Review: John Inman – Ben & Shiloh (Belladonna Arms #4)

benAuthor: John Inman
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: MM Contemporary

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

Shiloh Smart is alone and looking for a fresh start. Convinced he’s finished with love forever, he signs a lease at the Belladonna Arms, a tacky, run-down apartment building situated high on a hill in downtown San Diego.

Determined to turn his back on romance, Shiloh works hard at carving out a life for himself where love doesn’t stand a chance and staying single is all that matters.

Then his drag queen landlord’s nephew, Ben Moss, moves in. Thanks to a rumor Ben has heard since childhood of a fifty-year-old crime and a fortune in stolen money, he sets out to find the loot supposedly hidden decades ago in his uncle’s apartment building.

The minute Ben spots a kilted Shiloh toddling off to work at the Scottish restaurant up the street where he waits tables, he falls hard and fast for the aloof young redhead. Even a hidden treasure can’t compete in Ben’s eyes with the beautiful waiter with the fiery copper hair.

But even while he diligently works to break down Shiloh’s defenses, Ben doesn’t give up his quest for buried treasure. Soon, as their friendship deepens, the two young men join forces in a search for the stolen cash.

As the treasure hunt gathers steam and all the tenants get involved, Ben and Shiloh come to realize the greatest treasure isn’t buried in the Belladonna Arms at all. It’s buried far deeper—in each other’s hearts!

This was a very sweet love story. In fact, for a while, I was worried that it was going to be too sweet, too mild, too goody, goody. But, where the power comes into this story is in both the humor and the character development.

Each of the “characters” who live at the Belladonna Arms Hotel bring their own story forward into this one. Those we’ve met in past stories, and another new couple who meet in this one, are unique, in love, and firmly entrenched in their pursuit of happiness. It was a pleasure getting to see each of them again. And Arthur? What can I say about Arthur? If you haven’t already met him, you’re in for a treat. He’s large, gregarious, flamboyant, and dressed in outrageous drag for most of the story. He’s also a tender-hearted sweetie who virtually adopts Shiloh when the young man drags himself in to look for a low rent apartment. Shiloh is a red-headed, kilt-wearing, Jewish boy who’s bitter over his recent breakup with his live-in boyfriend—one that left him literally out in the cold and looking for a place to live. Arthur assures he gets a place to live and so much more: a kitten and a new boyfriend are now in his future.

Within a few days, Shiloh gets a new neighbor—Arthur’s nephew Ben, direct from the cornfields of Indiana. Tall, handsome, sweet, and what Shiloh first perceives as out of his mind, Ben turns out to be the love of his life. Why the crazies? It definitely has something to do with Ben’s exhaustive and exhausting search of the hotel on his hunt for missing bank robbery money, rumored to have been hidden there in the seventies. Every time he turns around, Shiloh spots the man on his hands and knees, searching every nook and cranny. Of course, from Shiloh’s perspective, that isn’t a bad view! Persistent, in more than the search, Ben finally wins Shiloh’s heart.

The entire tale is told tongue-in-cheek with some of the most outrageously humorous comments I’ve encountered in quite some time. The book should come with the warning that readers may have a tendency to laugh out loud, so those who prefer to be quiet in the company of others should wait until they are alone to read this.

What I didn’t care for was how quickly Ben met and immediately fell for Shiloh. There was no angst or drama for either man. And instead of maintaining his negativity, it only took one look at Ben, and Shiloh was ready to give up his vow that romance would never be in his future. It was the lack of angst and drama that made this story fall flat in comparison to the others in this series. And speaking of series, although this could be read alone, most of the other characters are from previous stories, so I would highly recommend they be read first.

On the whole, I think this story would be perfect for someone looking for something light with terrific humor and a sweet romance all rolled into one package.


Dreamspinner Press

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