- Author: Tibby Armstrong
- Series: Hollywood
- Genre:LGBTTQ, Contemporary
- Cover Artist: Justin James
- Next Book:Hollywood 2: Acting Out
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?
- Note:This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices, violence.
Surfing Greg Falkner’s temper felt like trying to survive the Banzai Pipeline ahead of a North Pacific storm. Toe the board steadily -- twist your hips, adopt the right crouch -- and you might come out the other side without getting worked by a wave.
Say the wrong thing and you’d get tumbled faster than a sock in a spin cycle and end up shredded on the reef. Fortunately for Greg, Aaron Blake had always risked everything for the perfect wave.
“What do you mean you want to take separate limos?” Aaron stared out over Pacific blue waters. Maybe if he focused on his favorite view, he’d keep his own temper in check.
“The press will be there.” Greg spoke as if he addressed a five-year-old. “They’d get photos. Ask questions.”
The whole relationship struck Aaron like a wave gone wrong -- one he’d approached even though he knew he’d end up falling over the lip and breaking his board. He glared at the speakerphone.
“When are you back in LA?”
“Morning of the premiere.”
Shoulder-length strands snagged on Aaron’s promise ring, and he winced. Extricating his hand from his hair, he glanced at the day planner on his laptop.
“Can you stop by?”
He worried the platinum ring, twisting it around his finger.
“Well, for one, I’d think you’d want to see me, but if that’s not enough of a reason, then I suppose because we need to talk.”
A long pause preceded Greg’s reply. “Talk about what?”
“Us.” There. He’d said it.
“What about us?” It was amazing how you could hear someone swallow from over a thousand miles away.
“Greg, let’s not do this now.”
“It really means that much to you that we arrive in the same car?”
It did, actually, but that was just the tip of the iceberg freezing Aaron out of this relationship. Against his better judgment, he found himself saying so.
“I’m through being your dirty little secret.”
Probably it wasn’t very enlightened of him to feel a deep sense of satisfaction at the stunned question, but he did. “You heard me.”
“You’re not a...a dirty little secret.”
“What am I, then?” He stood and pressed his forehead against the window, wondering if all the salt water in the world could fill the cavernous hole in his middle. “Because nobody outside your professional life even knows I existed. That we existed.” His use of the past tense wouldn’t go unnoticed. Not with Greg.
“You need to give me a little more time.”
“How much time do you want? Another decade? Maybe two?”
“Until the premiere.”
Stunned, Aaron pushed away from the window and stared at the phone. “You’re promising me you’ll move in after the premiere?”
“That’s what I thought.”
“I -- shit. Look, Aaron, you have to trust me.”
“I don’t get you.” Aaron thought about all the times he’d fooled himself into believing he had Greg under his control and expelled a bitter laugh. “I really and truly don’t.”
“Can you do it? Trust me until the premiere?”
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no premiere.”
“You can’t mean that.” Aaron felt Greg clutching at him, as sure as if he’d been in the same room, trying to bridge the growing emotional distance. “I just didn’t want us to arrive together because I was afraid they’d...”
“The rumors -- about the script being autobiographical. If we arrive together, there’ll be conjecture about you and Alan, the character. Are you sure you’re okay with that?”
“Is there a connection?”
“You saw the treatment.”
“I saw the first two paragraphs before you tore it out of my hands!” Aaron took a deep breath and vowed not to raise his voice again. “I know what the public knows. No Apologies is about two guys discovering their sexuality in military school. You and I never went to military school.”
“You’ll be my official date.” Greg’s conciliatory tone surprised him. “We’ll arrive together.”
Aaron watched the sun glittering on the whitecaps and attempted to let his anger move through him like water. Greg’s offer was unprecedented...for him.
“You’re coming out?”
“After the film, how can I not?”
“I’m not saying we’re staying together.”
“Aaron...” Greg’s voice went low and sexy. “We’ll fuck in the moonlight...on the beach...after the premiere.”
“Like hell we will.”
“What?” Greg sounded a little desperate. A little crazy. “You can’t mean to say it’s not still your favorite fantasy. You’ve wanted to do it for years.”
It was the wrong thing to say.
“Not with you.” Aaron winced at the deluge of painful memories. “Not anymore.”
“You’re out of chances, Greg.” Aaron looked at the ring once more. “No more empty promises.”
“It’s not empty.”
“It is for me.”
“Aaron --” Greg choked on his name.
Hope rekindled in the recesses of Aaron’s mind. Was Greg going to say he was sorry? “What? What could you possibly have to say to me that I haven’t heard before?”
Silence stretched heavy between them.
“I’ll see you the day after tomorrow,” Greg said finally.
Aaron swallowed his disappointment, cataloged each shard as it slid down his throat to his gullet. “Yeah. I -- I’ll see you later.” He bit off his customary I love you -- an inappropriate sentiment, given the circumstances. Besides, Greg never responded in kind.
“See you Friday, then.”
