" except in this case, Sutton Albright isn't really quite as much of the innocent as he appears. He's a little too serious, gay, just been expelled from school for an affair with a teacher and before that he had been serving in France in the first world war. Although ostensibly relatively undamaged on the outside, he carries the darkness of war with him, buried deep. He's the son of a wealthy man, and his surname betrays this to all he meets, although he's penniless and doesn't talk about his past, immediate or otherwise. Down to his last pennies, he lands a job at Ida's diner and tries to settle down.

Next door lives Jack Bailey, a careless ne'er do well, who has taken over his parents' novelty store and is struggling to start his own radio station to boot. With these two characters in place, the book could have progressed in a predictable manner, to be read and forgotten as many romances are but it does not do that.

Ms Allen herself calls this a "cuddly romance," and I have to disagree with her. Yes-granted-on the surface that's one level. It works well as a romance, and the journey that the young men take has the necessary ups and downs along the way; but I can understand why Lethe grabbed this book with both hands, because it's SO much more than a "cuddly romance." Ms Allen does not shy from introducing a huge cast of characters: from Ida the grumpy suspicious diner owner, to the myriad homosexuals in various joints that Jack flits between-each one a distinct personality, to the neighbourhood thugs, attempting to claw their way up the social ladder and better themselves. There are a lot of issues dealt with in this book. Shell-shock, homophobia, the influenza epidemic, the beginning of Prohibition, the birth of commercial radio, the gay scene in 1920's New York...Just to mention a few. However these are not overdone, they bend and shape the story and the characters, they do not break them and it in this that Ms Allen achieves a hugely realistic story of a world of Bright Young Things and wannabe BYTs that has gone forever.

I felt-and that may be because of the war theme, and the time period covered-the ghosts of Renault and Fitzgerald in this book, the dialogue is beautifully brittle, hiding much, saying little, even the love scenes are almost as repressed in private as they are in public. The party scenes are delicious: jazz, champagne (always present, even if it means not eating) and tuxedos. I quite fell in love with Theo, Ox, and Woody, but you'll have to buy the book to meet all of them.

With this book, a further step has been taken. It might only be a small step-although if there is any justice in this world it should be bigger and this book should get the accolades and attention it deserves-but Ms Allen has proven without a doubt, that not only that women can write great gay romances, but great gay fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books of 2008, 3 Feb 2009
This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Paperback)
Sometimes a novel and its characters grab you so much that you can't put it down. 'Whistling in The Dark' is exactly that sort of book.

Well written, amusing, moving, it gives an atmospheric picture of post WWI New York. Best of all is the portrayal of the two leading men, both struggling in different ways to come to terms with their time serving in Europe and the very different world they returned to. Their blossoming romance is a constant delight, the humour and affection they have for each other a real pleasure to read.

This isn't a story which is just rose-tinted, though. The hardships and difficulties facing veterans, returning home to a time of great uncertainty, aren't skipped over. Jack Bailey and Sutton Albright have a lot to overcome but they grow together while overcoming it. These two are now a permanent fixture in my mind, very believable characters in a a hopeful, heart warming story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strongly recommended, 19 Mar 2009
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This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Paperback)
Stumbled across this by accident , bought it on spec and what a delight it turned out to be. I could use adjectives like heart-warming, touching, feel-good (which it is) and you may think soppy, boring (which it definitely isnt). The characters are so vividly portraited - and not just the 2 leads (Jack & Sutton)but all the supporting characters too (Harry, Es, Ox, Gert, etc). Nobody is 2-dimensional- they are all real, complex & surprising in small & big ways. The storyline tackles serious & upsetting topics too (like mental health and the impact of war on young men)but there is an underlying tenderness & caring about the characters which pulls you through to the satisfying (and yes heart-warming) conclusion. Definitely a keeper to read again. Buy it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 28 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Kindle Edition)
Another fantastic book by Tamara Allen. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jack and Sutton's story. Just love the writing style. Definitely recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 24 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Kindle Edition)
I love this book! The writing is excellent and entertaining, the characters (even minor ones) are complex and very well thought out, and the story is perfectly paced and interesting right to the end. What more could you want?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 25 July 2014
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This review is from: Whistling in the Dark (Kindle Edition)
Love Tamara Allen's books, the characters are always amazing and this one didn't disappoint - brilliant!
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Whistling in the Dark
Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen
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