Hard-edged rocker Graham Allen has it all. He’s flush with cash from playing bass in a band by night and restoring classic cars by day. And there are plenty of women willing to share his bed for a night, complication-free. Perfect, because if there’s anything he learned from his past, it was to never get attached—to anything. So when bartender Carly Sullivan flashes her innocent smile, Graham isn’t prepared for what happens next.
Never fall in love
Two rules, that’s all Graham has—never apologize and never fall in love. He knows Carly is everything he should avoid. Cheerful and sweet, she has “relationship” written all over her. But Graham can’t stay away from her probing questions and concerned blue eyes.
When Graham discovers Carly is hiding a crushing secret, he’s prepared to risk it all. Until in one single moment, everything changes and Graham’s past threatens to collide with his future. His life is crumbling down around him, and soon no apology in the world can save him.
He should’ve known to walk away.
I was blown away by No Apologies — in so many ways. For one, author Sybil Bartel has created a stunningly authentic male character. I’m often told it’s difficult for female writers, but she makes it look easy. For another, the story is difficult to read, but compelling as hell. Just when I was sure I was going to hate Graham, and nothing he could do or say was ever going to redeem him in my eyes, I was proven wrong.
Graham Allen is an ass. A giant, self-loathing, misogynist, without-an-ounce-of-likeability, ass. The way he blames all women for his mother’s mistreatment of him as a child is nearly intolerable, but the author tells a story that’s impossible to look away from. While I couldn’t stand Graham and really hoped he wouldn’t end up with Carly because he didn’t deserve her, I couldn’t put the book down. Like a bad accident, I was sucked into the gruesome world that is Graham’s mind as he uses women, treating them like dirt, and pretty much abuses every person who sees any value in him.
And yet, just below the surface, there was…something. Sure, there’s the wounded boy who endured something no one should have to, but he had a choice in how to respond to that abuse, and he chose the wrong way every.single.time. Still, I kept reading, needed to know what would happen. Carly gets under his skin, worms her way in, and he knows he’s going to hurt her, but still refuses to do the right thing.
This is no story of a good girl saving a bad boy. It’s about a damaged, broken guy finally recognizing his part in his own personal hell and deciding whether or not to do something about it. He ultimately needs to either take responsibility for his choices in life, or spiral out of control. The reader is left guessing which way he’s going to go until a pivotal event — a twist I never saw coming.
Graham and Carly, the only two characters who are fully developed, are absolutely brilliant. The supporting cast are only included to serve a purpose and they do so in believable style. The amount of character development Sybil Bartel has done with her two main characters blows me away. Yes, it’s a romance, but it’s the most intense, powerful romance I’ve read in a long time.
I loved No Apologies, much to my surprise. I mean, I LOVED it. It kept me up late, I took my iPad everywhere I went so that I could read just a few more pages. About the only negative thing I can say is that I would’ve loved for Graham’s views on women overall to be more transformed. The double standard that men who sleep around are studs but women are skanks is rampant throughout the book, and there’s enough slut shaming in our society. Women love sex as much as men and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, because this is Graham’s story, his views color the story. Sadly, its the view of far too many people in the world.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Sybil grew up in Northern California with her head in a book and her feet in the sand. She used to dream of becoming a painter but the heady scent of libraries with their shelves full of books about wistful summer days and first loves drew her into the world of storytelling. Her true literary love is the New Adult genre but really, any story about a love so desperately wrong and impossibly beautiful, makes her swoon.
Sybil now resides in Southern Florida and while she doesn’t get to read as much as she likes, she still buries her toes in the sand. If she’s not writing or fighting to contain the banana plantation in her backyard, you can find her spending time with her handsomely tattooed husband, her brilliantly practical son and a mischievous miniature boxer who stole her heart.