Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with her novelsShades of Milk and Honey andGlamour in Glass, which introduced Regency glamourists Jane and David Vincent. InWithout a Summer, Jane and Vincent take a break from their international travels. But in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.
After a dramatic trip to Belgium, Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane's family, but quickly turn restless. The spring is unseasonably cold, and no one wants to be outside. Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a poor one may imperil Melody's dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given an inadequate selection of eligible bachelors locally.
When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent London family, they take it, and bring Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London. Talk here frequently turns to increased unemployment of coldmongers and riots in nearby villages by Luddites concerned that their way of life is becoming untenable. With each passing day, it's more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, which doesnot really help Melody's chances for romance. It doesn't take long for Jane to Vincent realize that in addition to arranging a wedding, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of national proportions.