Puppy Love by Jeff Erno
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.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is an interesting, quite long book that delves into kinks, desires, and understanding yourself. The characters are simultaneously interesting, likable, and book throwing-ly frustrating. They never act the way you’ll want them to act but they stay very true to their characters. Some of the scenes tend to be repetitive and I don’t think the book needs to be anywhere near as long as it is, but clearly all of this is leading somewhere. The characters are very immature, unaware, and commit just about every classic relationship sin there is. To top it off they don’t really learn in the space of the book – even 500+ pages – but I have faith they’ll mature in future sequels. Nonetheless, this is a really interesting look at kink from two young, inexperienced kids who just try to do what comes naturally.
The story is told in first person from Petey’s perspective. It starts off with Petey being gay bashed by two fellow students and jock Matt stepping in to stop it from happening. Right away Petey develops serious hero worship for Matt that never goes away. Over the course of the book Petey gets involved in a BDSM relationship with Matt, exploring mutual kinks and relishing his role as “pup” to Matt. Their story covers lots of sex, kinks, emotion, and drama as they struggle to find the right balance with two inexperienced, very different young men just discovering their sexuality.
Petey is constantly described as small, tiny, and little. Part of this is how Petey sees himself. He thinks he is small, insignificant, and inferior. He’s very young and immature despite having lost his parents early and has no self confidence, self awareness, and very little emotional maturity. He cries constantly. He cries if he’s happy, sad, excited, nervous, upset, overwhelmed, and if he looks sideways at the wrong moment. I didn’t hate all his crying because it’s obvious that it’s how he expresses his emotions. I also tended to zone out a little when Petey repetitively whines and cries about the same issues over and over without coming to any resolution. I would hope in future books he’s able to resolve the issues instead of telling himself to get over it and move on, which he does only for the moment. Petey is incredibly sensitive and easily overwhelmed so he’s also likely to taper off the crying once he gains a little maturity and experience. He has no self confidence and this can be frustrating. He constantly blames himself first and always, regardless of what those around him try to say. Part of my frustration with Petey is that he doesn’t grow during the course of this book. He remains with little to no self confidence and still can’t see the person Matt is. Petey can only see the hero he imagines which doesn’t negate his love but does color it slightly.
While Petey is immature and in the throes of some serious hero worship, Matt isn’t much better. I didn’t mind Matt though as he’s clearly spoiled, arrogant, and immature himself. He loves Petey but has no idea what that means. His wealthy family has created an air of entitlement around Matt that Petey’s hero worship reinforces. Matt absolutely uses Petey, with Petey’s consent since the later isn’t aware enough to understand, but Matt doesn’t do this maliciously or with ill intent. He’s simply used to doing what he wants, when he wants with no consequences. He’s very smart though and truly cares about Petey so I imagine when he starts to grow up; he’ll recognize his behavior and learn from it. Even though Matt is an ass, I didn’t mind since I think he’ll mature a lot sooner than Petey will. Plus their relationship has all the hallmarks of young, first love with all the mistakes that are likely to happen.
Matt’s arrogance is reinforced with the supporting characters of Drew and Alex. Matt needs a mentor in the BDSM scene since he’s not all knowing and still has a lot of learn. Initially Alex fills this role but later seems to taper off with an odd and disconcerting scene where Matt pseudo tops Alex for some reason. Similarly Drew is meant to mentor Petey but Drew only reinforces that Matt’s selfish behavior is ok and Petey needs to get used to it. While the support Alex and Drew offer Matt and Petey is nice, showing them that the two are normal and can have a relationship that works for them, neither Alex nor Drew offer any opposing opinion. Neither points out destructive or unhealthy behavior but simply says everything is alright. Drew is an important friend to Petey and a good support but I got frustrated with Drew’s ignorance and insistence that everything is ok and Petey just needs to move on.
Besides the characters, which can be frustrating but true to them, the story delves into BDSM with some serious kinks. Not all of these will be to everyone’s taste but they’re handled pretty well without embellishment or shock factor. There are several golden shower scenes and this is a kink between Petey and Matt. Sometimes after reading I gargled with mouthwash but that’s purely reader preference and thought the scenes were handled well. I wish the story had been tighter edited, eliminating some of the repetitive mental dialogues since they didn’t seem to offer much either to Petey or the reader. They reinforce Petey’s mindset constantly but after that they felt gratuitous. Overall this is an interesting story that those who like BDSM may enjoy. I think I’ll read the sequel because I want to see how both men mature together and separately.
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