I’m going to keep this quick and simple. Do not read this review if you have not read the first and second book in the Belladonna Arms series. Just don’t do it, trust me. Now that that is out of the way, if you have not read the Belladonna Arms books yet, run out and get them as quickly as possible, you won’t regret it.
Newcomer to the Belladonna Arms, Barney Teegarden, is not looking for love, but as the only single resident, he is assured by all he meets that love will be in the cards for him and doesn’t stand a chance. Weeks after moving in, with numerous failed blind dates behind him, Barney begins to wonder if the Belladonna’s matchmaking magic has fizzled out.
One day, a secretive Arthur conscripts Barney in his search for a lost friend. The two travel across the city in search of the friend, Arthur never divulging the individual’s name or relationship to Arthur. More confusing is why Arthur chose Barney to aid him in the search. Weeks of searching leads the men to Ramon, homeless and haunted by the death of his lover Chichi.
Barney and Arthur convince Ramon to return to the Belladonna, Arthur promising a home and safety for Ramon. Ramon, still haunted by the accidental slaying of his lover, isolates himself in his new apartment, one which happens to share a secret door with Barney’s. It doesn’t take long for Barney to fall for Ramon, but Ramon has made it clear that he is not interested in love after what happened months ago.
This was the simplest, and quite possibly the sweetest, installment in the series simply because the primary focus remained rooted on Barney and Ramon. That is not to say that that there wasn’t more going on, specifically a “mysterious event” sub-plot featuring neighbors Pete and Sylvia that was obvious to us, the reader, and yet the majority of the residents remained oblivious.
Ramon, like the entire cast of characters, was really well written, exhibiting depth and compassion and so his reaction to Chichi’s death made perfect sense to me. Arthur’s use of Barney as a co-conspirator in the search for Ramon and the whole apartment set-up could have felt contrived, but this is Arthur we are talking about, Arthur who either has second sight or the best luck around. Then we have the new addition to the Belladonna Arms, Barney, who exhibits his own unique traits and felt like one of the most genuine characters in the book.
I did find that the transition from friends to lovers felt too abrupt, probably because for the most part, we only saw Barney’s side of the budding relationship, Ramon’s perspective being secondary. Because of this, and that secondary sub-plot I was mentioning, I felt a bit of a disconnect between Barney and Ramon. I also felt that the secondary characters drew me away from the main focus of the story, that of Ramon’s redemption.
In the end, I did enjoy the story. I found it was a fast read, and I enjoyed revisiting all of my old friends and their idiosyncrasies. I will also take a moment to give a shout out to Aaron Anderson for yet another fantastic cover.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.