May 10, 11
There’s something about No Apologies and the honest confusion of the protagonists that I just want to like. The sex scenes are beyond hot and the characters are well rounded, even if lopsided and not always sympathetic. Unfortunately the choppy and disjointed vehicle of the present movie detailing their past life (kind of) in flashbacks makes that hard. The benefits outweigh the negatives thankfully but I wish the story had made some different choices.
The plot begins with Greg and Aaron in a fight. After ten years together Greg is still insisting on being in the closet and Aaron is fed up with the secrecy and lack of commitment. Greg is desperately trying to hold the relationship together and prays that his “big gesture” will be the trick. The big idea is to bring Aaron to see the movie Greg screen wrote based on their lives. The movie is about two boys who discover their sexuality at military school. Yet Greg and Aaron went to a private school in New England, not a military school. So Greg hasn’t been honest about how much is real and what is fiction, hoping that Aaron will see Greg’s true feelings within the movie.
The school detail is supposed to differentiate the movie from the truth but the biggest problem is that the story can’t decide which it is – whether it’s showing Greg’s movie in written form or the actual truth between the two men. From the present time movie premiere, the story jumps back ten years to Greg and Aaron at military school and alternates narrators between the two men’s perspectives as events progress. This is a problem since it’s not clear whether this is the movie “fictionalized” version of events or what actually happened. The story uses real facts, such as their names Greg and Aaron, but mixes the movie elements, military school versus prep school, so you’re never sure what is real and what isn’t real.
In between the scenes from the past, which show how Greg and Aaron came to be together and the rough road they traveled, the book flashes to the present with Aaron commenting on the movie and actually asks if that’s how Greg saw things. Again this confuses what is real and what isn’t real. Is the story the reader is being shown the real version or the movie version? It seems to be both but there is no clear delineation between the two and this causes a very muddy and disjointed plot. I also didn’t understand the inclusion of Aaron’s viewpoint if the story is how Greg saw things. Eventually at the very end Greg admits that the movie is half true and half fiction, but how is the reader supposed to discern which is which.
Including Aaron’s perspective is important in understanding why he did certain things and how his opinion and personality is vastly different from Greg’s. I think it’s essential to the characterization of both men yet the clumsy and disjointed movie versus reality plot never quite makes sense. It’s a well known concept and should have worked here but the execution doesn’t pull it off unfortunately. Ultimately we’re left reading a story that is only shows half of the true relationship between the men. There is a quick conversation at the end that tries to list all the “false” elements but this is after the reader has been inundated with these fictional events. It’s too late to make that transition and just creates a frustrated realization that you can’t trust either narrator or the story.
One of the biggest problems I had with this confused and awkward presentation is that the writing is very engaging. The characters are interesting, even if not always sympathetic or likable, and the complexity of such a lengthy relationship and how they met is entertaining. There are a lot of sex scenes, probably too many, just as there are a lot of scenes where Greg is beat up, whipped, or otherwise abused. This leads into the grey area of the pseudo D/s relationship between Greg and Aaron which never makes much sense. The concept and ideas presented are good and the warm prose draws you in, keeping your attention to the end. So this could be a fun read for those looking for a light and easy sex filled book as long as readers aren’t too concerned with details.
I definitely wanted to like this more than I did as I think it just fails on the execution of the concept but I like the author’s writing and could be interested to see what else she does. If you’re looking for a light story you can read in an easy sitting and without caring too much about the details, this might work for you. It could be something nice and fluff for the right reader. I didn’t mind reading it but the confused plot device distracted me the entire time and left me wanting.