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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Puppy Love and Puppy Love 2 by Jeff Erno



This is another of those series I stumbled across by accident, and I'm glad I did. I read both of these books back to back, so I'm reviewing them as a unit. I should have stopped after the first book to review it before continuing, but I didn't, so when I say Puppy Love, I'm referring to the two books as a unit, not just referring to the first book.

One of my favorite BDSM series is the Deviations series by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne. I love that we get the story from the beginning (sort of) -- the training, the level of commitment, the feelings. Deviations drew me in and  didn't let me go. It's a pure BDSM relationship, it transcends gender, it's about a Dom and sub. It's about trust, and love, and romance. Yes, Deviations was also about pain, and about some very intense D/s and S&M and B&D... but the relationship, and the trust, is an intrinsic part of the story.

Puppy Love comes very close to the intensity, the depth of character, and the kind of love that happens in a BDSM relationship. The kind of relationship, sort of, that was shown in Deviations.

Unfortunately, Puppy Love isn't written with anywhere near the skill that the Deviations series is written. In fact, the prose in Puppy Love is, well, pretty amateurish. But the story is done so well that I was willing to put up with the prose.

By amateurish I mean that there is too much "he did this then this then that then this then this then that". And the sentence structures are fairly simple, without a lot of variety, which has a tendency to pull me out of a story. It makes me want to edit it, fix it, and I get really annoyed by that. There is also too much repetition, too much reminding us what happened earlier in the story.

With that out of the way, let me talk about the story. The biggest difference in Puppy Love and Deviations is that, in  Deviations you have a very experienced Master, and a sub who has already learned the hard way that some Masters can be abusive and it is up to the submissive to decide where the line is between Dominance and abuse. The submissive is offering a gift of submission, they can define the boundaries of what they are willing to submit to, and they can completely rescind the gift they are offering if they feel it is being abused. Brand new submissives don't always realize that part of it. Petey, the submissive half of our couple, has no clue.

In Puppy Love, both the Dom and sub are 19 years old, and they are feeling their way through the mire of growing up as they figure out their sexual proclivities. In other words, they both make mistakes. Petey should have bailed on Matt early on in the relationship, or at the very least should have established some boundaries, but he doesn't. He sees himself as "inferior", and sees Matt as "superior", and he never questions any of Matt's actions. That's a dangerous mindset for a submissive. Dom does not equal superior, and sub does not equal inferior. Each needs the other... yin and yang, it's a dance that requires both participants. I have a feeling the author is going to take us there, so that both of our characters figure that out.

As for Matt - while he is pretty mature for a 19 year old, he's still growing up and maturing and figuring out who he is and who he will grow up to be. And he's being offered total submission with no boundaries... it's probably only natural he's going to abuse the trust that is given to him a little bit. There is no physical abuse between Matt and Petey, but there is some emotional abuse.

Lucky for our duo, Matt grows up and makes some changes, begins treating Petey better. But still, he's a young Master, and he makes some inexcusable mistakes. He admits to most of them, beats himself up for them, but if he'd only read a few BDSM 101 books he'd have known that Rule Number One is to never put your submissive in a position that is out of your control. Ever. But, enough of my ranting, if he'd read a few BDSM 101 books then I guess we'd have lost a big part of the plot. Hard to watch people grow and learn if they already know everything, right?

I will warn that the BDSM in the Puppy Love series may squick some people. There are a few scenes of being required to drink urine, and a humiliation scene in the second book that I had to breeze through. Not much squicks me, but the humiliation scene bothered me a great deal. With that being said, most of what happens in Puppy Love is D/s. There is very little bondage, and even that little tiny bit is extremely light. There are two spanking scenes, neither of which are rough. Matt's kink is control, not sadism.

I should also mention that this isn't a puppy fetish book. Matt calling Petey his "Pup" is just a term of endearment, not a way of life. 

As for my usual rundown of elements, it's hard to describe the plot - book one's plot is mostly just the two of them getting together and figuring some things out, basic coming of age and figuring out you're gay and submissive. Book two has some other plot elements in it besides that, and what is there fits with the story even if I wish most of the plot devices hadn't happened - I get bothered by Masters making stupid mistakes because they haven't bothered to educate themselves - but, suffice it say, there is more plot. Still, I don't rate either book very high on the plot factor. Pacing could have been better, but at no time did I consider putting either book down and not picking it back up. The biggest pacing problem was in repeated information, not in a slow storyline. Prose was... not good. I called it amateurish earlier, I'll leave it at that. Dialogue was okay, though. A few times the dialogue felt forced, and it bugged me that these were college kids saying "do not" instead of "don't" and "you are" instead of "you're", but the dialogue was mostly okay. Character development, on the other hand, was excellent. And the sex was... well, it smoked.

I've gone back and forth on a rating, parts of this series deserve a pretty low rating, but other parts of it deserve a higher rating. In the end, I'm going to rate it on the entertainment value and give it a 7 of 10. I came to that by taking into consideration the the story and excellent character building, with points taken away for the annoyance of the prose and a few plot devices that could have been handled better. I will be keeping an eye on this author: Jeff Erno tells an incredible story, and does an exceptional job of bringing his characters to life on paper. He just needs to work a bit on the mechanics.

Book Rating: Puppy Love and Puppy Love 2: 7 of 10
Heat Level: Puppy Love and Puppy Love 2:  5 of 5

Unfortunately, while Jeff Erno's site does mention that he hopes Puppy Love 3 will be out later this year, there is no other information about it. But, I found a lot of teaser info on Goodreads, you can read it here. I'm going to add Puppy Love 3 to my Anxiously Awaiting page the next time I put it together, as I want to make sure I don't miss the next installment.

1. Puppy Love
2. Puppy Love 2: Building a Family
3. Puppy Love 3: Reawakening

Update: My review for Puppy Love 3 can be found here.


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