No Apologies (Hollywood #1)


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.

The Blurb:

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?

The Review:

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.

16 comments

    • Thank you for giving Aaron and Greg a voice, Tibby. These two have stuck in my head. I’m sure I’ll revisit them again soon. I look forward to your next M/M book. 🙂

      Reply
  • Thanks for this review Buda. It’s one of those books that I passed and didn’t really even consider, but I’m excited to read it now. So, thank you!

    Reply
    • Hey, Cole! Good to see you again, buddy. You should definitely check out this book. I think you’ll like it a lot.

      Reply
  • Huh, to be honest, I read this story and didn’t notice the abundance of similes at all — didn’t slow me down a bit or stop me from enjoying the story. Sometimes what bothers one person will be just fine by others. I guess we all have our personal nails-on-the-blackboard story elements. And there’s always that subjectivity factor, and the author might consider it her style, too. Jest sayin’.

    Reply
    • Tripoli, I’m very happy to hear you enjoyed No Apologies. The story really is fantastic. I just hope the author’s next book doesn’t come with nails. I’ll use the blackboard for notes instead! Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
      • It’s funny, I had other issues with the book that bothered me but I’ve only seen mentioned in one other review — so again, I guess it’s all subjective. I think this is a really promising author, though! 🙂

        Reply
        • I completely agree the author shows promise. I eagerly await her next M/M book. 🙂

          I’m interested to hear what issues you had, Tripoli. I left out two (the marks/welts on Greg’s back and the use of the term “bareback” in 1994) because they were just “Wait, what?” moments.

          Reply
          • I wasn’t crazy about finding out that we weren’t getting the whole truth with the movie and found the ending a little jarring because of it. But there was plenty good to make up for that 🙂

            Reply
          • I understand how you feel, Tripoli. Learning the differences between the film version of the guys and their apparent real past was a little jarring (no Gan?!). I think that’s why I had such a hard time empathizing with the post-film Aaron. As I said, though, the in-film couple were dynamic. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

            Reply
  • Buda
    Great review. I read this book twice and I still have mixed feelings about it.

    It was an ambitious strategy to have a film about Aaron’s and Greg’s lives within the story. I wish I could have liked this book more but I couldn’t take Greg’s brutal beatings on many occasions at the hands of his father and his henchman. Also Greg’s and Aaron’s last year at school was too much, again with more brutal treatment! I thought women were supposed to be the gentler sex but the beatings meted out to their protagonists in these books sometimes turns my stomach. what’s up with that?

    However there’s no doubt that the story itself was unusual and i loved the characters. BTW, about those similies, you can’t put all the blame on the editing – surely the writer is at least partly at fault. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you, Wave. I remember when you first asked me to review this one. It was definitely more than I bargained for. Yes, the beatings were very emotionally charged, but, save Aaron’s beat down on Greg, none of them were overly descriptive. That’s probably what saved it for me.

      Sometimes I think we are too harsh on the authors and seem to forget the supposed professional editors at the publishers are there to help avoid this sort of disaster. Like you, I’ve read the book twice, though I had to almost force myself to start on the re-read because I knew I’d be slogging through simile hell.

      Yes, the writer (and the far more experienced friends she thanks in the dedication) should have known better, but she’s new. Hopefully, she will do better next time. It’s obvious she can spin a heart-rending tale.

      But if a publisher is going to employ an editor, then that person should do his/her damn job. G.G. Royale, the listed editor, deserves some of the blame here, period. …I could get really worked up and write 1000 words about the … shoddy … editing practices in this genre, but I’ll stop here. :censorship:

      What’s important is that the story is phenomenal.

      Reply
  • Looks interesting the mix of the timelines using the movie (buying tickets too if available 😆 ) but surely Aaron was not very happy with his relationship being broadcast like that 😮
    Thank you for the review 😎

    Reply
    • Hi, Helena. No, Aaron was must assuredly not amused. You have to understand that Greg wrote it to say all the things he couldn’t actually say to Aaron, like “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” And unlike in the film, the “real” Greg had never come out, so that meant they’d had to hide their relationship for the last 8 years. I can understand Aaron’s frustration, but jeez, give a guy a break after what he’s just done. You should give the book a try, Helena. Let me know what you think. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Reply
  • For some reason, this book had so much emotional impact on me, that I was unable to write a coherent review. I was touched so much that I was tempted (for like a minute or so 😀 ) to buy author’s first novel, which is het romance. The temptation passed but I know I’ll by any m/m novel she writes in the future. I’m glad you liked the book as well. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi, LadyM. I really loved the film version of the guys. Their story was so emotionally charged I felt wrung out by the time the “film” ended. My only wishes are that someone had stopped the insanity of similes in the editing process and that I’d liked the real Aaron better in the end. Perhaps seeing their real story instead of a fictionalized version (that just sounds so wrong!) would have helped me to understand why Aaron was being such a petulant prick.

      If the editing had been better (because I really can’t blame the writing, the story was superb), this would have been one of my tops of the year. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Reply

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