Monday, October 06, 2014

Work in Progress (The Belladonna Arms #2) by John Inman ~ Release Day Review Excerpt & Giveaway


Title ~ Work in Progress (The Belladonna Arms #2)

Author ~ John Inman

Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press

Published ~ 6th October 2014

Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance



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A Belladonna Arms Novel
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.

Macky’s Review

Work in Progress

" Hi. My name is Harlie Rose. Let me tell you about the time I fell in love. I mean really fell in love...."

Those are the opening lines to this fabulous story and Harlie isn't the only person in love. It's official...I'm head over heels with the Belladonna Arms. If I could marry it and have its babies I would! But seeing as that particular line of thinking would probably see me taking a ride in a little white van dressed in a very snug jacket, I'll Just have to make do with adoring the pants off all the guys who live under its roof instead!

As far as a cast of characters in a book go, I think this quirky gang have to be way up there in my most favourite book people ever! I'm drawn to 'different' so when I found 'Serenading Stanley' and met the quirkiest, funniest and most lovable cast I could ever have wished to meet; it was like finding gold dust. To then find out that there was going to be a sequel was like hitting the mother load. The only trouble is when you've loved something SO much, there's always the fear that it'll all go slightly tits up and you'll end up feeling flat if the anticipation outweighs the actual end result. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this but at the same time I was worried it might not work as well the second time round. All I can say is that within minutes of starting 'Work In Progress' I felt like I'd never even left in the first place!

Everyone is back and everyone is still as vibrant, including Stanley and Roger who are just as much, if not more so, in love than ever. If you haven't read 'Serenading Stanley' yet then I highly recommend you drop everything and rectify that straight away because you NEED to get the feel of how it all started and be introduced to all these characters through the eyes of the first man to fall under the spell of the welcoming, shabby building that was to change his life. In all honesty you probably could pick this up as a standalone but it's far better enhanced if you start the story from when Stanley first arrives at the apartment block and we get to meet all the guys alongside of him.

But getting back to this installment. The comfortable 'coming home' feeling is back for us, it's fans, but for new character; would be author Harlie Rose, watching a 300lb drag queen dressed in a periwinkle blue dressing gown and a pair of four inch heeled, marabou feather decorated house slippers, dragging the trash to the kerb, in the pouring rain, outside of a rundown apartment's a brand new experience! Having been dumped by his ex, he's been driving around for four months trying to mend his broken heart and hopefully get inspiration for his writing. Pulling up outside the Belladonna Arms after seeing it's broken down old neon sign, something about the place calls to him, so when the older, bedraggled drag queen invites him in, he doesn't think twice and before he knows it he's telling his woe's to this odd but strangely lovable person, moving into newly furnished apartment 2A and meeting all his oddball neighbours—including Ralph/Studley/Gizmo: the fat cat who shares himself liberally around the buildings community, dropping in for a quick visit when the mood takes him before trolling off in search of the next softy who he can con into feeding him. Even the damn cat's eccentric! <Grins> .

His interaction with all of them ranges from laugh out loud funny to disconcertingly poignant, as mixed into the hilarity there are surprises and even shocks surrounding some of the characters I definitely didn't see coming, that touched and saddened me but it's all part of the rich tapestry that makes it such a rewarding reading experience.

"Over the years, a lot goes on in a building like this. All of it isn't good. But all of it isn't bad either. Friends are made, love is found, people lose their way, but still—life has way of moving forward. Always forward."

I'm a big fan of John Inman's writing style because not only does he write in a very classy and clever way, he never fails to evoke emotions in me that go right across the board. He can have me laughing, sniggering and snorting at the wit and comedy of his situations, or thought processes of a character one minute, then on the flip of a coin move me to tears when he adds some pathos or sometimes a touch of darkness in the mix to balance out the humour. Because let's be honest laughter and tears are never far apart on the emotional scale, and thats true for what happens in the Belladonna. A place where the residents have their own ideas about why everybody who moves in there falls in love.

Wow. Maybe the Belladonna Arms really did spit some weird-ass love pollen onto its residents. And maybe if I got lucky it would even deign to sprinkle a little on me.

Harlie, who stole my heart and his stunningly broody, romantic partner in crime, Milan, didn't disappoint in the love stakes either. I loved them both and their journey together, all intertwined with the lives of the rest of the crew: Arthur the owner and eccentric drag queen extraordinaire...Ramone and Chi-Chi, the two Mexican hairdressing/masseur twinks...Sylvia the beautiful pre op transgender girl and her straight partner Pete...the two resident kleptomaniacs, Charlie and PJ...our slightly neurotic Stanley and his ├╝ber gorgeous male nurse lover, Roger and last but not least Milan's Deli owning father, Tom ...most, but not all of them, worthy of being classified as main characters really because of the roles they play in the heart of the story. The sex and love scenes are always delicious between Johns MC's and in Harlie and Milan's case they're just as steamingly hot as always and just as endearingly romantic as well. I had the tummy flips more than once when the two of them were 'getting it on'. The three C's really working between them as a couple—chemistry, connection and combustible!

I've tried to keep away from any plot hints because for me the enjoyment of this and it's predecessor, lies in discovering every laugh, sigh and possible tear (if you're a total softie like me) for yourself but I reckon if you're a fan of Johns you'll be just as entranced as I was and if this happens to be you're first outing with Mr Inman, I hope you love and enjoy it enough to go check out the rest of his books, because I promise you'll be in for some real treats.

I think I got sprinkled with some of that love pollen too!


Buy it Here






Chapter One

Hi. My name is Harlie Rose.

Let me tell you about the time I fell in love. I mean, really fell in love. Oddly enough, it all started with me standing in a rainstorm with a broken heart. Yeah, see, you're confused already. But I didn't say I wanted to tell you about the first time I fell in love. I said I wanted to tell you about the time I really really really fell in love. There's a difference, you know. There's a big difference.

But anyway, back to the rainstorm. And jeez, what a rainstorm it was!

You never really expect to see a monsoon in San Diego. You never really expect to see palm fronds scattered to hell and back and torrents of rainwater sluicing down the gutters. Not in this town. You also don't expect to see people in cut-offs and sandals (San Diegans never know how to dress) leaning against a wintry wind with their dripping hair sticking straight out behind them like the fins on a '69 Cadillac while they try to slog their soggy asses down the sidewalk without being picked up by said wind and tossed over the border into Tijuana.

And you never really expect to see a fat old drag queen clutching his periwinkle blue dressing gown around him as he hauls the trash out to the curb, or see him daintily sidestepping all the puddles so as not to ruin his size 12 maribou-feathered house slippers with the four-inch heels which might have been swiped from Carole Lombard's dressing room on the Fox backlot about a hundred years ago (if Carole Lombard had worn size 12's) and which now looked like a couple of drenched chickens, what with all the sopping wet feathers, and how the hell can a three-hundred-pound man walk in those damn things anyway?

You also never expect to see a drag queen, young, old, or in-between, wearing a transparent plastic rain bonnet on his head (the kind that ties under the chin) to ward off the deluge especially when he doesn't have any hair on his head. Not one single hair. And besides, those plastic rain bonnets just aren't chic enough for a respectable drag queen. Are they?

This was the kind of stuff rattling around in my mind while I stood at the curb in the frigging downpour and watched the old drag queen, who was actually kind of charming in a Ripley's Believe It Or Not sort of way as he trundled the barrel of trash out to the curb to park it next to the six other barrels just like it.

Shivering in the wet and cold, I continued to watch as the gigantic man in the periwinkle blue dressing gown and the plastic rain bonnet disappeared back inside the rundown apartment building from whence he came, clattering up the stone steps on those ridiculous heels and panting like a steam engine while he did it. And since the old queen didn't return, I figured that was the end of the show.

Hearing a clanking noise, I craned my head back and squinted through the slanting rain to the top of the six-story apartment building the old queen had just disappeared into. What I saw was a rusty neon sign perched atop the structure, still lighted in orange at this late hour in the morning, banging and rattling and leaning rather precariously in the biting wind gusting off the San Diego bay.

