Review: It Had To Be You by Timothy James Beck


The authors behind the pseudonym Timothy James Beck

BORN AND raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Daniel Stephenson moved to New York City to live his truth, rising to fame in the Manhatten gay scene as Drag Queen Princess 2Di4. Sadly, the sudden death of the real-life Princess Diana takes all the fun and passion out of the performance. After accepting money and some unsolicited advice from a wealthy aunt, Daniel decides to chuck his tiara and gowns and find a new path. Unfortunately, his primary education is “extensive show tune knowledge, advanced lip-synch, and how to cover up a five o’clock shadow.” Dealing, to some degree, with the knowledge that his best friend is fighting AIDS, his cheating ex-boyfriend won’t leave him alone, and his ex-boyfriend’s new boyfriend wants more from him than he has any interest in giving, Daniel retreats to the sanctuary that is his new outdoor apartment garden. And then, across the way, a hunky stranger moves in, which gets Daniel’s pulse racing. But is he–or isn’t he? You know.

It Had To Be You is the debut novel from Timothy James Beck and the first in the “Manhattan” series. Interestingly, TJB is actually the collective pseudonym of four novelists — Timothy Forry, Timothy J. Lambert, Jim Carter, and Becky Cochrane. This book, published in 2001, captures the flavour of gay culture and big city life in the late 90s perfectly, but the themes and emotions still resonate with today’s mindset, making it a very relatable book for contemporary readers.

Timothy James Beck cleverly navigates the serious topics presented in the novel, like coming out, cheating and betrayal, and living under the threat of AIDS in a pre-PrEP world, with humour and sensitivity. The heavy issues never feel forced or interjected into anyone’s storyline as a plot device merely for shock value. Everything occurs organically and thoughtfully as the novel progresses, as the lives of these individuals interconnect and move forward through their struggles and successes. You root for Daniel to find love and purpose as easily as you empathize and fall in love with his supportive and struggling best friend, Ken. And Daniel’s next bestie, Martin, is a flashy queen with a heart of gold you can’t help but like. Some might claim he’s a stereotype with his flamboyant nature and penchant for the dramatic, but I have known several Martins in my life. They exist and should be lauded for their courage to be themselves, Daisy Duke shorts and soap-opera theatrics included.

This book is filled with three-dimensional characters and adroit, often deeply introspective dialogue. But humour is always present in the humanity of the prose. One of my favourite scenes is a powerful conversation between Ken and Daniel that rips at the heartstrings. 

It Had To Be You is one of my go-to books for when I’m feeling “gay nostalgic” for my younger years and need some intelligent but whimsical storytelling about fun, campy, and complex pre-Millenial queer people–like myself. For me, it’s literary comfort food! The writing is witty, the characters are dynamic, and the story has countless sweet moments mixed with high melodrama that is a delight to read. It has been in my top five favourite novels of all time for years; this is how much this book resonates with me. 

It Had To Be You is available for purchase at and For more information about this author, follow Timothy James Beck on his (their) website.


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