Title: Serenading Stanley
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Stanley Sternbaum, Roger Jane
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
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with beautiful green eyes does everything in his power to woo Stanley, but Stanley has always lived a quiet life, too withdrawn from the world to take a chance on love.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.
I loved Inman’s Hobbled. This one wasn’t as good, I’m afraid. Still, a decent romance.
Insecurity, thy name is Stanley. That’s the point of the character, the continuous self-recriminations, a vicious cycle of feeling unworthy, ugly and unsexy. After the third time or so it got repetitive, and I lost my sense of affection for him, especially how badly he treats Roger as a result. I do get it, how deeply rooted self-doubts are. But the incessant references to Roger’s physical beauty and Stanley’s mediocrity began to grate my nerves early on, I’m sorry to say. Is Roger’s only worth in his looks? Stanley seemed to think so, with only a few mentions of Roger’s kindness there too.
Also, the start of the story, though written amusingly, was a bit too long, and I wanted the story to start. These sidetracks within the story happened less toward the end though. There’s also a mix of character POVs within a scene, somewhat confusing.
Fourthly, there’s Arthur’s character. I don’t understand what his point in the story was. An older bear who has recently discovered his true, cross-dressing self—and the others put him down a lot, making fun of him behind his back. Is he a comic relief? Is he the catalyst to the story? I don’t know. All I do know is I wasn’t fond of the way he was treated by his so-called friends. And then there’s Stanley’s mom, the worst female character I’ve read about in ages! Hated her and saw no point to the whole thing.
Inman writes well, though, with lots of humor and plenty of interesting situations. The dialogue is realistic, as are the people. Sylvia’s side story, for example, was the one of the best parts of the story, gut-wrenching and heartwarming, a tearjerker moment. Her plight touched me very deeply, and I felt for her from the first moment. In fact, I liked her better than any other character in the story, and her sad situation is one anyone can easily relate to.
So, overall an above average romance, with some highlights and a few lows. Inman is a very talented writer, so do not dismiss this so casually based on my opinions. For all I know, yours may vary greatly, as the message of this tale is a positive one.
Reviewed By: Susan