The neon sign read BELLADONNA ARMS. One of the L's was flickering like maybe it was about to give up the ghost. And while I stared at the sign, the whole thing suddenly flickered out. Apparently the old queen had flipped a switch somewhere inside, hoping to save a few bucks on the light bill maybe.

I tugged my coat collar snug to cut off the tiny rivulet of rainwater dribbling down my back. I wasn't wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella, which further proved that San Diegans are never prepared for anything but sunshine, so my hair was just as sopping wet as the old queen's maribou feathers.

I looked back at my battered Buick station wagon parked at the curb behind me to make sure it hadn't been swept away in the tsunami of trash-laden gutter-water splashing and gurgling down the hill I was standing on – the only hill in downtown San Diego, in fact. The car was safe and sound, of course. It was also clean and shiny for the first time in living memory, thanks to the downpour which had started yesterday and hadn't let up since.

For the last four months, I had been all over the place in the old Buick. Deserts, prairies, purple mountain majesties. 32 states in all. No kidding. I was like a regular nomad. And aside from the occasional flat tire, the ugly gas-guzzling beast had never failed me once. And it was still not failing me. There it sat at this very moment, packed to the roof with everything I owned, which in the grand scheme of things wasn't much, I supposed. But still it was all mine. Computer, clothes, books. And reams of notes taken on my pilgrimage, from which I had just returned this very minute to reclaim San Diego as my home.

Yep. It was time to finally settle down and pull those notes together. And time to somehow squeeze The Great American Novel out of them. I was home now to do exactly that. Or I would be home as soon as I found a home to settle in.

That's why I was standing in the rain in front of The Belladonna Arms. The old sign had caught my attention while I was tooling aimlessly down Broadway looking for a place to light. Broadway, by the by, is, San Diego's main thoroughfare. It bisects the city from east to west and at the moment I could see it just down the hill from where I stood.

But back to the sign. When I first spotted it, I had immediately liked the cheesy orange lettering on the rattletrap neon contraption. I even liked the way it stood slightly askew atop the boxy, less than elegant 1940's-era apartment building the old drag queen had just ducking into. The whole misaligned package of weathered construction and tattered neon, all perched one upon the other atop this out-of-place hill on the southernmost tip of the California coast, somehow shrieked home to me. Go figure.

So there I stood. Drenched. My ass still asleep from driving all night. A million ideas about my upcoming book ricocheting around inside my soaking wet head, just waiting for me to put down a couple of roots long enough to type them into foreverness.

Remember that broken heart I mentioned earlier? Well, a sudden heart-wrenching vision of my ex-lover, Dan, suddenly rose out of the ashes to make a cameo appearance, squeezing itself into my head like a pushy dinner guest hogging the best chair. But I was used to that. Dan had been making those mental cameos ever since he threw me out of his life four months ago, which was the stimulus for beginning my four-month nomadic trek across country in the old Buick wagon to begin with. Soothe a broken heart, get away for a while, spend a little time alone, gather some background material for my next book.

Hide and lick my wounds. Shit like that.

I mentally shook that interloping thought of Dan out of my head, then I shook my actual head too, just to dislodge some of the rainwater clinging to it. It didn't do any good. My hair was soaked again in less time than it took to shiver away the cold. Or try to.

Still standing on the sidewalk staring up at The Belladonna Arms in front of me, I jumped when the old queen poked his head back out the front door and screamed down the stairs, “Honey, whatchoo doing standing in the rain like a nimrod? If you're looking for an apartment, come on inside before you fucking drown!”

I felt the blood rushing to my face. I supposed I did look pretty stupid.

I raised my hand in greeting to the old queen while the queen held the door open for me, kindly and patiently offering asylum from the elements. While he waited for my pokey ass to join him, he plucked the plastic rain hat off his head, gave it a businesslike shake, and stuffed it in the pocket of his periwinkle blue dressing gown.

