A guest review by Jenre
Matt is everything that Petey is not. He is self-confident and brave. Matt is tall and masculine and athletic. He is a natural-born leader. Puppy Love is their love story, their romance. It is both a coming-of-age and coming-out story, but sexual orientation is not the primary focus. Petey struggles with his identity both as a homosexual and as a submissive.
What do you do when you love someone who is truly superior to yourself in every meaningful way? How do you feel, and what if these feelings are not what everyone tells you you’re supposed to feel? We are taught that every individual is equal, but what if you know, through experience, that this is not the case? What if, in a society in which everyone is supposed to be a leader, you discover that your passion, your destiny, is to submit?
In Puppy Love, Petey Drinkell discovers the true nature of power, its role in sexual relationships, and his own role in the power structure. Puppy Love is perhaps the world’s first gay BDSM coming-of-age novel. This erotic epic is more than classic erotica; it also challenges the fundamental assumptions we make about human relationships and democracy.
Puppy Love Series
My first thought on finishing Puppy Love was ‘Well how the heck am I going to rate that?’! This lengthy book had taken me through such a wealth of emotions, some good, some bad, that I found it almost impossible to place a rating on it. In some parts of the book I was convinced I was going to give it a high grade and then later something would happen to make me think it needed a much lower grade. By the time I got to the end I was so thoroughly confused about my feelings for the book, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly place a grade on it or even write a coherent review of my feelings whilst reading it.
As a result of this, I’m going to write a slightly different type of review to the ones I usually write for Wave’s blog. Instead of writing down my general thoughts, I’m going to set out in two sections a list of what it was I liked about the book and what I didn’t like. Perhaps then you will understand why my feelings veered around to such a great extent. I’m not doing my own blurb as the publisher blurb says it all.
Let’s start with the positives:
1. The character of Petey
Petey is our first person narrator. I found him to be very sympathetic especially as he takes us very clearly through all the different feelings and emotions he experiences as he comes to terms with coming out as gay and reconciling himself to his submissive nature. He is one of those people who over-thinks and over-analyses what is happening to him. At times this was a little dull as there is an excessive amount of naval gazing done by Petey throughout the book. At other times this was very helpful for me to get a clear understanding of why Petey acts as his does and allows Matt to treat him as his slave or ‘pup’. A warning to those who don’t like their heroes too emotional: Petey cries all the time in the book. He cries when he’s happy, sad, confused or being punished. As Petey is quite up-front about his emotional state, I found I could accept this part of his personality and it didn’t bother me too much.
2. The other characters gave us differing viewpoints on the D/s lifestyle
During the book there are several characters who seem to represent different views on the D/s lifestyle. There is Petey’s friend, Drew, another sub who acts as a guide and support for Petey. There is Cameron, a gay man who looks at Petey and sees only exploitation and abuse. There is Kathie, Petey’s sister, who worries that Petey is being taken advantage of. This allowed the reader to see differing viewpoints of the D/s life, whilst also grounded in Petey’s own self-belief that this is what he really wants.
3. Emotionally gripping scenes
There were several scenes in the book which had me literally on the edge of my seat. At these times, I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and became very stressed, or emotional about what was happening to Petey. It’s the sign of a great book if it can engage my emotions to such a great extent and it was at these times when I really felt that this book was due a high grade. I also found myself enjoying the story and I was genuinely interested in what was happening and how everything was going to be resolved by the end of the book.
Now onto the negatives:
1. Parts of the submission disgusted me
As part of Matt’s total dominance of Petey he makes him drink his urine. This led to a few detailed ‘golden shower’ scenes which, frankly, nauseated me. There was one particular scene where the two men are at a water park and Matt urinates into a empty water bottle and Petey has to carry it around and drink from it during the day. To be honest it made me feel ill. It still makes me feel ill just thinking and writing about it now. There may be some readers out there who don’t mind urine play in their D/s books but it just wasn’t my thing and I don’t want to read about it in my m/m books.
2. Matt’s Infidelity
This is a source of contention between Matt and Petey throughout the book. Matt is bisexual and carries on a relationship with a woman (as well as having sex with other women) whilst also seeing Petey, whereas Petey has to remain faithful to Matt at all times. Petey hates this, but Matt tells him that as a Sir he can do whatever he likes and if that means he sees other people then so be it. Many of the other D/s books I’ve read have exclusive couples, or if they aren’t exclusive there’s a mutual agreement to this. This aspect of the book saddened and frustrated me. To be honest I agreed with Cameron when he said that if Matt really loved Petey then he would want to be exclusive, and on a number of occasions I wanted Petey to break it off with Matt because of the infidelity. This was the only part of their relationship where I felt that Petey truly was being taken advantage of.
3. The representation of women in the book
There aren’t many female characters in the book and, apart from Petey’s sister Kathie, all the women are referred to in very derogatory terms as ‘pussies’ or ‘bitches’. In one way, I can understand: Petey sees these women through the eyes of Matt who has very little respect for the women he has sex with. This is also reinforced by his friend Drew who tries to help Petey’s worry about Matt’s unfaithfulness by dismissing these women as just a convenient hole for Matt when he fancies sex with a woman. Although Kathie is supposed to be a loving support for Petey, she is portrayed as nagging or interfering for quite a lot of the book, even when she was trying to help or protect Petey. This whole aspect made me very uncomfortable indeed and at times the way women were shown in the book bordered on mysogeny.
Hopefully, by setting down my views in this way I have given the readers of this review an insight into some of the good and bad things about the book. In the end I’ve gone for 4 stars because I did find this a genuinely engrossing and unusual book. For those of you who don’t mind some of the negative things I’ve mentioned in this review, it could possibly be much higher. For those who would be very bothered by the negative aspects or who don’t really like D/s stories, I expect this book could be as low as 2 stars for you. I’ve certainly seen many other reviews of Puppy Love with completely polarised opinions. There is a sequel planned for the book. I’m in two minds as to whether I want to read it or not. I’d like to see how Matt and Petey continue to work some of the unresolved issues that were left at the end of this book, but then again I’m not sure I really want to read any more about urine play so that would put me off reading a sequel. If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know whether you thought the same as I did.