Stanley Sternbaum of 'Serenading Stanley' by John Inman thinks he's going to get away from all the fuss and bother of obtrusive people and live a quiet, reclusive life. The problem is, he moves into a place that is neither quiet nor indifferent. In fact, his new neighbors are like one big dysfunctional family who, good or bad, are always in each others' businesses. For someone as private as Stanley, this is overwhelming. Stanley is wondering if he's making a wrong choice after all.
Without his controlling, alcoholic mother around, Stanley thinks he can find some peace and quiet. What he doesn't realize is that at Belladona Arms Apartments, it's never going to happen. He does his best to be polite, yet reserved; it's a waste of time. Stanley is soon swept up in the dramas of his neighbors. Stanley is especially attracted to Roger Jane, the handsome nurse who lives directly below him; but Stanley considers Roger to be way out of his league. Stanley believes that all a relationship with Roger would accomplish is getting a broken heart and Stanley is not willing to take the chance. He doesn't believe in the old adage of better to have loved and lost. He wants to avoid the issue altogether. Stanley does everything he can to avoid Roger, including tiptoeing up the last flight of stairs leading to his apartment so Roger won't know he's home. Although I understand low self-esteem, I have to admit that I got a bit angry at Stanley at this point because his avoidance techniques were so hurtful for Roger. It takes Stanley a long time to realize that Roger is sincere and, regardless of his own insecurities, Stanley needs to give him a chance. He needs to see Roger for the man he is inside and stop judging him on his outward appearance only. Stanley also needs to see that he should stop judging and belittling himself; otherwise he will never be able to love another person because he will always see himself as unworthy.
Although portrayed as a hunk, there's a lot more to Roger than meets the eye. He's in a good profession as a nurse because he's so nurturing. He has a huge heart and deep feelings. Roger is the sane one in the community of crazies. Roger is the one who tries to make sure, to the best of his ability, that his neighbors have what they need; he's always willing to help them. They all look up to Roger as the voice of reason, turning to him when they can't handle things on their own. Even though Stanley can't see what a unique, sweet person he is, Roger tries to show Stanley in any way he can. Because of his avoidance techniques and his attempts to sneak around, Roger nicknames Stanley Little Mouse; Roger is determined to catch his little mouse because he intuitively knows that there's a lot more to Stanley than is apparent. Roger pursues Stanley and he keeps running.
John has introduced an exotic cast of characters with the neighbors in Belladonna Arms. Each has their own brand of eccentricity. Even the house represents a character with it's brightly colored window curtains; glitter on the be cute vacancy sign; its worn and torn appearance; along with the crooked sign, is not so dissimilar to the people within; bent, but not broken, worn down, not well cared for, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a little spit, shine, and tender loving care. I recommend this book to those who like comedy mixed in with the seriousness of life, lots of character development, hot sex, and a happily ever after. Thanks, John, for the delightful read.