I jogged up the steps and found myself on a broad roofless porch where lounge chairs were parked all in a row, like on the Titanic's promenade deck just before the iceberg came along. Each and every one of the lounge chairs in front of the Belladonna Arms was determinedly empty at the moment since the weather wasn't exactly conducive to an afternoon siesta in the fresh air for anyone not wearing a wetsuit and a fucking snorkle.

While the old queen graciously ushered me inside, tutting all the while like she had never seen a dumber human in her life, I gave myself a final massive shake like a drenched dog before ducking through the doorway to get out of the downpour.

Still dripping, I stood there checking out the lobby. It didn't take me long to conclude the inside of the Belladonna Arms was about as chic as the outside. A bank of rusty mailboxes was embedded in the wall to the right with an overflowing waste basket sitting on the floor in front of it. The waste basket was stuffed with flyers and assorted junk mail nobody wanted. Straight ahead, a wide banistered staircase headed off to parts unknown, both up and down. And finally, to the left, a couple of beat-up high-backed library chairs sat huddled around a plastic Ficus benjamina that stood about eight feet tall and looked like it hadn't been cleaned since it blew here from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. The Ficus was currently decorated with a bright pink feather boa which someone had flung among the branches.

“Even the tree's in drag,” I mused, staring at it.

The old queen saw where I was looking. “Oh, that. That's left over from New Year's Eve.”

I blinked. “But this is April.”

“Yeah, well.”

The queen closed the door behind me, blocking out the roar of wind and rain. He tugged the dripping maribou-feathered house slippers off his fat hairy feet, and gazed at the slippers with a wounded expression. “I guess feathers and biblical floods don't mix,” he mumbled.

I finally turned to study the man up close. He was probably in his late fifties, needed to go on a diet pronto, should never have been in drag without some serious removal of body hair first, like all over body hair except for the top of his head which was as bald as a watermelon, as I mentioned earlier. What make-up he wore on his big round face had obviously been applied the day before and had suffered greatly in the process of being slept on. His black morning beard stubble rose through the weathered pancake on the queen's fat cheeks like a crop of young rice poking through the Nile's mud plain after the first Inundation, and let me just be the first to say it wasn't exactly alluring. In truth, the man looked a little like an obese and aging version of Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, only not nearly as cute. Poor man.

Strangely enough, I liked him immediately.

I liked him ever more when he stuck out a humongous hand and offered me a friendly smile. “I'm Arthur,” he said.

“I'm Harlie. Harlie Rose.”

We shook hands, and I nodded toward the soaked high-heeled slippers the man still cradled in his other paw. “You might try a blow-dryer on those feathers. Put it on low so they won't get all splintered and frazzled.”

The old drag queen brightened. “You think?”

I shrugged. “Don't see why not.”

The two of us appraised each other for a moment. If the man was embarrassed to be caught in a periwinkle blue dressing gown with maribou-feathered house slippers in his hand and yesterday's make-up slathered and smeared across his rain-spattered face he certainly didn't show it.

“Looking for an apartment?” Arthur asked. He obviously had no intention of apologizing for the way he looked, and truthfully I saw no reason why he should. Even wierdos have a right to be weird. This is America after all.

So I grinned, liking Arthur just a little bit more than I already did. “Maybe,” I said. “Are the apartments furnished?”

“Sure, honey. Furnished, newly painted, reasonably priced. What more could you ask?”

“Any gay people in the building?”

Arthur looked down at himself, then gazed back at me with a perfectly arched eyebrow cocked high on his forehead. “What do you think?”

I laughed. “Maybe two or three?”

“Maybe. Although it would be simpler to count the straights.”

“And how many are there of those?”

Arthur made a great show of counting on his fingers, rolling his eyes in concentration, mumbling incoherently to himself while gazing at the ceiling, then finally announced, “One. And he's living with a man who'll soon be a woman. One of these days they'll be getting married.”

I considered that. “Then I guess I'll fit right in.”

Arthur giggled girlishly, eyeing me up and down and not looking too disappointed in what he was seeing. “I thought you might,” he breathed in his best Marilyn Monroe impersonation, which was really bizarre. Then he dropped the Marilyn impersonation, thank God. Even he seemed to realize it simply wasn't working, what with him weighing three hundred pounds and looking the way he did and being dripping wet and all. “Moving in alone, Harlie? Or do you have a boyfriend out there hunkered against the rain waiting for an invitation to join the party?”

I couldn't have stopped the flash of sadness from crossing my face if I had wanted to. I felt it creep over my skin like a fog bank rolling in but I was powerless to stop it. I tried to cover it up by giving myself another wet-dog shake, but Arthur saw right through me.

A hand the size of a meat loaf came out to gently pat my cheek. “I'm sorry, honey. You're just getting over a broken heart. I can see it on your face. And don't look so surprised. I can spot a broken heart from fifty paces. God knows I've had enough of 'em to be an expert on the subject.” He shook out his non-existent hair like Rita Hayworth. “Well, not to worry. We just had a spate of love affairs come to blossom in this place, and looking the way you do, I see absolutely no reason why it can't happen to you too.”

Ignoring the compliment, it was my turn to roll my eyes. “Not interested. I think I've had my fill of love for a while.”

Arthur blessed me with a profound look of disbelief. “That's what everybody says until it hits them between the eyes.”

“Yeah, but I mean it.”

“Of course you do,” Arthur smirked. “Just remember, honey, if you can't find a lover looking the way you do, then what hope is there for someone who looks like me?”

I stumbled around for something to say but before I could get it out, Arthur pressed a perfectly manicured fingertip coated with blood-red nail polish to my lips and tutted me to silence. A glimmer of resigned sadness crossed Arthur's face which I found a little heartbreaking to witness. (Like my heart wasn't broken enough.) But when Arthur finally spoke, he didn't seem to be finagling for a compliment. He was simply telling it like it is.

“I know how I look, young man. I know I'm ridiculous. But hell, why should I try to be someone I'm not? My chances of finding someone to love are practically nil anyway. Might as well be myself while I'm waiting.”

I gave him what I hoped was a gentle smile. “Don't cut yourself short, Arthur. I'll bet there's somebody out there right now who'd dig the hell out of a big brawny bear like you. Maybe all you need to do is make a few wardrobe changes. Experiment with a little repackaging. Try to be a bit – well – butcher.

Arthur threw his head back and laughed, and while he did it, he clutched his soggy periwinkle robe a little tighter around his paunch. Laugh or no laugh, when he leveled his eyes back to my face, there was a sudden gleam of hope there, buried in amongst the disbelief. I could almost hear Arthur's little wheels turning in that massive head of his, as if he was suddenly considering what I had just said.

“Me? Butch? You think so? You think I could pull it off?”

I studied him, wondering what sort of Pandora's box I had just opened. “Clothes make the man, or so they say. Won't know until you try, I guess.”

Arthur pondered that. Then a lecherous glint sparked his eyes. Again he looked me up and down from the crown of my dripping head to the toes of my dripping shoes. “So do you like big old fuzzy bears?” he asked hopefully. He spat up a grumbly growl from somewhere deep in his mountainous chest which I suspected was meant to be sexy.

I blushed, sorry I had steered Arthur's train into the wrong siding. “Nope. Not me. Sorry.”

Arthur harrumphed good-naturedly, and barked, “That's what I thought!”

Then with a smile, Arthur clutched me gently by the crook of my arm and steered me toward the staircase. “Come along, honey. Forget about this old queer. I'm a lost cause anyway. Let's talk business. Those blossoming love affairs I told you about left me with a slew of vacancies, what with everybody joining forces and moving in with one another all over the place. Let's show you what's available. The quicker we find an apartment you like, the quicker you can get out of those wet clothes and begin the process of not looking for another lover, bear or otherwise.”

“Wise ass,” I muttered, but I smiled a little anyway at Arthur's incorruptable good humor.

