I decided to listen to this series on a whim. I've seen reviews for the different books from time to time and when I noticed that it was part of audible.com's Romance package, I decided it was as good a time as any to check it out.
So before I get into the specific books let's start with my overall thoughts and I'll start with the narration all 5 of these books were narrated by Noah Michael Levine and as far as the narration went I definitely have no complaints. The narrator did a solid job on this one and added some depth and personality to the characters. If I was giving a rating for just the audio portion of this series I'd probably go with something in the area of 4 stars. The narrator very neatly ticked off my basic list of 'what I look for in an audio book' the voices were unique, expressive, consistent, conveyed emotion and definitely enriched my listening experience. Ok so that's my take on the audio now moving on to the series.
Overall there was a lot of good stuff going for this series the writing was good and for the most part I enjoyed it but there were some things that niggled at me and I'll touch on them on when I'm talking about the books individually. My one overall issue was that no matter what story I was reading or who the characters were I kept getting this underlying sense of frustration and anger from the characters. From beginning to end this series the characters just seemed to radiate just a bit too much negativity for me. I think the best example I can give of this is that one of the MCs in the first book is a screenwriter and when his character wins an academy award you'd think he be happy about this right? I mean seriously anyone who's ever wanted to be a screenwriter/producer/director/actor/whatever raise your hand if you never ever want the recognition of winning an academy award...ok, I'm looking but nope, not seeing any raised hands...I wonder why that is? Alright, I've made my point so lets move on to my other overall niggle about the series because in the interest of honesty I have to add this one...I'm not a fan of stories with MCs who are Hollywood types...it's just a me thing and while I'm as I said not a fan it doesn't make this a never, ever thing so I while there is that I think it also points to the fact that my 3 star rating is probably a stronger testament to the author's skill as writer than it would appear at first glance...just puttin' that out there...
Now, I'm going to try and just give a quick rundown on my thoughts for each book from here. I promise I'll try and keep it brief and to the point, ok?
Book 1 introduces us to Aaron Blake and Greg Falkner, the first of our two couples featured in this series and probably for me the most confusing of the stories as we are given Aaron and Greg's background mostly through scenes from the movie entitled 'No Apologies' which was written by Greg, who's the screenwriter and we get to see all this at the movie's premier. Needless to say we also meet Kit Harris and Jeremy Ash, the other couple featured in this series but more about them later. In a nutshell 'No Apologies' is Greg Falkner's fictionalized account of his relationship with Aaron. While the movie is suppose to be fiction it's done through character names, setting, some events are slightly altered but overall it's reflective of the emotional journey and the actual events in Aaron and Greg's past...the confusing part was that there were times when I lost track of whether we were in a movie scene or a character's actual memory ...so maybe that was just me?
While 'No Apologies' starts in the present, the bulk of the story is spent in the past either through the movie scenes or actual character memories but things do wrap up in the present and we're given a glimpse at a couple who although they've been together for a number of years at this point they still seem to be finding their way with each other and I was ok with that because these men are strong willed individuals and for as much as they want each other they are also both struggling with their own personal issues. So at the end of this one...3 stars from me because it was good just not great.
In 'Acting Out' the 2nd book in Tibby Armstrong's 'Hollywood' series we meet Kit Harris former child start working on making a comeback and Jeremy Ash up and coming actor and these men have been cast to play the leading roles in...you guessed it...'No Apologies'. Kit's straight...of course, and while Jeremy may not quite qualify as 'out and proud' he doesn't hide his sexuality either.
'Acting Out' was a pretty typical GFY with a bitchy girlfriend thrown in...like seriously bitchy I would have been more than happy to play slap-a-bitch with her. This one also started in the present of the premier of 'No Apologies' and we're treated to flashbacks to events that happened during the filming of the movie between Kit and Jeremy. So while there was a different couple and the time setting wasn't as far in the past I found this one to be fairly reminiscent of the first book. So again at the end of it 3 stars for a story that was ok, but really didn't rock my world.
Book #3 'Full Disclosure' brings us back to the lives of Aaron and Greg. Not only are these two men still together but they're planning their wedding and Greg's going to be the celebrity MC at their school reunion. Things are good between these two men. They've still got some kinks to work out but neither man questions that for them this is it. There's no one else they want to be with, so marriage is for them the inevitable conclusion until an act of hatred brings a violence into their lives that rocks the foundations of who they are.
While I enjoyed this story a bit more than the previous ones I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the lack of faith that Aaron exhibited in Greg at one point in the story but it was really just a bit of a blip in things and I liked that in many ways this couple came out of things stronger for having gone through what happened to them and their HEA was good...so at the end of this one 3.5 stars.
'Outtakes' is the 4th book in this series and takes us back to Kit and Jeremy. These boys are struggling. Kit's role in 'No Apologies' seemed to have done more harm than good to his career...the parts aren't coming and honestly Kit doesn't really seem to care and Jeremy's career has taken off and as much as he loves Kit, his life is busy crazy and he's at a loss as to what to do for Kit because he loves Kit and can feel him slipping away but Jeremy's not willing to let him go without a fight...now if he could just figure out how to not only fight but win what he wants to keep...Jeremy's heart.
I enjoyed this one a bit more because both of these characters were given a more depth and emotional range as they struggled not only with trying to save their relationship but looking at themselves and how they have failed each other and ultimately themselves. I would have liked a bit more time with Kit and Jeremy as they rebuilt themselves and maybe we could have skipped Kit's family drama. While it was used as a vehicle to move things forward between Kit and Jeremy, for me this just didn't work. But still overall this was 3.5 stars for me.
and here we are at the 5th and final book in this series that brings us back into the lives of Aaron and Greg. Throughout these stories Aaron and Greg have shared a relationship that while they've never discussed it has skirted around the idea of being a BDSM relationship, but here in the final story Aaron has given in to his desires to be in control and found a professional Dom to teach him what he needs to know to allow him to move things with Greg closer to a D/s relationship one that will truly fulfill both of their needs.
While Aaron and Greg's relationship moving to a more defined BDSM relationship didn't surprise me there was something about how this all came together in this book that was just a bit to vague for me. It's hard to explain and rather than going into any big convoluted overly detailed explanation that probably doesn't really explain things any better than if I were to just say...it didn't work for me. So let's just leave it at that...this one just didn't work for me and add in the fact that...well...my inner 12 year old was running amuck throughout this one there was something about whipped cream and fire hoses and then there were body parts that were harder than a drill shaft...yeah, I'm not even going to try and explain how bad of a descriptive this one was because drill shaft? Not really a thing ok and we're not having an english lesson today so that's the end of that...at the end of it all and by all I mean the series and my review of it...'Numbers Game' was the weakest of the stories for me, although my inner 12 year old did have a good time.
So it's 2.5 stars for this one and 3 stars for the series overall. Not an overwhelming success but neither was it a fail. I got to check out a new to me author and narrator so for this lover of all things bookish that a win and this is a wrap and if you've actually made it this far and are still reading...thanks I appreciate you taking a few minutes to wade through my ramblings. Have an awesome day and here's hoping your next read is 5 stars.