Reviewed by Dan
This is a Flashback Friday Series Review of the Belladonna Arms Series (Books 1 – 3)
AUTHOR: John Inman
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
I really enjoyed the first three books in this series from John Inman. The stories all have happy endings for the MCs, although there are other back stories which don’t end as well. The writing on these stories is humorous, with some really funny lines here and there. The MCs are mostly an emotional mess…usually thinking they aren’t good enough, but in every case…they are.
One note. I’m not going to let it affect my ratings, but I was a little distressed to see scenes with lotions and baby oil being used with condoms in this series. The sex scenes were very realistic, but that part shouldn’t be. Never use anything but water based lubricants with condoms. Oils and lotions break down the latex and the condom can fail. (Sorry…all those years as an HIV Educator coming out…)
That said…this is definitely a series for you if you’re looking for a feel good read. Mr. Inman doesn’t disappoint. I would recommend all of them to you. Give them a try…I think you’ll like them.
TITLE: Serenading Stanley
LENGTH: 243 Pages
RELEASE DATE: October 14th 2013
Welcome to the Belladonna Arms, a rundown little apartment building perched atop a hill in downtown San Diego, home to the city’s lost and lovelorn. Shy archaeology student Stanley Sternbaum has just moved in and fills his time quietly observing his eccentric neighbors, avoiding his hellion mother, and trying his best to go unnoticed… which proves to be a problem when it comes to fellow tenant Roger Jane. Smitten, the hunky nurse with beautiful green eyes does everything in his power to woo Stanley, but Stanley has always lived a quiet life, too withdrawn from the world to take a chance on love. Especially with someone as beautiful as Roger Jane.
While Roger tries to batter down Stanley’s defenses, Stanley turns to his new neighbors to learn about love: Ramon, who’s not afraid to give his heart to the wrong man; Sylvia, the trans who just wants to be a woman, and the secret admirer who loves her just the way she is; Arthur, the aging drag queen who loves them all, expecting nothing in return—and Roger, who has been hurt once before but is still willing to risk his heart on Stanley, if Stanley will only look past his own insecurities and let him in.
As the blurb says…Welcome to the Belladonna Arms. A six floor tall apartment building high on a hill in San Diego, California. 24 non-air conditioned units equally divided amongst the six walk-up floors. No elevators in this charmer. Serenading Stanley is the first in the series, and it is an interesting start. In the book we meet a young man named Stanley who has some pretty serious self-worth issues. He thinks he is plain, not interesting, and most of all not that sexy.
Enter Roger Jane. Roger is a nurse living on the floor below Stanley’s new apartment, and Roger is a God in Stanley’s eyes. The perfect big hairy hunk of a man, but obviously way outside Stanley’s league. Stanley tip toes past the guy’s apartment when he is walking up the stairs so that man won’t know he is there.
The other residents of the building seem to be talking Roger up a lot, always saying what a nice guy he is etc., but Stanley is clueless. I blame his totally bizarre controlling mother. She is definitely a colorful character in the story! The building manager is also very colorful. A 300 pound very hairy drag queen…love him.
Then there are a bunch of oddballs who we meet along the way through the story. Honestly, I quite like the Belladonna Arms. I’d live there! On to story number two…
TITLE: Work In Progress
LENGTH: 226 Pages
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2014
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.
I really liked the MCs in this one. Harlie Rose recently got dumped by his boyfriend. One day they were in love, the next…the boyfriend was done with it and said it was over. Harlie is an author and he has now spent a few months traveling around in his old car, collecting notes along the way to use on his next book.
He is back in San Diego, and looking for a place to live. Enter the Belladonna Arms and its wacky cast of residents. Harlie is rescued from the pouring rain by an over the top drag queen, who we readers already knew was Arthur…the owner of the Belladonna Arms. Harlie falls in love with an apartment in the building and within a very short time has moved in.
I loved the roving cat in this one. When you read it you’ll get what I’m saying. A huge fat housecat who wanders throughout the building mooching food from everyone along the way. I also liked the continuing story of Arthur and Harlie’s attempt to “butch” Arthur up. After all, it would be easier to get a date in plaid then in taffeta, correct?
Harlie needs a part-time job to help supplement his income from his former books, so Sylvia, who is almost ready for her surgery, gets him a job at the deli where she has been working. It isn’t the job they both expected though as her replacement. Instead he finds himself the assistant to a very grouchy, but very hot baker. But Milan the baker isn’t very friendly. Will things change?
I liked this one a little better than the first one, but I really liked both! I think I could relate to the characters a little better in this one for some reason. The author as usual wrote a very good book, with some definite laugh out loud lines. My favorite by far was talking about Arthur’s earrings…the “Jesus-What-The-Hell-Was-I-Thinking collection by Avon.”
TITLE: Coming Back
LENGTH: 200 Pages
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2015
Barney Teegarden knows what it’s like to be alone. He knows what it’s like to have a romantic heart, yet no love in his life to unleash the romance on. With the help of a friend, he acquires a lease in a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. The Belladonna Arms is not only filled with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable, it is also famous for sprinkling love dust on even the loneliest of the lovelorn.
At the Arms, Barney finds friendship, acceptance, and an adopted family that lightens his lonely life. Hell, he even finds a cat. But still true love eludes him.
When his drag queen landlord, Arthur, takes it into his head to rescue a homeless former tenant, he enlists Barney’s help. It is Barney who shows this lost soul how to trust again—and in return Barney discovers love for the first time in his life.
It’s funny how even the hardest battles can be fought and won with laughter, hugs, friends, plus a little faith in the goodness of others. All it takes to begin the healing is the simple act of coming back.
Another feel good story in the Belladonna Arms series. I enjoy these stories. I’ve come to expect happy endings on them, with different characters being the focus of each new story. But that said, I really enjoy that the characters from the previous stories don’t just up and disappear. Their stories grow and change as the series goes along as well.
In Coming Back, we focus on a new resident named Barney Teegarden, (where does Mr. Inman come up with these names…), a new resident of the building. Barney is a coworker of Pete and is friends with Pete and Sylvia who’ve we come to know through the previous books. Barney is another short guy at 5’7”, like a lot of other guys living in the building. It seems everyone in the building is either 5’7” or 6’4”…but it might be my imagination!
Barney is convinced to help the owner of the building, Arthur, a drag queen we’ve come to know and love throughout the series. Now Arthur is looking for a former resident who is living on the street. I was happily surprised that it wasn’t who I thought it was, but then felt bad when I found out what happened to the person I thought it was. Sound confusing? Sorry, don’t want to do spoilers, but trust me the homeless guy’s identity was a pleasant surprise. Ohhh…before I forget…there is a huge surprise with the cat!
I enjoyed this feel good, happy story and I can’t wait to read the next installment in the series, which is on my Kindle already!