Arthur tittered with glee as if to prove his good humor was ironclad, even if his heart wasn't. He led me up the stairs on bare feet, leaving watery size 12 footprints glistening in his wake like Bigfoot spoor. Arthur's soggy Carole Lombard pumps still dangled, dripping, from his hairy paw.

Halfway up, Arthur stopped and gazed back to where I was trailing two steps below. “Butch, huh? You really think butch is the way for me to go?”

I was beginning to shiver in my wet clothes, but there was such an earnest look in Arthur's eyes when he asked the question, and no small amount of hope there as well, that I decided to honor the question with an honest-to-God answer.

“Sure. Why not? If the current demographic you're shooting for hasn't responded to your bait, then it's time to shoot for an alternate demographic. And sprucing up the bait can't hurt either.”

Arthur's face lit up. “Ooh. You mean more make-up?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Less.”

Arthur's face fell. “Less?”

“None, actually, would work best.”

“None? You mean no make-up whatsoever?”

I shrugged. “Sorry, Arthur. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and if you want to be a Rottweiller, you can't go around looking like a French poodle.”

“Pithy,” Arthur grumped.

I eyed him up and down, just as Arthur had done me. What I saw wasn't promising. I squinted my eyes in thought. Then I snapped my fingers. God, I was smart.

“Construction worker! That might work. Or, wait. Maybe a cowboy! A big, butch, hairy cowboy.”

Arthur frowned. Worry lines dug trenches into the veneer of pancake #10 smeared across his brow. “Horses and guns scare the sillies out of me, honey.”

I laughed. How could I not? “Christ, Arthur, I'm not asking you to join a posse or have a shoot-out behind the saloon with Jesse James and the gang. I just mean dress like a cowboy. Get some jeans, boots, a hat. Maybe some open-assed chaps.” I eyed Arthur's three hundred pounds up and down again as seen through periwinkle blue chiffon which really didn't cover nearly as much of Arthur as I wished it would. “Well, maybe not open-assed chaps, Arthur. But for Christ's sake lose the chiffon. A nice checkered lumberjacky shirt with snap buttons and maybe a bolo tie would be nice. What d'you think? And the first thing you need to do to be butch is stop calling everybody “honey” and saying words like “sillies”.”

“I like “honey”. I like “sillies”. And chiffon is so comfortable. It breathes. It flows.

I grunted. “It might be best if you didn't say things like that either.”

“Can I at least put a feather in the hat?”

I tried not to groan as I remembered the feather boa in the plastic ficus in the lobby. “As long as it's only one and as long as it isn't pink and as long as it's not a fucking ostrich plume I guess it's okay.”

Arthur's face fell. “Darn. Who knew butch people had to follow so many rules?”

I figured this conversation was only going to get worse, so I thought nipping it in the bud might be the best thing I could do with it. Conversational euthanasia. That's what was called for.

I cast my eyes past Arthur and let them travel wistfully up the stairs. “Umm. About that apartment?”

Arthur looked like he was blinking himself back to reality, or what I suspected was the nearest thing to reality Arthur would ever know. “Right. Of course. Come on, honey. Oops, sorry. Come on, Harlie. Let's show you what I've got. One of the units ought to suit your needs. And hopefully it'll be one on a lower floor. I hate these goddamn stairs.”

“In that case,” I said, sympathizing with the man, and at the same time freezing my ass off in my soaking wet clothes. “Got anything on 2?”

Arthur beamed. “Oh, lord, honey. Aren't you the sweetest thing! Yes! Yes, I do! Come on, I'll show it to you right away! You'll love it! I know you will. It's a bit weather-worn but it has a little slip of puce carpet on the floor, and new curtains, and you can have a pet if you want as long as it's not a giraffe or something. I'll even knock a few bucks off the rent for giving me sartorial assistance with my wardrobe and by the way this unit has a brand new refrigerator and, oh, the bathroom! Wait'll you see it! It's got –”

Arthur was still talking twenty minutes later as I signed a one year lease for Apartment 2A, which was just as cute and darling as Arthur said it was. As for being weather-worn, which it most certainly was, with it's painted-shut windows and hazy bathroom mirror and ancient wall heater in only one room – well, what the heck. After thinking about it for a couple of minutes, I decided those faults weren't faults at all. They were character traits. Old world charm, so to speak. Like the extremely limited closet space, which must be how peopled lived eight or ninety years ago when the Belladonna Arms was built. That was a character trait too.

