We read and review for the love and joy of books.
Genre: M/M Contemporary
When Harlie Rose first sees the Belladonna Arms, his impression is that of a rundown building sadly in need of fixing. Then he enters and meets Arthur, the three hundred plus pound drag queen and owner of the apartment building, and he’s charmed by Arthur’s tales of the building’s reputation for bringing on romance. By the time they get to apartment 2C, Harley has decided that this is where he belongs.
Dumped by his lover four months earlier, Harlie has been seeing the country in his big old gas-guzzling Buick, but he’s ready to take his notes from the trip, buckle down, and start writing his next novel. He earns some money from royalties from past books, but needs a part time job to supplement his funds so that he can keep writing. Fortunately, Syliva, one of the residents who happens to be going on leave for her sex change surgery, knows just where he can find work.
She takes him to the deli where she works, and her boss promptly hires him, not as a waiter as he’d hoped, but as a baker’s assistant—an assistant to the gorgeous young man who is currently slaving over a hot oven and creating a very positive impression on Harlie. It turns out that his name is Milan, and he’s the owner’s son. He’s also recently broken up with his lover and is not interested in anyone new.
Harlie quickly makes friends in his new home, but of everyone, it’s Arthur whom he seems to take to the most. Not romantically, but as a friend because Harlie thinks he knows what’s best for Arthur, and he sets about making him more butch. He even goes so far as to go shopping with Arthur, and when Sylvia throws a party to which Arthur is invited, Harlie convinces him to show up in his new western gear. That evening, since Milan and his dad both catered the party, Harlie has a chance to finally get to know Milan as more than his boss. Coincidentally, Milan’s dad has a chance to meet Arthur, and the two hit it off immediately.
This story was very light on the drama and was mostly a revisit of all of the principal characters from the previous story with a look at where they are now and with a lot of romance and sweet moments thrown in. Sylvia and Greg are getting married once the surgery is over. Stanley and Roger may be next, but who knows? Milan and Harlie get very serious, very quickly, and even Arthur finally finds the love of his life. The only two who are not faring well are Ramon and ChiChi, and their story is what brings the little bit of drama near the end of the book.
I struggled to enjoy this story because I didn’t like Harlie’s character right from the beginning. I found him to be too snarky and too harsh about other people. I totally disliked what he tried to do to change Arthur’s persona, and I hated that he could be so clueless about how sad he was making Arthur. I also found it odd that he was that clueless, considering he was a writer and supposedly observant. He also rarely ever worked on his book. It was almost as if the author forgot that Harlie had a primary job and that his role as baker’s assistant was only secondary.
I liked Milan, but he went from the aloof, quiet, dark, brooding man of Harlie’s dreams to totally committed lover in a very short turnaround time, and he never developed further. He was almost too good to be true, and their sweet romance never had any opposition or other disruption.
It was a pleasure to revisit Roger and Stanley, and Sylvia and Greg, but my favorite part of the book was Arthur falling in love and having that love returned tenfold. I wish Arthur had been the principal MC because I would have liked to have witnessed more as those two got together. I am so very happy that his love for Tom was reciprocated.
I’m not sure whether my dislike of Harlie’s personality was due in part to the change in narrator for the series. This is not the same person who narrated Serenading Stanley when I fell in love with the characters of Belladonna Arms, and it’s possible that Caleb Dickinson’s delivery of Harlie’s voice and tone are what negatively influenced me toward this story. However, to be fair, it may have simply been the writing, but when you listen to an audiobook, it is difficult to tell.
As I stated earlier, I am disappointed that there wasn’t more drama and that everything in Harlie’s and Milan’s romance went so smoothly. Once they had their first kiss, it was all pure romance with no conflict at all. So, I’d recommend this one to those looking for light, sweet, and fluffy, with little to no angst, and I think, in this case, I’d recommend reading the book, rather than listening to the audiobook.