We read and review for the love and joy of books.
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Barney Teegarden looks exactly the way his name sounds—like a geek with pocket protectors, eyeglasses held together with tape, tiny, thin and cute. What a coincidence that he’s a bookkeeper too! His friend Pete tells him about an opening at the Belladonna Arms where Pete lives with his wife, Sylvia (Work in Progress). He also tells him that the building seems to be sprinkled with some kind of love pollen because everyone who moves in there ends up in love. Though he’s very skeptical of this idea, it does have its appeal since he’s totally alone in the world and would like nothing more than to share his life and love with a partner.
When he meets Arthur, the landlord—a large, flamboyant, drag queen who dresses to the max—he nearly runs away, but it’s pretty evident that Arthur’s heart is as big as the rest of him and the two become friends. And when Arthur needs someone to help him scour the city for a homeless person he knows and is trying to help, Barney is the one who searches with him. The author seemed to keep the identity of the homeless person a secret until he was found, so I’ll put my reference to him behind a spoiler here. I was surprised to learn that it was Ramon, the young Hispanic man who accidentally killed his lover, ChiChi, in the last book, Work in Progress. Ramon has been homeless, living under a tarp in a tent city for six months.
When Arthur and Barney finally get the young man to come back to the Belladonna Arms, he’s put into a vacant apartment next door to Barney’s, and later, when Arthur points out a secret door at the back of the closet, Barney uses it to check on the man. The door eventually always remains open, not so the men can have sex, but so that they can talk, eat, and watch TV together, developing their own friendship. Barney seems to provide a safety net of sorts for the man to be able to slowly get his feet back under him. They slowly move forward from friendship to love, but it’s a leisurely, sweet journey and well worth the wait.
While the main focus is on Barney and his new love interest, other things are happening at the Belladonna Arms, as well, including some mysterious secret pertaining to Sylvia and Pete. And the cat of many names? He’s back in this story again, this time named Wilbur by Barney, and playing an important role in bringing Barney and his mystery man together.
This was a sweet love story, full of both hope and humor. The characters in the Belladonna Arms, their behaviors, their dialogue, and their interactions all combine to provide not only smiles, but outright belly laughs at times. If you’ve been following the series, this one should definitely go on your TBR list. Though it can be read as a standalone, it really shouldn’t. There are so many characters who are familiar from past books that I’d recommend those books be read first. In fact, I suspect this may be the last in the series, and it’s well worth reading. I love the gift of hope the author has given us with this book, and I hope you will too.