27 November 2014

Work in Progress by John Inman

 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.
This review was difficult for me to write, though easier than reading the book was. I disliked this book immensely for 95% of the storyline. I’ll explain why I still gave it 2.5 stars at the end of my review (while trying not to give away any spoilers).
I try to separate my reviews into what I liked and disliked but quite honestly, this book had so much to dislike. The author tends to write in laundry lists: “I did this and then I did this and then I did this.” Which is rather annoying to read. Done once, it brings the attention of the reader. Done often, it just makes the reader go “can’t there be a better way to describe what’s going on?”
Belladonna Arms is a small, rundown apartment building in San Diego which houses gay men who find the love of their life there. Managed by Arthur, a drag queen in his fifties, it opens itself up to a lot of different storylines. You have to admit, the premise sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it fell through almost instantly for me. The story, told from the protagonist’s point of view, starts out with him saying he is going to tell us about when he found the true love of his life – which he didn’t actually get around to until chapters later. Instead, the reader was subject to multiple descriptions (sometimes in the same paragraph or even the same page) of Arthur’s outfits – written in a very derogatory tone. I found it insulting the way he harped on it. So what if Arthur is a drag queen wearing over-the-top clothing? It actually made him rather endearing. And the more the protagonist focused on the negative of it, the more I disliked him. Especially when he chose to ‘change’ Arthur by butching him up.
I have to admit, the one thing that truly stood out to me, out of all the mind-numbing things I read is not the protagonists love-interest. No. Not his fellow residents (who are definitely different). No. What stood out is this apartment building houses all gay men and they GIGGLED. Yep, you read that right. Every man giggled like a school girl. While there are some more effeminate men who do giggle, to make this entire apartment building of men giggle all the time – well, I found it rather insulting. Just because they are gay does not mean they giggle. Chuckle, laugh, guffaw…yes. But giggle?
*sigh* Now I come to why I gave it 2.5 stars – which is probably surprising when you read how much I disliked the book. It went from 1.5 to 2.5 stars because of the ending. I won’t read the book again, but the ending was enough to inspire an ‘ahhhhhh” from me as to up it another star. I won’t tell you what happened as that would be several major spoilers. But I must admit, the ending was sweet. Not sweet enough to make slogging through the rest of the manuscript worth it, but still – very sweet.


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