Reviewed by Carissa
TITLE: Serenading Stanley
AUTHOR: John Inman
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 234 pages
BLURB: Welcome to the Belladonna Arms, a rundown little apartment building perched atop a hill in downtown San Diego, home to the city’s lost and lovelorn. Shy archaeology student Stanley Sternbaum has just moved in and fills his time quietly observing his eccentric neighbors, avoiding his hellion mother, and trying his best to go unnoticed… which proves to be a problem when it comes to fellow tenant Roger Jane. Smitten, the hunky nurse with beautiful green eyes does everything in his power to woo Stanley, but Stanley has always lived a quiet life, too withdrawn from the world to take a chance on love. Especially with someone as beautiful as Roger Jane.
While Roger tries to batter down Stanley’s defenses, Stanley turns to his new neighbors to learn about love: Ramon, who’s not afraid to give his heart to the wrong man; Sylvia, the trans who just wants to be a woman, and the secret admirer who loves her just the way she is; Arthur, the aging drag queen who loves them all, expecting nothing in return—and Roger, who has been hurt once before but is still willing to risk his heart on Stanley, if Stanley will only look past his own insecurities and let him in.
“Stuck in the dead grass by the front steps leading up to the entrance of the apartment building was another sign. This one was handwritten on a slab of cardboard and stapled to the wooden stake pounded into the ground. The lettering on this sign was rendered in pink Magic Marker. It read ‘VACANCY.’ And under that, this time scrawled in magenta Magic Marker and sprinkled liberally with glitter, were the words ‘TO APPLY PLEASE BE CUTE.’”
Stanley knows two things for certain: he would do almost anything to avoid moving back in with his mother, and he is abominable at interacting with anyone not long, long dead. Also, he might just be a little in love with Roger Jane. OK, that’s three things, but to be fair, he really didn’t want to be in love with Roger. Not really. Even if only the thought of those godlike lips made him tremble. And alright, he also knows that Arthur needs some serious make-up tips–and that he most definitely shouldn’t get them from Ramon. And that Sylvia is one hell of a woman–despite having more parts than she ever desired. He also knows that living on floor six of the Belladonna Oven, er, Arms, was likely kill him–or at least Arthur–eventually. So, it turns out Stanley actually knows quite a bit.
He certainly knows enough to know that Roger will never look at him twice. What with Roger being a god, in all his beautiful nursing glory, and poor ol’ Stanley entirely mortal, and entirely aware of it. Except Roger did look–a lot more than twice–and now Stanley doesn’t know what to think.
I am a big fan of John Inman, so I may’ve been counting down the days till I could get my hands on Serenading Stanley. And I may also have spent four hours curled up on my bed giggling like a stoner with a pet watermelon to play with (um…just read the book, you’ll totally understand) when I finally got it. There may also have been kissing involved (hey! I’m not that kind of girl…it was a quick, discreet peck on the screen) when Stanley manned up and got all declare-y. This may have all happened…but the brownies seemed to have clouded my memories a bit…so I’ll guess we’ll never know for sure.
What I do know is that once again Inman gave us a book chalked full with pithy humor and a whole host of characters to fall in love with. This book is no two-man show. Yes, we are given god-like Roger, who will use every tool in his arsenal to woo the recalcitrant Stanley. And poor, earthly Stanley, who’ll use every trick in his, to avoid a broken heart. But it is the cross-dressing building manager, the lovely Sylvia–who would do anything to make her body fit her soul–and even the kleptomaniac, the beautician, and the masseur, that make the story whole. Without them Stanley would never have his Roger, and without them we would never have such a fun and truly heartwarming tale of friendship, love, and beauty disasters.
If you are looking for an angst-filled book, than I’d advise you to look elsewhere. Yes, we have Stanley issues, what with the whole insecurity thing, but it is nothing to bog the story down. This is a fun, light read, that will have you awwing and giggling away long into the night. Roger’s insistence, and Stanley’s reluctance, play nicely off each other. And boy, when Roger wants to make a point, he does it beautifully–and with tongue. He will also not let his Little Mouse scurry away simply because he fears the big What If. Plus, when a man comes bearing a watermelon–and something a lot more fun–how can you turn him away? I loved these two together, and I loved watching Roger serenade his way into Stanley’s heart (in a totally non-musical way–because apparently that would be disastrous).
Between the entrancing tenants of the Belladonna Arms, and the hard-won love affair of Stanley and Roger, I was completely won over by this book. And Sylvia nearly broke my poor heart. That girl deserves everything that she got–and so much more. To be trapped inside a body that never matches you, is a terrible thing. To have yourself denied because of money, even worse. I loved that Inman was able to bring Sylvia–and all the rest of the tenants–to life is such a wonderful, and highly amusing, way. I would have liked a little more tension, near the end, but I think I’ll take the sight of Pete on his knees, any day.
Don’t know what else to say, but that I loved it and I’m glad I trusted Inman with my oh-so-fragile bookish heart. I totally and completely recommend you read this book when you’ve hit angst overload and need to remember how to smile. Or if you want to find out just how sweet a twizzler can be.
Carissa rates it –
BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner Press
Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS