Title: Work in Progress
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: 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.
Review: I was thrilled when I discovered that author John Inman was set to return us to the delightful Belladonna Arms and her fantastically quirky tenants. For those unfamiliar with the first book in this series, Serenading Stanley, I would strongly suggest you read that novel first before diving into the second book, Work in Progress. I assure you that learning all you can about this delicious cast of characters from book one will really afford you much needed background to fully enjoy this second book. Also, to be frank, John Inman’s stories are not to be missed, and this particular group of zanies deserves all the page time he has afforded them.
With the arrival of a new tenant, writer Harlie Rose, the Belladonna Arms family opens its doors to embrace one of its own. Led by the cross-dressing drag queen wannabe, Arthur, familiar faces from the first novel welcome Harlie into their midst as only they can. Stanley and his Roger are back and wonderfully in love. Sylvia, a transgender who is just weeks shy of her sex change operation, and her beloved Pete, play a significant role in introducing Harlie to Milan, the baker at the local deli. Our favorite kleptomaniacs, Charlie and Bruce, are back and immediately capture Harlie’s attention by attempting to steal his laundry detergent. And finally, the fiery Chi-Chi and sweetly quiet Ramon add both drama and a more serious note to this romantic comedy.
The stage is set once more for a raucous good time in this craziest of apartment complexes. Despite being dumped by his former partner, Harlie is determined to move on with his life and continue writing his current work in progress. Needing to secure a job to bolster up his flagging royalties checks, he finds himself applying at the local deli, owned by Tom Burger, who will factor greatly into the story as it progresses on. Instead of assuming Sylvia’s waitering job, as they had both hoped, Mr. Burger makes Harlie the assistant to the baker, his own son Milan. Milan is far from cordial, himself just having been dumped by his boyfriend. But there is an undeniable attraction between these two men, and before they know it, that little spark will grow into something far greater.
I cannot say enough about the stories John Inman creates from his brilliantly fertile imagination. Once again we are treated to impeccable writing that produces a fast-paced, funny and sexy story line that never veers off course. With witty and well defined characters, snappy dialogue and sweet romance, Work in Progress is an incredibly joyous story that had me laughing and, yes, crying in parts. Beware, this is not some fluffy piece of sappy love; rather, it is a journey into the hearts and lives of people with real struggles who are able to find love again, or for the very first time. While decidedly lighthearted, there is a serious subplot that wends its way through this novel which produces a shocking incident that is both deeply sad and decidedly poignant.
However, in true John Inman fashion, while strife is not glossed over, love prevails and with it, healing flourishes. I, for one, hope that Mr. Inman continues to add more stories to this sweet series about the magical Belladonna Arms. In the meanwhile, please enjoy Work in Progress. It is a well-deserved five star read, and I highly recommend it to you.
You can buy Work in Progress here: