"There is someone for everyone, just because you haven't met that special someone, does not mean you never will, take this time in your single life to focus on you and love yourself, so when the right one for you comes along, you can wholeheartedly share that love with them too.” ~ Radisha Rowe
'Work in Progress' by John Inman is the second book in the ‘Belladonna Arms’ series. It picks up the story where the first book ends, by introducing a new character, Harlie Rose. In an effort to hide away and lick his wounds from a broken heart, Harlie moves into Belladonna Arms Apartments. Almost immediately he becomes involved in the emotional events of the building's residents. Unlike Stanley, from the first book, Harlie isn't shy and retiring. In fact, he can be downright blunt and straightforward when necessary. When he takes the job Sylvia is vacating, he finds the man of his dreams, Milan, who turns out to be more of a nightmare, at least at first. Harlie wonders what Milan's problem is, but hangs in there; he's not a man who is easily dismissed.
Harlie pulled on my heartstrings the moment he was introduced. His pain over the breakup of him and his ex-lover is palpable. Listening to his explanation about how and why he ends up at Belladonna Arms is poignant and sad. His first meeting with Arthur amuses him, but right away, Harlie sees him not as a freak, but for the good-hearted person he is and tries to think of ways to help Arthur find someone to love. Harlie is surprised at how quickly he becomes attached to the apartment building: “I had a feeling I was going to like the Belladonna Arms. I wasn’t sure why. The place was actually kind of a dump...But hey,...it's kind of a happy dump. And happy is exactly what I need now.”
As a writer, Harlie's power of observation is stronger than most people's. Although Arthur has given him a quick low-down on everyone, Harlie cautiously assesses each of them and decides who he will let close and who he needs to keep at arms length. As with everyone, he loves Sylvia the moment they meet, especially since she's got cookies! She and Harlie have a conversation about love and life and she even gives him a lead on a job. Some of the other tenants are a puzzlement, like Charlie and PJ, the two kleptomaniacs, or inspirational like Stanley and Roger, who cause him to be envious, but also give him hope.
When Harlie goes to work he meets Milan, the boss's son, who, although gorgeous, has a terrible disposition. Harlie can't do anything to please him no matter how hard he tries. Milan is determined to make Harlie quit; but Harlie stands his ground. It takes some intervention, or should I say meddling, to get Harlie and Milan together. Neither one are willing to open their hearts to a relationship after being hurt so badly. With time and patience, and a lot of encouragement from family and friends, they begin to grow closer.
This book, while retaining the witty dialogues, unusual characters, and sense of family, there are also adds more serious themes. Although Belladonna Arms appears to have love dust, along with regular dust, which enhances the possibility of forming relationships, it also has its dark side; some people are simply not meant to be together. Without including both sides, the story would not have been as realistic as it was. If you have read 'Serenading Stanley', the first book in the series, then you will enjoy revisiting the whacky but wonderful characters; and meeting some new ones as well. For readers new to the series, I'd advise reading them in sequential order to get the full impact of this book. I recommend this witty book with its charmingly eccentric characters, hot sex, and the themes of never giving up on life or love. Thanks, John! I really enjoyed it.