Title: No Apologies (Hollywood #1)
Author: Tibby Armstrong
Cover Artist: Justin James
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: 267 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: Though not without its problems, this book is a compelling story of two boys finding themselves and their way to each other.
Cheerful and friendly, Aaron Blake has never met a puzzle that intrigues him more than brooding Greg Falkner. He wants to get to know his roommate, but it seems the only way past his shell is through it. When a reluctant friendship turns into a budding romance, can the two keep their feelings secret from their classmates? Or will their newfound love destroy them both?
Or so goes the story screenwriter Greg Falkner spins for audiences and his longtime partner, Aaron Blake, in No Apologies. Loosely based on their lives together, the film rocks Hollywood with its blatant portrayal of two teenagers falling in love and coming of age in a world that struggles to accept them, while they in turn struggle to accept themselves.
At the end of the evening, will Greg’s risky venture break a relationship that’s already foundering? Or will the real-life Greg and Aaron also find their happily ever after with No Apologies?
No Apologies is set in two different times, 2002 (the present) and 1994 (the film). It begins in the present, with Greg and Aaron arguing over the telephone, Aaron determined to end their troublesome relationship. I had a hard time distinguishing one from the other at that point. It was only when the film’s story began that the two men emerged as distinctly different characters.
In the film, Aaron and Greg attend a military school. They bunk together but are anything but friends. Aaron’s friends despise Greg with a raging passion. Aaron is forced to find a way to get his friends to back off Greg, so he comes up with the idea that he either gets Greg to apologize to them or Aaron beats the hell out of him. Unbeknownst to Aaron at the time, Greg is emotionally incapable of apologizing–for anything, to anyone. Greg, clued in to the plot by the acoustics of the mess hall, forces Aaron to beat him.
Eventually, the two become friends. Aaron accompanies Greg back to his family’s home for a week, where we encounter Greg’s flake of a father and his wonderful grandmother, called Gan. I am particularly fond of oldsters who do or say anything they like, regardless of the proprieties of any given situation. While Gan is presented as a cultured woman, she’s not afraid to lay out a little “shock and awe” on occasion. She is delightful. The fact that she deeply and unconditionally loves Greg and he returns that affection openly is sweet and portrayed genuinely. She spies Aaron and Greg indulging in their very first kisses, later telling Aaron that she can see they care about each other and that’s all that matters to her.
Once the boys return to their school from the holiday, all hell breaks loose. Through their dorm room window, a fellow cadet sees what he thinks is them kissing. The hell they endure during their last semester of school is harsh and sometimes unsettling. Finally, though, they graduate and all should be well. Except it isn’t. Greg wants to go to film school at NYU, but his father insists he go to Harvard, where his tuition has already been paid. When Greg resists, well, it’s not pretty.
When the film ends, the actual Aaron is a bitter, whiny mess who can’t seem to forgive Greg for having never said “I love you” or “I’m sorry,” as his character does in the movie. The difference between the unquestionable love the film Aaron and Greg have for each other and the confused, mostly-broken relationship the “real” couple have is manifest. While the two work through whatever is Aaron’s problem during the book-ending sex scene, I was left slightly dissatisfied.
The film-within-the-book would make an absolutely amazing movie. Of course by virtue of the “printed” medium we get insights into the characters’ thoughts that we wouldn’t have in film, but I would still be first in line to buy tickets.
While the story was compelling, I had niggles. The first half of the book is such a simile graveyard it is distracting. The word “like” is used over 180 times, far too many of them within a simile. “Sunset bloomed like a bruise, purple and yellow across the sky.” “Thoughts had flown through his brain like popcorn exploding from an uncovered popper.” To be completely honest, I was about to give up on the book because of the similes. Luckily, the story kicked into high gear just about that time and the similes dropped off, though there are a few sprinkled here and there later. The t-word (turgid) is used three times, making me giggle. I believe this is Ms Armstrong’s first m/m romance. If that’s true, then this is an impressive debut. If she can learn to control the similes and continue to write stories as compelling as this, she may well work her way to my auto-buy list.
The on-film pairing of Aaron and Greg is one of the best romantic couplings I’ve read in months. If it weren’t for the infernal similes, this book would have easily earned the other half star. Recommended.