The Year Without Summer by G.S. Wiley
Lieutenant Robert Pierce of the Royal Navy was raised in the shadow of his father, a great admiral, and has spent his life on the high seas fighting the ships of Napoleon Bonaparte. When he loses a leg in battle and is confined to land, Robert is devastated. Taken in by his sister Maria, Robert faces the infamously cold, wet summer of 1816 trying to adjust to his new life. It’s made all the gloomier by his worry for his best friend and lover, Lieutenant John Burgess, who is still at sea…until a visitor brings a bright ray of sunshine into Robert’s overcast life.
4.5 of 5 stars
GS Wiley continues her tradition of beautifully written, emotional stories filled with longing, romance, love, and separation with the fabulous offering The Year without a Summer. This bittersweet and touching tale relives the naval life of Robert Pierce and his long affair with fellow officer John Burgess. Separated now by injury and circumstance, Robert wonders what future his life brings and struggles with a depressing outlook in the face of constant, chilly rain.
The story is told mostly in flashbacks as Robert remembers his first encounter with John and how their affair came to be. This is set against current events of Robert in his sister’s house in England as she tries to draw Robert from his depression. The characters are all wonderfully drawn and come to life with a grace and elegance that is so unique to this author. Robert’s sister is a strong, intelligent, capable woman shown in the whirl of social life but not willfully ignorant. Her subtle comments and guidance offer a glimpse of hope in Robert’s despair.
The great writing gently sets up the tale of Robert as he fell in love with John and due to Robert’s injury resulting in amputation, their separation. The story kept me on edge wondering if John would turn out to be a callous lover, abandoning Robert once he’s out of sight or if Robert would meet someone new in his quiet, isolated life. I was curious to see if John would somehow be the love of Robert’s life. The question is handled deftly and beautifully with rich prose and gentle emotion that sneaks up on you with its intensity. I was almost in tears at the end and the swell of emotion is built from the beginning to the wonderful, if bittersweet ending.
Many of Wiley’s writings don’t fit the classic romance definition with big happy endings, yet the story and writing is filled with incredible romance. The small touches, subtle glances come through with more impact than an explicit sex scene. Here the romance of two hands nearly touching as the men stand side by side is simply beautiful. This understated sophistication lends itself to every aspect of the story from the characters and their relationship to the vivid setting and historical accuracy. The ending is the only one possible but there is always a thread of hope.
If you’re looking for a lyrical romance that is as affecting as it’s beautiful, check this out. It doesn’t have any explicit sex scenes yet the romance is certainly passionate and heart felt. This slides to the top of the author’s impressive backlist.
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