Sarah Frantz, ed.; Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe, Charlotte Stein et al.
Pink Kayak Press / June 9, 2014 / $10.99 print, $3.99 digital
In this romance anthology, RITA-Award winning author Molly O’Keefe shows us the power of a city thunderstorm from the top of a skyscraper, while Amy Jo Cousins soaks us in a rain in Spain. New York Times bestselling author Ruthie Knox’s heroine is devastated by a winter storm, while a summer thunderstorm grants Alexandra Haughton’s hero and heroine a second chance at love. Rain sparks self-awareness in the robot in Charlotte Stein’s story and allows Mary Ann Rivers’s heroine to fall in love with her hero and her own art. Rain causes romance between the college students in Audra North’s and Shari Slade’s stories, while romance causes rain in Cecilia Tan’s myth-inspired tale of a sacrifice to a demi-god.
The nine romance novelettes in Summer Rain, written to benefit RAINN, engage with some complex and painful situations, though all of the stories end happily. Most involve characters who need to decide what they truly want, as opposed to what society thinks they should be or have; they find love in the face of disapproval from parents, or former partners, or society in general. They learn and grow and survive hardships to find happiness in themselves as well as with a partner.
Though most of the stories are contemporary, my favorite story in the anthology is Cecilia Tan’s “Sacrifice,” a fantasy story in which a demigod is presented with a female sacrifice. When he has sex with her, the land will become fruitful again, as it has numerous times before, but he’s begun to doubt he’s doing the right thing by accepting this role.
Although I had, with practice and time, eventually found a path between denying a woman pleasure entirely and destroying her with a surfeit of desire, none of the women I had known over the years had come to good ends…I had almost begun to think of myself as nothing more than a man. If ever the people of the valley thought of me as such, then it would become true. I would live out my life as a mortal man. Why had I ever tapped the god-power in my blood? Why had I been so foolish? But I had helped them. They had needed the harvest to be saved. How many would have died of hunger had that first daughter not made that sacrifice?
Because his human mother was raped by a god, he will only seduce, but because of his godly powers, even seduction might lead to harm; meanwhile, the heroine has been torn away from everything and everyone she knows, sold into slavery by her own father. Making things even more difficult, they do not speak the same language, and at first must communicate only in gestures. They eventually learn that actions can demonstrate character as clearly as words.
“Real Feelings” by Charlotte Stein uses a science fictional premise to explore romantic relationships. The protagonist has purchased an android for sexual purposes, and finds out how communication and choices can change everything.
And then he’ll do something that makes me remember he isn’t a human being at all. One day he forgets that he’s meant to lie down and pretend to sleep at night, and I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water at 2 a.m. only to get the shock of my life. I tell the lights to come on, and he’s just standing in the corner by the food printer, like some piece of furniture with eyes. I swear I come close to screaming. He even tells me that I am on the brink of making a frightened noise, and asks if there is anything he can do calm me down. He already knows, you see, he already knows my different moods and can interpret them perfectly. He understands the sounds I make and what they mean.
My favorite of the contemporary stories is Molly O’Keefe’s “The Heart of It,” in which two survivors of abuse learn how, slowly and with much fumbling, to go on with their lives and relationships. I loved the complex characterization in such a short piece. “The Rain in Spain” by Amy Jo Cousins lyrically explores what happens after a hasty marriage; can they make it work, despite their differences? Meanwhile, Audra North and Shari Slade write about college students making mistakes and learning from them, and growing into what might become adult relationships. “Fitting In” by Audra North features a boy bullied because of his home life, who desperately wants to be ordinary, until he finds out that ordinary is the last thing he wants. In “Private Study” by Shari Slade, the heroine is a vlogger.
“Every time I found something new that scared me or that I didn’t understand, I’d make a video. An exploration. Like field notes. And it was fun. Did you know that if you buy sex toys on the internet no one can tell?”
Fans of contemporary romance particularly might enjoy the stories in Summer Rain. Aside from the fundraising aspect, this anthology is a great way to discover some excellent new authors! A second volume is planned.
Learn more or order a copy of Summer Rain, available now: