Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 204 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Humor
At a Glance: With elements like humor, great pacing, Arthur in drag, and perhaps the sweetest potential boyfriend ever to grace the page, it all made for an incredibly pleasant story that I read in one sitting.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Shiloh Smart is alone and looking for a fresh start. Convinced he’s finished with love forever, he signs a lease at the Belladonna Arms, a tacky, run-down apartment building situated high on a hill in downtown San Diego.
Determined to turn his back on romance, Shiloh works hard at carving out a life for himself where love doesn’t stand a chance and staying single is all that matters. Then his drag queen landlord’s nephew, Ben Moss, moves in. Thanks to a rumor Ben has heard since childhood of a fifty-year-old crime and a fortune in stolen money, he sets out to find the loot supposedly hidden decades ago in his uncle’s apartment building. The minute Ben spots a kilted Shiloh toddling off to work at the Scottish restaurant up the street where he waits tables, he falls hard and fast for the aloof young redhead. Even a hidden treasure can’t compete in Ben’s eyes with the beautiful waiter with the fiery copper hair.
But even while he diligently works to break down Shiloh’s defenses, Ben doesn’t give up his quest for buried treasure. Soon, as their friendship deepens, the two young men join forces in a search for the stolen cash. As the treasure hunt gathers steam and all the tenants get involved, Ben and Shiloh come to realize the greatest treasure isn’t buried in the Belladonna Arms at all. It’s buried far deeper—in each other’s hearts!
Review: If you have not read any of the previous Belladonna Arms novels by John Inman, then this review will make little sense to you and you should stop immediately and start from the beginning because I feel it is the absolute best series in the Gay Romantic Comedy genre today. Ben and Shiloh, book four in the Belladonna Arms series, brings us back to the sagging, decrepit apartment building that houses some of the most uniquely funny and delightfully quirky people, beginning with its cross-dressing landlord, Arthur. It is my sincere hope that if there is to be another installment in this unquestionably outrageous series it will focus even more fully on Arthur and his boyfriend, Tom. Until then, let me share a little about Ben and Shiloh and the hunt for treasure that sets off some of the best teamwork the apartment building has ever seen.
Shiloh is a nice, red-headed Jewish boy who works at an Irish pub, wears a kilt to work, and has been dumped by a cheating bastard of an ex. The hope for cheap rent and the perfect locale (mere blocks from the restaurant he works at) brings Shiloh searching for a room to let at the Belladonna Arms. Arthur is his usual crazy self, and informs Shiloh that not only does he have a room for him but that he is destined to fall in love once more, for that is the magic about his apartment building. Shiloh has absolutely no intention of falling in anything again—his heart has been hurt once too often and he has sworn off love for good.
After settling in, the first order of business for Shiloh is actually helping his neighbors move to an upper floor apartment—apparently, there is someone who Arthur is expecting to rent next door. Not paying much mind to Arthur’s ramblings, Shiloh dons his kilt and heads to work. After a rather grueling shift, he is sitting, taking advantage of his nightly free meal, when the biggest drink of water this side of the Mississippi walks in to the restaurant. When he spots Shiloh he heads his way, and much to Shiloh’s embarrassment, when the young man asks him if he may join him, Shiloh begins to choke on a bite of food that goes down the wrong pipe. Immediately, the stranger performs the Heimlich and saves Shiloh from choking—and that is how he meets his new next-door neighbor and Arthur’s nephew, Ben. Needless to say the attraction is immediate, but Shiloh is determined to tamp it down—he is not looking for romance and he is determined not to fall.
Ben is a strange one, and when Shiloh hears constant tapping and hammering next door–and finds Ben in the most unusual of places, including under the front porch–he finally demands some answers. Reluctantly, Ben shares the fact that a previous tenant of the Arms had stolen a boatload of money and hidden it somewhere in the building. Shiloh is most skeptical, but that matters little as what really worries him is how attracted he is becoming to Ben and how much he likes the feelings Ben has awakened in his still tender heart. Little is ever kept secret at the Belladonna, so when the entire apartment building is brought into the treasure finding effort, hilarity ensues and caution is throw to the wind—but will it be enough for Shiloh to finally give Ben access to his heart?
With elements like humor, great pacing, Arthur in drag, and perhaps the sweetest potential boyfriend ever to grace the page, it all made for an incredibly pleasant story that I read in one sitting. Golly, this author makes me laugh. His characters are so far from perfect and yet they all are so incredibly down to earth. I love that each installment allows us to revisit all the tenants and get a brief update on their lives. Author John Inman has built a family, beginning with a fairy godfather in Arthur, and has just continued to add to the group with one fascinating person after another. People enter the Belladonna Arms in need and end up staying, living their very own happy ever after, and, quite frankly, that is the magic of this series. No big angst, no major issues, just lovely people finding each other, and those who live by them offering to help, surrounding them with love, welcoming them into the community—this is why this series remains one of my favorites.
You can buy Ben and Shiloh here: