Wednesday 27 March 2013

Tarnished Gold, Brita Addams


A beautiful piece of historical writing about dreams, Hollywood and genuine love. 

- Review by Kazza K 

Tarnished Gold
A wonderful cover.
Tarnished Gold spans the period of 1917, when a young Jack Abadie leaves home with dreams of making his mark in Hollywood in the flickers, until the end of the book in 1955. Jack starts out  in California at a boarding house for men. He pays a months rent in advance and, with the help of one of his fellow boarders, Tommy, gets work waiting tables. Things are not so glamorous for Jack and there are no instantaneous breaks. He has an initial  relationship with Tommy which ends in friendship. He is waiting table for five years when he has a change of luck. Whilst working he comes to the attention of the older and debonair Eric Ballance.

Eric introduces Jack to Marlowe's, a men's club where gay men can associate, have sex with paid boys. or pick up a like-minded man in discreet circumstances. It's a meeting place for plenty of Hollywood's gay community. Eric is very much a part of the Hollywood community as a movie director. Jack fancies Eric. Eric certainly likes Jack, but seems to see him more as his protégé, setting him up as an extra in movies, organising his wardrobe, the way he speaks, throwing his ever-popular parties ,moving him into his home and getting Jack generally noticed. A lot of what Eric does confuses Jack as he seems to send mixed signals. Does he or doesn't he want Jack? Their relationship is a complex and interesting one.

Jack is an attractive man and soon enough there is an offer for him to star in a serial that ends up becoming incredibly popular; and before you know it Jack Abadie becomes a leading man and a heartthrob all in one. He has friends, a great career in the making and yet he is terribly lonely. The serial leads to a movie deal. To promote his serial, and garner interest for his upcoming movies, Jack is sent on a gruelling junket with his leading lady, Mary, who, ironically, happens to be a lesbian. It is on this trip, at the Millionaire Theatre, that Jack meets the theatre's PR manager, Wyatt Maitland. They only have a small amount of time together but neither seems to be able to forget the other. They take opportunities to talk on the phone while Jack is on tour and catch up as soon as Jack is back in town. They feel a strong connection from the outset.

Jack and Wyatt's relationship nearly ends before it starts, though, as Jack heeds some of Eric's unhealthy relationship advice. I loved that Wyatt wasn't star struck and willing to put up with anything from Jack. That he was definite about having a communicative and loving relationship or nothing at all. Their relationship was wonderful, beautiful, sexy and romantic -

Wyatt's warm breath in his ear set Jack's blood on fire. "Come home with me?"

I loved reading about these two men and how their relationship grew and developed over the decades. How they both liked certain activities in the bedroom. How they looked out for one another. You could see why they worked so well as a couple. There were no games, just genuine love and affection. I appreciated that there were no silly pet names for one another. Wyatt called Jack heart on occasion which was sweet and endearing -

"Open your eyes, heart."
Jack did and their eyes met, a world of communication between them. Wyatt's spoke of love and trust, and Jack hoped his said the same.

There are quite a few things covered in Tarnished Gold that included real celebrities of the time, studio politics, deaths, and lavender weddings, where a gay actor would wed a female to cover their sexuality for the studio. All of these factual topics, people and events are beautifully intertwined with Ms Addams fictional characters, including the MC's. I loved the mention of the 4th Annual Academy Awards and the way that was handled.     

This book is a delight to read and is written so well. The American language of the period, the absolutely charming style that shows you how different it was between small town living and the bright lights of Hollywood. The reverence given actors when there was no such thing as a television set. A snap shot of a boy from Louisiana who made it big. How Jack Abadie stayed grounded. Who grounded him, and why he could stay that way. How far he came from groping with his first love, Emery, who passed him over to stay at home in Louisiana, to living with and openly loving Wyatt Maitland in a period that was not gay friendly.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this book, for me, were the letters - the letter from Eric to Jack, which nearly broke my heart, from Wyatt to his parents, and their return letters to him were a highlight for me.

Jimmy Shields, Bill Haines and Joan Crawford
Two things that I loved. How wonderfully Ms Addams makes the ever timely point that love is love. Jack and Wyatt were devoted. They had their close circle of friends, they were home bodies and they loved each other deeply and with utter respect. This book is inspired by actor (later entrepreneur) William Haines who would not cover up and keep the love of his life, Jimmy Shields, his dirty little secret. In reality Haines and Shields lived and loved together for nearly fifty years. Joan Crawford called them "the happiest married couple in Hollywood."

Lord, how I loved Eric. Written so perfectly by Brita Addams, I can't begin to tell you just how perfectly. Eric, who was mostly generous, but at times mean spirited, so loving but cold. Who gave a piece of his heart away every time he did something kind and acted as though it was business and nothing more. Who said everything was fine just as it was in his world...and the reasons why they weren't. If you read it I hope you allow Eric into your heart.

I ran the gamut of emotions reading this book, from happy to sad to angry and full circle. I loved Tarnished Gold. It is a wonderful story that drew me in and didn't let me go until the end. I wanted happiness for many people in the book, but ultimately it was Jack and Wyatt's love that kept me turning pages. Highly recommended reading for those who love old world Hollywood, a period piece, the right amount of sex to story ratio, a very romantic read that is beautifully written with wonderful leading men.


  1. This looks like a very good, emotional story. I love when authors throw in actual people in period pieces. It makes the story much more real. Great review as always.

    1. It is so emotional in parts and overall very beautiful. Written with much attention to detail, respect and love. Brita Addams is such a good writer and always different :)

  2. Kazza,

    Thank you so much for this overwhelming review. These characters, all of them, still live in my heart. Eric, named after my dear brother, but nothing like him, still haunts me. He was so difficult to write and yet demanded his page time. You truly got him. I'm grateful for that.

    I must correct you on one point. Jack was inspired by Billy Haines, not based on him. I tried hard to steer clear of blatant similarities as I didn't want Tarnished Gold to be a rehash of Billy's life. A couple of instances, yes, I did pay homage to Billy. How could I not. The man still haunts my dreams at night. There was only one Billy Haines.

    Thank you again. I am humbled by your assessment of the story. So thrilled that you loved it as I do.


  3. You're welcome for the review, Brita. I thoroughly immersed myself in Tarnished Gold and really loved every minute of it. The characters are still with me today and I doubt that will change. (Ben Wilmot is still with me to this day.)

    Eric is one of the most interesting characters I have read. It's nice he carries your brothers name :)

    "Inspired" is the correct wording, of course, and that was easily enough rectified.


  4. I'm writing another Hollywood story that starts in 1921 and I have already mentioned Eric in it. He may also have a role, so we'll see a bit more of him.

    So many stories in old Hollywood. I think I've found a niche for while. LOL

  5. I look forward to it. Old Hollywood should keep you going for some time, much went on of great interest for decades. The people, the events - Mcarthyism, WWII (I could go on and on) - all great inspiration for an author there I imagine:)

  6. "open your eyes, heart"
    that small quote stole my breath, you could hear the air wheeze out of my lungs.. Kazza love the review, Adding this book to my top five to read list

    1. I'm really glad you like that quote. I thought it was beautiful too, Letti. To me it represented so much love. I'm glad you're going to read it. I hope you enjoy it :)