Work in Progress (The Belladonna Arms #2), John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Humor, Romance, Series
Dumped by his lover, Harlie Rose ducks for cover in the Belladonna Arms, a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. What he doesn’t know is that the Belladonna Arms has a reputation for romance—and Harlie is about to become its next victim.
Finding a job at a deli up the street, Harlie meets Milan, a gorgeous but cranky baker. Unaware that Milan is suffering the effects of a broken heart just as Harlie is, the two men circle around each other, manning the barricades, both unwilling to open themselves up to love yet again.
But even the most stubborn heart can be conquered.
With his new friends to back him up—Sylvia, on the verge of her final surgery to become a woman, Arthur, the aging drag queen who is about to discover a romance of his own, and Stanley and Roger, the handsome young couple in 5C who lead by example, Harlie soon learns that at the Belladonna Arms, love is always just around the corner waiting to pounce. Whether you want it to or not.
But tragedy also drops in now and then.
Oh, how nice it was to visit Belladonna Arms again. Unfortunately, real life has gotten me behind on John Inman’s books lately. It was such a pleasure to jump back into the world of these characters. If you read Serenading Stanley, you know that it’s like coming home in a sense. Coming home, that is, if you love kooky characters who have you smiling one minute and having an “awww.. ” moment the next.
Harlie, a writer, was dumped by his boyfriend (Dan) several months before. Instead of facing the break-up head on, he took off on a road trip for months to see the country. In other words, he ran. Of course, he excused his traveling to himself as him getting material for his next work-in-progress, but it’s pretty obvious that he was doing just what I said – running. He finally decides to come back home and somehow ends up standing outside of a rundown apartment building called Belladonna Arms. It’s storming and he’s trying to force himself to walk inside the place. Only when an interesting (to say the least) character walks out and says something does he do just that. The character I’m referring to? That would be Arthur, Belladonna’s resident drag queen owner. If you read Serenading Stanley, you are already familiar with Arthur. He’ll forever be one of my all time favorite characters in a book. He’s a bit flamboyant, but so what? He’s a blast.
Harlie rents an apartment from Arthur and it doesn’t take long before he’s met all the residents of the apartment complex, including the cat whose name changes according to who feeds him. Harlie knows he won’t continue to survive strictly on his book royalties, so he has to find a job. In steps Sylvia, who is close to having her transition surgery and will be leaving her job at a local deli. Conveniently, this will happen soon, so of course Harlie should apply for that position. Only when he gets there, he is offered a job, but not exactly the one he was expecting. His immediate boss is a hard-ass named Milan. Milan is every gay man’s wet dream. Big and sexy and just… hot as hell. Milan doesn’t take to Harlie right off and with good reason. Harlie is a bit of a flirt and it’s obvious to the reader that Milan is dealing with his own issues and doesn’t want to deal with flirty Harlie and his.
I have to say before I go any further that I wasn’t an early fan of Harlie. Sure, I thought he was okay but (and I’ve seen this in other reviews) I felt that a couple of things he did were a bit much. One, he pushed Arthur to be someone he’s not in order to get a man. Don’t get me wrong, it came together nicely (much better than I expected), but it was still there early on. That part of the story (with Arthur trying to butch up) was actually pretty damn funny so it didn’t really bother me as much as it may have other readers. Two, Harlie was a bit… much… when it came to Milan when they first met. While I get that he was lusting after him, I feel that he took it a bit too far a couple of times.
Then there are the other characters who make up the story. I won’t do a cast of characters here like I did in my review of Serenading Stanley (you can see that here), but I will say that every single one of them was as entertaining as they were in that book. From Sylvia and Pete to Stanley and Roger (and I’ve already mentioned Arthur), I found myself laughing more often than not. Oh, and we can’t forget the resident kleptomaniac couple, Charlie and PJ. They were so obvious about being kleptos, you couldn’t not laugh at them.
While Work in Progress is Milan and Harlie’s story, it’s also about the others. One unexpected character finds love and another one loses it in a pretty bad way. It’s not all fun and games at the Belladonna Arms. While the magical “love pollen” that falls on all residents of the Arms is still working its, well, magic, one couple is losing whatever connection they once had. But then again, one half of that couple had not exactly endeared himself to me by his actions in the previous book. Parts of their story were hard to read, but only because I adored one of the characters involved. The other one? Bleh. I wanted to punch him a few times.
As for Harlie and Milan, it takes a little while for them to come together outside of work, but when they do it’s sweet. I love the way the author wrote that part of the story and I was grinning from ear to ear when it happened.
Overall, a great addition to the series. I loved being able to step back inside Belladonna Arms to reconnect with some of the most entertaining characters I’ve ever read. I enjoyed watching Harlie and Milan find each other. I felt sad a couple of times, but thankfully the character I felt sad for has his own story out now so I can jump right into it. While I may have gotten behind on this author’s books (that pesky real life thing again), I’ve never read one I haven’t really enjoyed.
Great book. I can’t wait to read the next one. 🙂 And that cover? Wow.
This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.