Shannon Sullivan is an 18-year-old misanthrope, shunned by his town and his parents for the scandal that happened several years ago when his teacher molested him. Shannon’s harbored a lot of self-hate as a result, because he rather liked Mr. Flannigan, and did enjoy the sexual activity. He, like his parents and his priest, feel that he played too willing a victim, and this was a huge moral shortfall. His father barely speaks to him, his mother’s always trying to set him up with a nice girl, and the town priest takes grim joy in humiliating Shannon during compulsory confessions. The only person Shannon feels any comfort around is his best friend, Ciaran O’Kelly, who doesn’t believe the rumors about Shannon. Shannon is sure that if Ciaran knew the truth about his affection toward him, or the real story about his depravity with Mr. Flannigan, Ciaran would shun him like everyone else.
Nineteen-year-old Ciaran has lost his dear mother suddenly, leaving his da widowed and drowning his sorrows at the pub. They live in a small, isolated hamlet, about two days cart ride to Dublin, where Mr. O’Kelly has asked Ciaran and Shannon to travel to bring Ciaran’s mother’s locket to her sister, his Aunt Iola. It’s dangerous to travel alone, due to political unrest with occupying English soldiers, which is why Mr. O’Kelly has exhorted Shannon’s promise—Shannon is a big young man—to go on the trip for Ciaran’s protection.
While on the road, Ciaran’s leaning on Shannon evermore to seek comfort in his grief, but this switches into a shared need for affection rather quickly. Blame it on the whisky, but Ciaran isn’t half as disgusted sharing space—or kisses—with Shannon as he would have thought. And, wow, do they move on from kissing quickly. Making it to Dublin doesn’t cool their ardor, especially not once they learn that Aunt Iola is queer and her tavern is welcoming to men who share Shannon’s (and now Ciaran’s) proclivities. But, how will they return to their normal lives, having experienced such extraordinary and unexpected fulfillment with one another?
A Summer Without Rain is a historical romance set about 100 years ago in Ireland. It is a very sex-heavy read, to the point where I was wanting to skip forward to get back to the action. There are many tensions at work: the illicit romance, the political unrest, the acceptance in town versus revulsion in the country, and the two very different family dynamics between the O’Kellys and the Sullivans. I really felt most of those were only superficially addressed, and sometimes had contradictory situations. Shannon’s unwillingness to stand up for himself didn’t jibe with his tough-guy persona, and his so-called “femininity” due to longer hair also didn’t seem to carry water. The priest felt like a caricature villain, abusing Shannon for the sport of it. Meanwhile, Ciaran’s voracious sexual appetite pushed Shannon far beyond the boundaries he continually set, being itself almost abusive. And, honestly, I get that the explorations were novel and fulfilling, but Ciaran’s absolute lack of sense or propriety and obtuseness regarding proper decorum was as upsetting to me as to Shannon, by the midpoint. It felt like watching a slow fuse burn down to an inevitable and catastrophic explosion, so I was even less inclined to enjoy Shannon and Ciaran’s love story, post-Dublin.
I thought I’d enjoy the historical parts more, but since I’m not super familiar with the political backstory of this time period, the lack of context left me a bit bewildered. I did like the advent of lorries, and how people were trying to be progressive, technologically and socially to some extent. I did like Shannon; though he blew a bit hot and cold, it made sense given his traumatic history. Ciaran read like a spoiled boy, to me, and I found him less likable as a result. Both young men are very naïve, and that gave this a more juvenile feel, as well. I feel like readers who are looking for a friends-to-lovers romance with a historical setting might like this, if they are more interested in the sexy bits than the storytelling.