And with those rationalizations clearing the way, suddenly I was happy as hell to call the Belladonna Arms my new home. In a spurt of gratitude, I gave Arthur a hug and thanked him profusely, all of which made Arthur blush all over like a red-hot pot-bellied stove.

I spent the rest of the day dashing from car to apartment in the pouring rain, arranging my meager belongings in my new home exactly the way I wanted them. As the apartment gradually took shape, I began to wonder where my life would go from here – and if another love really would manage to worm its way into my damaged heart like Arthur implied it would.

Standing in a steaming shower to wash away the chill of the storm still raging outside my tiny bathroom window, a crush of loneliness suddenly settled over me. I wept a little remembering Dan. The way Dan once laughed before the laughter stopped. The way he once loved me before the loving stopped.

The way Dan had walked away on that last day we were together – had walked away without even once looking back.

That thought was such a soul killer, I squeezed my eyes shut to block it out for what must have been the thousandth time, fiercely focussing my thoughts on my unwritten book instead.

My book, I thought, desperately clinging to the possibilities it offered. That'll be enough to get me through this first lonely day of my new existence. I'll work on my book.

But I wasn't dumb. I knew even the book wouldn't be enough to fill the avalanche of empty days that were bound to follow this one.

Cranking the squeaky shower handle to OFF, I rubbed himself down with a towel. No longer dripping, but still depressed as hell, I studied my naked reflection in the bathroom mirror.



About John Inman

John Inman has been writing fiction since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He and his partner live in beautiful San Diego, California. Together, they share a passion for theater, books, hiking and biking along the trails and canyons of San Diego or, if the mood strikes, simply kicking back with a beer and a movie. John's advice for anyone who wishes to be a writer? "Set time aside to write every day and do it. Don't be afraid to share what you've written. Feedback is important. When a rejection slip comes in, just tear it up and try again. Keep mailing stuff out. Keep writing and rewriting and then rewrite one more time. Every minute of the struggle is worth it in the end, so don't give up. Ever. Remember that publishers are a lot like lovers. Sometimes you have to look a long time to find the one that's right for you."

You can contact John at



John Inman will be gifting one lucky reader an eBook of Work in Profress, all you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.

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  1. This sounds like a great book based on the excerpt! Will add to my long list of TBR! Thanks for the giveaway and love your blog! =)

  2. I loved the first book and this looks great too! Well done John and great review

  3. Congrats on the new release! I like the blurb, I'd like to read this series.

  4. love John Inman books and I am excited for this one!

  5. I've been waiting for this books since I read The End on book 1 for what it seems like a gazillion years ago! WooHooo! This is one I'd recommend to anyone who appreciates a good laugh! You'll fall in love with every single one of these characters! Thank you, John!

  6. Congratulations!!! Thank you for the review

  7. Glad we're getting more from the Belladonna Arms!

  8. The Belladonna is certainly full of character... in more ways than one!

  9. I just loved the first chapter excerpt. I want to continue reading. Count me in!

  10. Great excerpt! Thanks for the review and the giveaway!

  11. I always enjoy John Inman's books, looking forward to this one.

  12. I have enjoyed John Inman's books in the past and this one sounds so lovingly sweet I'm sure I will enjoy it as well.

  13. Thanks for the review and contest! Work in Progress sounds great.

  14. This book sounds fantastic! I need to get the first book now too. Thanks for the giveaway chance.

  15. I loved Stanley, can't wait to see what the boys have been up too!

  16. Sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance!

  17. I've never read any of John's books. This sounds like a great book.

  18. Sounds so good. Thank you for the giveaway!

  19. Sounds great. Thanks for hosting the giveaway.

  20. Thank you for a helpful review, I enjoy reading John Inman's work as well, so thank you for a chance to win this book.