It’s the beginning of the summer and Bill’s latest relationship has just ended. None of his relationships last long, although he tries to be what each partner needs. Bill has a design degree, yet is currently working in a bridal shop as his dreams of being a costume designer didn’t work out. He’s kind of lonely and resigned to his life at the young age of 22, until he meets Ted, the lifeguard for his apartment complex.
Although Ted is 18, he is wise beyond his years. When his girlfriend breaks up with him, a casual conversation about physical needs lead Bill and Ted to come together for one summer. It doesn’t matter that Ted has never been with a guy before as he’s willing to try a temporary new adventure. While Bill is wildly attracted to Ted, he gets much more than he thought as Ted open his eyes to what he’s really been missing in his life. It’s one summer and the guys learn about love, friendship, and what they might really need to be happy. But when the summer is over, so is their relationship.
This book is a journey for both Bill and Ted, and we can get it out of the way that early on in the book an “excellent adventure” joke is made. And that’s what the guys, well mostly Ted, thinks that they are embarking on. Bill really has no idea what he has gotten himself into.
Their story is told in a flashback as Bill recounts the summer he spent with Ted. Bill was in a rough place as yet another relationship had ended. Bill couldn’t understand what he was doing wrong as he was constantly trying to be what he thought each of his partners wanted. Ted thought he was in love with his girlfriend, but as she tries to change him to what she wants him to be, he felt increasingly closed in. The guys strike up a deal of sorts: a summer fling with no strings and no expectations and only fun. Ted proposes a couple of rules, the main one being that when school starts again, their relationship is completely over.
That description and the title could lead you to believe that this book is one long erotic scene, yet it’s more. There is a bit of a fantasy element that you have to go with as Ted, who states that he has never been interested in men, is easily and fully all in with this arrangement. Ted is wise for his age and maybe at times overly philosophical, but that becomes the foundation for the story. The lives of both Bill and Ted are heading in directions that neither of them wanted and their friendship offers them both lots of self-discovery. You had to go with some of this as well, as after one conversation with Ted, Bill has a great epiphany and begins to make changes in his life.
Where many books often have the main characters not talking to each other, these guys talk and talk and there were areas that got bogged down by too much talking. There were many philosophical discussions as the characters became introspective and at times some of it was simply too much for me. There were a couple of issues that did pull back on the enjoyment as several female characters mentioned in passing were all not shown in the most positive light and there were a couple of inconsistencies in the story itself. The book is also told from only Bill’s point of view and I would have really liked to know what Ted thought about all of this, especially toward the end.
As far as fitting into our Opposites Attract theme week, the blurb on this book immediately calls out, “Two very different men…” and the differences between Bill and Ted are subtly worked in. They have been raised differently and Ted is much more outgoing than Bill. There is also a slight age difference of four years with Bill being gay and wanting to be a costume designer and Ted being a scholarship athlete and having never even kissed a man. While Ted’s sexuality is not discussed much as their relationship changes, overall, it wasn’t the point of the story.
This book is not a romance. It’s one summer, the summer that changes your life. It’s the story of going after your dreams even if you have little or no support or after you are told no and it’s the story of growing up and standing on your own. It also captures the feeling that even the most important people that come into our lives may only be there for a season. Dan Skinner has a way of bringing the emotion in by degrees and threading it through the edges until the end where it encompasses the entire story. A Summer of Guiltless Sex is a well written book that will make you smile for everything that it is.