Author ~ Dan Skinner
Published ~ 1st April 2016
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary
Two very different men, from two walks of life find common ground for an exciting and unique adventure. It'd not been a great beginning of the summer season for either Bill, a young bridal store clerk, or Ted, a college student working as a lifeguard at the apartment complex’s pool. They'd both been dumped in their respective relationships and were still looking for “the one.” Their chance meeting at this low ebb in their lives and an off-the-cuff remark about what they both needed as a temporary solution to their physical needs, lead to a unique and adventuresome pact between the two. They agree to be what's lacking in each other’s lives. They begin a journey of self-discovery. One that will only last the length of the summer and will forever change their lives and ideas about love and friendship. One season of guiltless sex.
Don’t let the title and the cheesecake graphics of the cover fool you! This is not just some raunchy, college guys getting it on story. Once again, Dan Skinner manages to pack a lot into this story which, while it does contain the promised guiltless sex, is really is about 22 year old Bill rediscovering himself with the guidance of the wise beyond his years, 18 year old pool lifeguard Ted. As the men embark on the titular summer of guiltless sex, they forge a bond that turns Bill’s life around and sets him back on track. I’m not sure if this story, specifically with the way it ends, falls within the definition of a “romance novel” (then again, since I don’t really need my romance to fall into a specific formula I may not be all that qualified to decide). I would classify it more as a coming of age story with some romantic elements. There is definitely a happy ending, but maybe not in the way the reader will expect.
Told as a flashback by a reminiscing Bill, we are taken back a few years to when Bill meets Ted. Bill is just out of yet another short-lived affair. Bill is starting to realize that he has some low self-esteem, always changing himself to be what he thinks the other person wants him to be, therefore not being honest with either himself or that other person.
Ted is young in years, willing to get out there and try new things but he is also an old soul in some respects. He’s a bit of a philosopher and sees things in himself and tries to make changes to improve himself, always ready to try something new. He and Bill forge a connection over pizza and beer and talking. Ted has only had one girlfriend and has a pretty good idea of why things didn’t go well. All of this talking also hits a nerve in Bill as some truths about how he approaches men are revealed.
As they discuss the problems of starting a relationship with someone, getting to know that person and how sex clouds their judgment, blurring the lines of love and sexual desire, Ted comes up with a brilliant idea. A summer of guiltless sex. Having sex just for the fun of it, getting it out of their system so they stop making decisions based on that urge. Sex with a finite period and rules to make sure it stays just sex. That conversation starts the agreement. The fact that Ted has never been with a man isn’t a big barrier. He likes Bill and is willing to try it. Ted feels that there is too much in the world to explore to limit himself by a label. So begins their summer and their agreement. One season of fun then back to real life.
As it turns out, the summer becomes so much more than a sexual outlet. Bill and Ted become a great support system for each other. They encourage each other’s passions; for Ted it’s his acting and for Bill it’s the clothing designs that he packed away after school. Ted pushes Bill to take life by the horns and do things he would never have before (the biggest fear Ted seems to have is the fear of regret, of not having tried something and always wondering “what if”) while Bill teaches Ted the joys of sex with a man. The two men work so well together, whether they are just talking or whether they are having a hot encounter (in public or private) there is a chemistry and a bond that is undeniable. Eventually the summer has to end and, per the rules, so must the relationship. A summer of guiltless, no-strings sex is the vehicle for Bill to rediscover what he’s been giving up to please others, what using sex out of desperation to hang onto a worthless relationship has done to him. The question is, will the experiment work? Can Bill learn to be honest and not to lose himself to a relationship?
I always enjoy Dan Skinner’s writing and this story is no exception. You can feel that he puts a bit of himself into each story he writes. This isn’t the emotional rollercoaster of Memorizing You or the angst and fear filled look at love like The Bible Boys. The emotional discovery is still here, but it is done in a more lighthearted, fun filled and sexy way. I still shed a few tears, but more often than not I had a smile on my face as I was reading. We are told everything from Bill’s point of view, but Ted’s personality, charm and straightforward look at life still jumps off the page at you.
As I’ve experienced in a few other Dan Skinner books, the ending left me wanting more and with a few questions. It is a fully realized ending that does wrap up the storyline and I got everything I was promised, but I liked these two characters so much I wanted to know more.
If you’re one of the many readers who are afraid to read Dan Skinner for the gut-wrenching angst and pain, this is the book for you. It’s the lightest book I’ve read from him, but it still has plenty of substance. It’s an uplifting story with a happy ending for everyone involved.