Review: Ginger Snaps (Belladonna Arms #5) by John Inman

Even with a string of earthquakes jarring the tenants of the Belladonna Arms, rattling nerves and smashing dishes, life still manages to plod along as usual. Love pollen continues to fall, romances continue to flourish, and Arthur, the grand Pooh-bah in residence, continues to plan his upcoming wedding extravaganza. 

In the midst of all this drama fall Gideon Chase and Reed Kelly, two redheaded losers at love who find themselves regrouping under the auspices of the most incorrigible matchmaker in heels. 

Arthur sees hope for the two right away. He leases them adjoining apartments, then continually tweaks their budding friendship in the hope it will slip into love. Just as Arthur’s plans are coming along nicely, Reed’s past shows up to toss a monkey wrench into his and Gideon’s blossoming romance.

With Arthur’s wedding ceremony nigh, and Reed and Gideon on the verge of heartache yet again, Arthur faces one inescapable conclusion.

It will take more than love pollen to sort this mess out.

I don’t know anyone who has visited the Belladonna Arms series and not wanted to stay forever. The Love Pollen gets to everyone whether they want it to or not, and it especially seems to stick most firmly to those who don’t want it, which is always more fun for me as a reader. There’s nothing like reading about a character unlucky in love, down on romance and anti-Cupid to then have them meet Auntie Arthur who love pollens the hell out of them until they became a sappy puddle of goo. I love the goo, it’s my favorite part of the Belladonna Arms.

The couple in the fifth installment of the series are both “failures” at love when they move into the Arms. Gideon has been spectacularly dumped by his douchebag of an ex and is left with nothing but his car, laptop and a small sampling of questionable clothing. Our other MC, Reed has recently come to the revelation that he needs to live as his authentic self, a gay man, and he can no longer keep up the charade of a happy hetero marriage. The two have little in common besides the unlucky in love part and the fact that they are both a couple of ginger peaches.

They both proclaim to not be attracted to gingers but we the readers know from the get-go that these two are lying liars who lie about that subject. I think these two MC’s, well mostly Reed, had more emotional baggage moving into the arms than previous characters. And I’m not talking Ramon level external-forces issues, I mean internal baggage where he needs to figure out who he is in his own skin so that he can learn how to love himself and love a man how they both deserve to be loved. It’s a tough road for Reed because he’s a really good guy, so he feels a tremendous amount of guilt for the hurt he put his wife through and it weighs on him understandably. Gideon has been his authentic self forever and he’s a good fit for Reed. He asks Reed the hard questions and with a gentle, but firm touch, pushes Reed out of his shell. Reed feels happier than he ever had in his adult life and he credits Gideon for getting him there.

They agree to a friends with benefits thing, which technically is a good idea considering their not so distant past romantic entanglements, but it’s obvious the two of them are growing closer. This is where John Inman’s words shine. He is so damn good at showing the reader how two characters come together. I don’t have to be told that they are falling in love, I read it in every interaction and inner musing both in and out of the bedroom.

Throughout the time of the budding romance of Gideon and Reed the other tenants make welcome appearances and Arthur is planning his dream wedding to Tom. I honestly could read that whole story as a book by itself because Arthur is Arthur but with all his settings cranked up to 11. He always had one eye on Gideon and Reed though, he can never get completely sidetracked by anything that will take him away from his self imposed match making duties.

The extra baggage I mentioned previously is heavier and makes a pretty profound return to Reed’s life. This part was heartbreaking and not something I have become accustomed to in my Belladonna books. It made sense for Reed’s character though and while I wanted to punch him in the throat, I also wasn’t at all surprised at his actions. It turns out he’s not just unlucky at love, he’s also none too smart about it either. Sometimes people can take the high road too high out of misguided loyalty and that is Reed in a nutshell. Thankfully he does have his Auntie Arthur to help him get his shit together and it wouldn’t have resolved without Arthur’s interference. Now granted, the dramatics and the resolution were pretty sugarcoated considering, they weren’t made disposable and the author dealt with them at a level that made the whole plot point consistent with the tone of the book.

The ending was perfect and I hope it doesn’t mean the end of the Belladonna Arms series. There was nothing alluding to that but seriously, what does one do after an Arthur wedding? I have faith though because as long as Arthur has couples moving in together he’ll have a vacancy or two for new residents available. I do love these character driven romances and the strength in the MC’s is the bond the author builds between them while we watch. Not every writer can pull that off well, but John Inman is a true craftsman when it comes to connecting two people in the most authentic of ways.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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