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with beautiful green eyes does everything in his power to woo Stanley, but Stanley has always lived a quiet life, too withdrawn from the world to take a chance on love.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.
Stanley Sternbaum is a shy, very shy, grad student who is just now leaving the nest to study Anthropology in San Diego. He rents his first apartment ever at the somewhat dodgy Belladonna Arms, a place full of gays with only one “pesky” heterosexual in the bunch. He is immediately entranced by one of his neighbors, Roger Jane.
To Stanley, Roger epitomizes all things perfect and in fact, god-like, and therefore unattainable to a little, “nobody” like him. Even when it seems that Roger might be interested in him, he has a hard time believing, and is in fact doing what he can to avoid the man so as to avoid a broken heart.
Though he is avoiding Roger, he is not avoiding the rest of the wacky tenants, and though he wished he could, his mother. There’s ChiChi, the rent boy. Ramon, the beauty student. Charlie, the kleptomaniac. Sylvia, the transsexual. And we can’t forget Arthur, the super. Each of these characters go out of their way to bring Stanley out of his shell, and in fact spend quite a bit of time waxing poetic about Roger!
Though it is a tough road, it is very entertaining and Roger eventually manages to win over his “little mouse” and together they find their very HEA.
I can’t believe I missed this book when it first came out! I ended up reading this in preparation for the sequel, Work in Progress, and boy am I glad! John Inman is an excellent writer. He is funny, sweet, descriptive and his characters are sublime.
Stanley and Roger almost, almost!, take the back seat to the secondary characters in this book. Arthur is hysterical! He’s an obese drag queen forever having to haul himself up 6 flights of stairs and nearly passing out. He looks for love for all his tenants while quietly pining for his own unrequited love.
ChiChi and Ramon are two colorful neighbors who aren’t afraid to put in their two cents while in between entertaining “massage customers with special needs” (ChiChi) or practicing new hair techniques like pink hair dye for Stanley’s mother (Ramon). Charlie is a diagnosed klepto, off his meds and you can imagine the antics he gets up to.
Stanley’s mother is a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, busy-body who only wants what’s best for her son but has a hard time showing it.
All in all they make for a hysterical crew of well-meaning friends who gently nudge Stanley into Roger’s arms and help him to see for himself that he is more than worthy of that kind of love.
I highly recommend this book and give it 5 of 5 hearts.
Tyler Stevens is a favorite narrator of mine and I think this ties as the best I have heard from him. He did a fantastic job with all the many and varied characters of the Belladonna Arms. Arthur is appropriately swishy/queeny. Sylvia is sweet and delicate. Ramon and ChiChi both have a fantastic accent with “attitude” and Stanley’s mom is perfect in her smoke roughened way.
I really, really enjoyed his narration and hope he does the sequel as well.
I give it 5 of 5 hearts.
Overall, 5 of 5 hearts.