Title: Coming Back (Belladonna Arms #3)
Author: John Inman
Narrator: Shawn Hertel
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 27, 2018
Genre(s): Romance, Contemporary, Humour
Page Count: 200 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Barney Teegarden knows what it’s like to be alone. He knows what it’s like to have a romantic heart, yet no love in his life to unleash the romance on. With the help of a friend, he acquires a lease in a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. The Belladonna Arms is not only filled with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable, it is also famous for sprinkling love dust on even the loneliest of the lovelorn.
At the Arms, Barney finds friendship, acceptance, and an adopted family that lightens his lonely life. Hell, he even finds a cat. But still true love eludes him.
When his drag queen landlord, Arthur, takes it into his head to rescue a homeless former tenant, he enlists Barney’s help. It is Barney who shows this lost soul how to trust again—and in return Barney discovers love for the first time in his life.
It’s funny how even the hardest battles can be fought and won with laughter, hugs, friends, plus a little faith in the goodness of others. All it takes to begin the healing is the simple act of coming back.
This tale continues the series, which brings camp wit together with house hunting and a magical cast of lovable characters. It is difficult to know how far this concept can be stretched, but with this story there is no sign of it losing pace. The author is very good at generating a story that is both rich in content and characterisation. Each of the characters is endearing in their own way without becoming overly saccharine-laden. They have unique identities that have backgrounds that are meaningful and familiar. They build on an existing cast and each individual has characteristics that are recognisable. The lodging house remains the primary location and there is little need to move beyond it as the focus is on the story and its characters rather than world building. The humour is light and witty, based on one-liners and contextual jokes.
The narration is clear and well paced. In addition, there is an effort to provide some individuality to the voices. However, the narrator plays this as a romance and the wit is largely missed. It is not clear whether this is a matter of timing, or that the narrator just doesn’t ‘get it’. That is not to say that the narration is bad; it was certainly pleasant enough to carry the story, but having read the book first, I found it to be disappointing.
As noted, the focus is on the characters. In this case, the central characters provide a lot of common features: care, anxiety, hurt, love and lust to name a few. The passion is held back to provide a build up that results in lots of explicit sex. This is not gratuitous and fits well within the plot. The supporting cast assist in moving this growing relationship forward and their quirky behaviour keeps this from becoming overly intense.
There is a good steady pace to the story, which is picked up within the narration. It is not a story full of action but that does not harm the progress of the tale as there is always something happening. They say that love is blind, but there are a few plotlines that are blatantly obvious to the reader, but it takes the central characters a little while to catch up.
The ending of the story is a predictable happy conclusion, but the reader would not expect anything else. The two central characters settle within the building and become part of the growing list of characters. There is clearly mileage in there being other books in the series, but maybe with a different narrator, good though he is.