Puppy Love (Puppy Love #1)

Title: Puppy Love
Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Fanny Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: m/m Contemporary D/s romance
Length: 535 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

THE BLURB

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

THE REVIEW

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.

OVERALL

24 comments

  • Jen, this is a great review that confirmed my feelings about this story and further helped me with my buying decision. Thank you!
    I can understand your reasons for choosing the list to highlight certain aspects of the story that can be crucial for readers in one way or the other. Your mixed feelings are obvious and I can see where they’re coming from.
    *
    What bothers me the most out of all your negatives is Matt’s infidelity, especially in combination with the strong humiliation aspect of the D/s relationship. (maybe the former is part of the latter, but that doesn’t make it any better for me. Am I the only one who thinks BDSM is complicated?)
    I have to confess that I’m a sap. When reading BDSM stories I need to feel the love, so to say. A caring Dom who cherishes his sub is very important for me to enjoy the story. When I checked out the book page online and saw this pic of Petey – I mean, he’s so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him. *lol* Thinking about Matt and how he treats Petey I have a strong feeling that I will hate parts of the story.
    *
    Unless Matt redeems himself. Does he? I heard that the sequel shows more clearly how deeply Matt cares for Petey.
    *
    Anyway, I think I’ll give this unusual story a try. The positives you mentioned outweigh the negatives for me. I like to read a book that takes me out of my comfort zone once in a while. And I have a feeling that this story provides a rather unique insight into a sub’s feelings and perspectives and the reader will see a lot of character growth, both in Petey and – maybe more subtle 😉 – in Matt. I hope so, at least. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Lilli
      BDSM is very complicated, especially in terms of the psychology of the characters.
      *
      I haven’t read the sequel yet but I’m hoping that the infidelity issues will be resolved in the sequel.
      *
      I hope you enjoy the book, please pop back and tell me whether you agreed with what I’ve said in my review.

      Reply
  • Ouch! I think I’ll pass. I enjoy books with D/s elements as much as the next person, but I will never, ever understand the humiliation as a part of the lifestyle. While that is obviously my problem, I don’t want to read about the other negatives you mentioned in my romance either. So, thank you for the review. ^^

    Reply
    • Hi Lady M
      I think it’s a fine line in D/s books between submission and humiliation. In this book that line was even finer on occasions, but the author did give us lots of insight into Petey’s reasons for accepting his submissive role so on the whole I was happy with that side of the book.

      Reply
  • Wow! Thanks for this review. I read the sample beginning pages on my Kindle and was on the fence about buying. The Cons make this a pass for me. For me to enjoy books with D/s the love has to be stronger than the need for Dominate.

    Reply
    • Hi Aquina
      I’m glad that my review has helped you make a decision as to whether to buy the book or not.
      *
      I understand your reasons for passing. In most of D/s books that I’ve read previously, the dominance was done out of love. In this book, I still need convincing of Matt’s love for Petey. Maybe that will come in the sequel.

      Reply
  • Hmmm this is one of those books you have a love/hate relationship with. It’s good, but there are things that turn you away from it as well!
    *
    Very well done on your review! Books like this are hard to write about!
    *
    Still not sure if I want to read it. Maybe when I’m through my to-read pile! 🙂

    Reply
  • Jen
    As I’m sure I’ve told you I’m a fan of D/s books and most of the ones I have read involve love and respect between the partners. I had no idea that there was this level of humiliation and degradation in this book or I would not have asked you to review it. The golden showers would have made this book a DNF for me and the drinking of urine from a water bottle? Just gross.
    *
    The only way I would be requesting the sequel to this book is if you ask me to. Although this site reviews a wide variety of gay fiction I don’t believe we have ever reviewed a story with golden showers.

    Reply
    • Hi Wave
      The golden showers scenes are more what I would associate with hard core erotica and I was surprised to find them in this reasonable sweet coming of age story.

      Reply
  • Thanks, Jen, for this review. I’ve seen this book pop up in various places and was curious. Done with that, now. Golden showers, infidelity, etc. sounds too “Nifty-ish” for my taste, especially at 500+ pages! Although the sentence in the blurb: “…when you love someone who is truly superior to yourself…” bothers me, too. Does that mean he is subbing not out of love or giving up control etc but because he feels inferior? Maybe some D/s works that way in real life, but it doesn’t appeal to me in a m/m romance way.

    The blurb describes this as a “…coming of age novel.” How old are the main characters?

    Reply
    • Hi Wren
      Petey does genuinely feel inferior to Matt in every way and he stresses this throughout the book. He often thinks about how far superior Matt is to him and how grateful he is to be noticed by Matt. Matt doesn’t encourage this thinking, in fact on many occasions he tells Petey not to put himself down so much.
      *
      The two men are 18/19 years old and have both just graduated from high school.

      Reply
  • Jenre,
    I thought this was a fantastic review! I have read this book, as well as the 2nd one and I’m very happy to report that the author does indeed leave out the urine ick. Thank goodness because that was really hard for me to get past when I read the 1st book of this series. I love reading m/m books with a lot of D/s action going on but I have my limits too. If a reader can get past the “water” play, the story really is a peek inside a real subs life. In “real” life, many subs go through the things Petey did and then some. The life style isn’t for everyone but I like to learn and this book sure opened my eyes. It was actually the first D/s book I ever read when it was over at Nifty.
    I can assure you, the author truly does love women, as friends only. I think the 2nd book is even better than the 1st. I can’t wait to see it in print.
    Again, you did a wonderful job with the review.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Michelle :). It was rather a difficult review to write.
      *
      I think I would be interested in the sequel, especially if there are no more golden showers, and I shall wait for the paperback release before I make a final decision on whether to buy or not.

      Reply
  • Drinking urine from a water bottle? That’s absolutely disgusting. No thanks, not for me.

    As I said over on your Precious Jade review, I think that many of these D/s-BDSM books are written for a voyeuristic quality, not to accurately depict the lifestyle. I also get the feeling that sometimes authors are trying to outdo themselves–“just how far can I go?” While I like a little bit of titillation and when I am in a kinky mood, I like reading kinky stuff, I have my limits. This book sounds like it is too far gone for me.

    Great review, thanks for this.

    L

    Reply
    • Hi Leslie
      Thanks 🙂
      *
      I can’t be sure of this but I think the author does possibly live in a D/s relationship. His book is dedicated to a man from ‘your pup’ (the name that Matt calls Petey in the book) which suggests that he might be. If this is the case then he could be writing from a position of experience.

      Reply
    • Hi Tam
      To be honest, if I’d known in advance that there were GS scenes in the book, I probably would have passed on it myself – this is what happens when I don’t read any reviews of books that I’m going to review myself until after I’ve finished reading :). Much of the rest of the book was so good though that it would have been a shame if I had passed.

      Reply

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