Title: If It Ain’t Love
Author: Tamara Allen
Publisher: Self published, FREE (available from All Romance and Smashwords)
Genre: Gay Historical Romance
Length: Short story (34 PDF pages), 18000 words
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Two lonely souls connect during the Great Depression in New York and I loved it so much.
In the darkest days of the Great Depression, New York Times reporter Whit Stoddard has lost the heart to do his job and lives a lonely hand-to-mouth existence with little hope of recovery, until he meets Peter, a man in even greater need of new hope.
This is one of those reviews where I have to start with a warning. Tamara Allen is one of those writers from whom I will buy books as soon as I see her name on the cover, so you may want to seek out more critical reviews if you would like to see a more balanced picture. However I can tell you this is a wonderful short story and since it is free, you have nothing to lose by trying it!
I have read and loved all three novels she has written, but I actually was a little worried despite the fact that I loved her long works so much. I mean, a short story is a different animal and I have been disappointed too often with short stories. I was so happy when I finished this one and started rereading it right away. The story is set during Great Depression in my home city New York and as always it is vividly drawn. You can actually imagine that you are travelling back in time when you are reading her stories and this one is no exception. I could feel the despair on the pages, people who lost their jobs, who have no place to stay and of course many who lost hope. One of the main characters, journalist Whit, may not have lost his job, but he lost something which is often just as important even if it is less tangible — hope. Fortunately during this short story the author shows us that Whit has not completely lost himself and that hope indeed can be found in the most unlikely places. When Whit meets Peter, he does not realize that Peter has lost something very important to him as well and is trying to find new reason for living while at the same time hold on to important traditions and memories.
This is a very quiet story, but emotions which we can feel from the protags are so very real, making both characters come so very alive on the pages. The connection between Whit and Peter is very fragile initially, but at the same time I could not help but believe in its strength. I am not a fan of Insta!Love in stories, but I do not think that what Tamara Allen does here can be called Insta!Love, perhaps Insta!Connection. I think she just shows that initial connection which may grow into something much stronger, and at the end of the story I definitely believed that it will. Maybe it is the fragility of the connection is what keeping it from venturing into that ridiculous over-the-top category of Insta!Love?
Whit swallowed and pushed away from the images Peter had conjured. “So why bring me home? You don’t know me either.”
“I’m not sure,” Peter whispered. “It felt, for a few minutes, like I did.”
Whit had to smile at that. “It did, didn’t it? Just a little”
I loved that the author got me to feel so much within such a short page count. I smiled, I shed a tear, I wanted the characters to heal and overcome the harsh circumstances they found themselves in. I loved that they still found it in themselves the desire to do good, to help other people and not just concentrate on their own problems. I mean, this story could have easily become either a load of angst or sugary-sweet. I did not find it to be either. While it is sweet, in my opinion it was a genuine, believable sweetness, something that makes you want to hug both men and cheer for them when you feel that they do have an inner strength if not to change the world, to at least try and to make it better for the few people around them. And while both Whit and Peter are nice guys, the writer gives us a glimpse of their flaws as well. Whit could be somewhat selfish, Peter could make rash decisions, but they are also capable of recognising their mistakes and to try to correct them.
I would call the ending a HFN, which for me suited perfectly to this story, but I absolutely believed that these two guys will stay together for a very long time, so much I was convinced by their understated quiet chemistry.
I think the best compliment I can pay to this story is that at the end of it I thought that I did not want to read a novel about Whit and Peter. I felt that I learned all I needed to know about them and they have a place in my heart already. It is one of the meatiest short stories I have ever read.