Finger hovering over the Off button, Aaron opened his mouth to say he regretted the end of the relationship, but after a pause, he hung up. He’d already said too much. The premiere would give him a chance to tie up loose ends, and they could both move on, like they should have years ago. There’d be time enough for good-byes and regrets the day after tomorrow.
* * * * *
A dial tone echoed in the stillness of Greg’s Park Plaza hotel room. He stared at the phone, trying to conjure Aaron back. What if he called him now? What if he said the words he wanted to hear?
The dial tone turned into a staccato beeping sound.
No. It wouldn’t be that simple. Not this time. This required he pull out all the stops. Go all the way. Even then, it might be too little too late.
He hung up the phone and paced to the window, desperate to impose order on his thoughts.
Why had he written No Apologies? Why hadn’t he simply said he was sorry to Aaron? Told him how he felt about him? Why did he have to do everything the hard way?
Ten stories below, yellow taxi cabs inched past blinkered horses waiting to take tourists on Central Park carriage tours. It all looked so simple. Until you got up close.
On the street, where people had faces and names, voices and fists, there was plenty to fear. He remembered with clarity, almost ten years later, the taunting words -- hurtful, hateful things classmates had said and done. He’d vowed never to expose himself or Aaron to ridicule again.
Except he’d written a screenplay virtually guaranteed to expose them both. Why?
He wanted to sink to his knees and pray. If he’d had a whip, he would have applied it to his own back.
“Think of something,” he said into his hands, then dropped them to renew his pacing.
A life without Aaron loomed before him. The vision made his stomach heave. He’d give anything to stop the earth -- make it cease spinning so time wouldn’t carry them farther and farther apart. If time flowed backward, he’d erase every fucked-up, misguided thing he’d said and done over the years.
Aaron owns me.
He closed the drapes and stripped off his clothes.
Aaron could break me.
He crawled under the covers.
Aaron is leaving me.
He shut his eyes and begged Morpheus for a dreamless sleep.
Copyright © Tibby Armstrong
- Strong characterization and a cleverly executed plot Review by Stormy
(Posted on 1/17/14)
- Awesome storytelling Review by Slick Reads
Write down this name, Tibby Armstrong, and don’t forget it. I’ll admit, I have a cache of “go to” authors, ones I will always buy their books no matter what because I know I’m going to get my money’s worth and get a great story. Until I started reviewing for Guilty Pleasures, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t branch out very much. Mainly because when I did, I was disappointed 70% of the time. Since starting at Guilty Pleasures, my “go to” author list has tripled and I’m very happy to add Tibby Armstrong to that list. Today, I’m reviewing her book, No Apologies.
I’ve never read a book like No Apologies before and that’s not a bad thing. While I guess it could be called a coming of age story about two young men who attend the same boarding school, it’s not really that. You see, their story is told through a film written by one of the men, Greg Faulker. He’s basically written and produced this movie as a love letter to his long time partner, Aaron Blake. The problem is Aaron is tired of waiting for Greg to admit his homosexuality. He’s tired of being Greg’s dirty little secret. He’s tired of being ignored and he’s decided that he just can’t do it anymore. Greg realizes that it might be too little, too late but he’s determined to make Aaron understand how he feels. The book opens with this look at Aaron and Greg ten years after high school and then we flash back as we “watch” the premier of Greg’s movie.
Because of the way this book is written, we really don’t see a lot of the Greg and Aaron of today. Instead we see Greg’s version of their life at school and soon after. He admits it is part truth and part fiction. We see them struggling with their growing feelings towards each other, facing ridicule and abuse from fellow students and teachers, Greg dealing with some serious issues at home, and Aaron coming out to his parents.
I can’t even begin to explain the range of emotions I had while reading this book. At times I was scared for Greg and Aaron, I cried, I laughed, and I was horrified and I was happy. To say that Tibby packs a punch when she writes is understated. I honestly can’t even verbalize how much this book touched me. I had to keep reminding myself that this was fiction because what I really wanted to do was scoop these two young men up and bring them home and show them how parents treat their children, no matter what!
While this is a beautifully told romance story, it isn’t typical because the situation isn’t typical. Yes, there is quite a bit of sex but for the most part it was done secretly. There was also kind of a D/s vibe running through their relationship but it wasn’t truly D/s. They struggled for control and figuring out what each other needed. While Aaron had experimented with a couple of girls, Greg never had which is why I found it interesting that he was the one having issues with “coming out”. Aaron however was very sheltered but yet had a very dominant personality. I really enjoyed watching them coming to terms with what they meant to each other.
No Apologies is a book that I know I will revisit again and again. It’s not an easy book to read, I can almost guarantee you will be emotional while reading it. But, I hope that by the time you get to the end you’ll know just how special this book truly is. I’m giving it 4.5 stars only because I would have like a little more time with Greg and Aaron as the adults they are today. That being said, I’ll tell you that we do see more of them as adults in book two, Acting Out!
(Posted on 8/13/12)