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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.
(Book reviewed on this site previously)
We return to the amazing Belladonna Arms. Arthur is still there, in horrible drag. Chi Chi and Ramon are there, but fighting. Stanley and Roger are there and in love. Sylvia is about to have her surgery, the kleptomaniac Charlie is still taking his meds and he and Bruce are still a couple. All in all love is in the air, specifically the Love Pollen that Arthur claims falls on the unsuspecting tenants and makes them succumb.
Harlie thinks he’ll be immune to the pollen, however, since he has just gotten back from a four month journey across the country getting “over” his ex. He’s alone and plans on staying that way. His only focus: getting a job and writing his novel.
Sylvia comes through with a job for Harlie, working as a baker’s assistant at the restaurant she works. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Burger, an older gentleman whose lover has recently died. We suspect she probably knew that his son, Milan, might just cure Harlie of his blues, as he too is a gay man recently alone.
Sure enough, the two set off sparks. At first, Harlie thinks Milan is straight and hates him, which only makes him that much more fascinating, but then we see them connect outside of work and Milan is really just shy and heartbroken.
Sylvia has other plans for our Belladonna Arms tenants. Arthur. Harlie, mistakenly!, tries to change Arthur’s style by making him more “butch”. What a hilarious failure that was! No matter what he tries, Arthur glams it up and looks miserable without his flowing garments. But… Mr. Burger sees something in Arthur he’s been looking for and it is love at first sight!
The remainder of the book is Sylvia healing, Arthur and Mr. Burger sexing and loving, Milan and Harlie sexing and loving, and… a horrible, horrible sad story involving Chi Chi and Ramon…
Overall, it was another amazing book by John Inman and I loved (almost) every second of it as much as the first book Serenading Stanley. I’m not sure why the sad story was included… maybe to give some more depth to this very sweet story, but it was hard to read. I hope we hear more about their story in another installment, because it’s just too good to stop now!
I highly recommend this book and the series.
5 of 5 hearts.
Tyler Stevens narrated the first book in the series and he is a hard act to follow. For reasons of both continuity of character and the fact that I really adore Tyler I wish he’d done this. Caleb Dickinson did a nice job, he just lacks some of the “flair” Tyler put into his characters. There wasn’t as much character voice differentiation and though he does a nice job with the pacing and emotion, it lacked the panache that I admire with Tyler’s work.
4 of 5 hearts
Overall 4.5 of 5 hearts