Work in Progress is the second book in the Belladonna Arms series and not only tells the tale of Harlie and Milan, but also continues the stories of the other residents of the apartment building, and so it is recommended that you read Serenading Stanley prior to joining Harlie and Milan on their journey.
Four months after his breakup with ex-boyfriend Dan, and his subsequent travels across 32 states, Harlie Rose is home. Home in San Diego with a slew of notes, no place to live, and a dream to write the next Great American Novel. Invited into the Belladonna Arms during in the rainstorm to end all rainstorms by Arthur, the landlord, Harlie finds a new home where he can continue to work on getting over his breakup and focus on his writing. Harlie meets the other residents of the Belladona Arms and discovers all of their quirks.
Sadly, the royalties from his previous books are not enough to live on and so thanks to new neighbor Sylvia, Harlie begins working at Burger’s Deli. The server position Harlie was expecting does not materialize, though and Harlie ends up the barker’s assistant to Milan, the owner’s son, a miserable bastard in his own right. Interestingly enough, Harlie and Milan have more in common than originally thought, and once they clear the air with the help of Milan’s father and Sylvia, things get better.
Sylvia’s meddling leads to two matches made, Milan’s father and Arthur, as well as Harlie and Milan, who have been circling each other since the day Harlie started working with Milan. Now the question is, can the men leave their painful past behind them and make it work, or are the ghost of boyfriends past and their differences too great?
It was such a pleasure to revisit the Belladonna Arms and all of its quirky residents, while being introduced to some new characters. Inman has a style that I just love, blending serious topics with snark, sarcasm, and a healthy dose of humor. I have not read a John Inman book that I did not love.
As new additions to the Belladonna Arms, Harlie and Milan were fun, well formed characters that had depth and distinctly individual styles, history, and hopes for the future. In fact all of Inman’s characters were unique and gave us a snapshot of a variety of people without it seeming contrived, making the Arms an ideal setting for the stories.
To be honest, I not sure how I felt about Harlie’s push to “normalize” his new landlord and friend Arthur, although his heart is in the right place, it just did not feel right. Fortunately Inman makes a point of showing us that everything we wear is a form of drag, whether it be a dress on a 300 lb drag queen, to the jeans and t-shirt we feel most comfortable in, drag is drag, and is our way to show the world who we are, and who we want to be.
I would be remiss if I did not tempt you to read Work in Progress by sharing some of the simply priceless descriptions and some insanely funny quotes such as the:
“Jesus-What-The-Hell-Was-I-Thinking Collection by Avon”
Then there was…
“My come erupted with such force that it sprayed his face, shot up his nose, damn near blinded him in one eye, and soaked his hair from his hairline to the crown of his head.”
And my personal favorite:
“While I chewed and grunted in appreciation, slavering and gnashing away at my cookie like a happy werewolf gobbling up a particularly delicious villager, she studied the apartment, taking in the computer, the books, and the fat black-and-white cat lying on the sofa.”
Inman also used a mix of proper and colloquial terms when dealing with the sex and the various body parts associated with it, which was different from so many other books, and honestly, I liked it. It worked well in the context of the story, and the characters, and felt just that much more realistic.
One last thought, and this is not something I regularly comment on, and that is the cover, the incredibly drool-worthy cover. Love it. So based on all of that, I am guessing that you have figured out that Work in Progress and its prequel Serenading Stanley are must reads, right? Right. Good, my work here is done.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.