Rating: 4.5 stars
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The Velvet Glove is a club that caters to every kink that a gay man could possibly have, and it has a stellar reputation. But Dane isn’t there to indulgent in kink. He’s there to rehabilitate and help a dog that was left in a cage by his previous owner. Dane thinks that the rooms arranged for him is overkill, but he’s grateful, and all he wants to do is help the dog. And then Dane is led to the kennel, and learns that some dogs are human. And that Tyg is actually a man who was abused and left for dead. But for all that Tyg is actually human, he acts and reacts like a dog, and Dane is all the more determined to help him heal.
Tyg has been through a horrible trauma, but he still feels like a puppy even though he can’t trust. Dane is able to devote all his time to Tyg, and slowly Tyg learns that he’s a good dog and that he can mix the human and canine instincts. Dane is patient and kind, and even though he’s never indulged in this kind of play, finds himself drawn to Tyg. As Tyg begins to heal, he and Dane begin to explore their attraction and find a love neither expected. But when Tyg’s old master shows up, things take a terrible turn. Though Tyg fights, and wins, much of his hard-won progress is lost. But Dane helped Tyg find himself once before, and he has confidence they can do it again. He just has to remind Tyg how to trust.
This novella is part of the Velvet Glove series, but like all of the novellas in the series, it can work completely as a standalone. This is Dane and Tyg’s story from start to finish, and though you’ll see side characters that are familiar (if you’ve read other books in the series) this story does not hinge on any prior knowledge. So if you’re looking for a story about an unusual kink, then don’t be afraid to pick this one up.
I’ll be honest, I picked this one up solely because puppy play is not a kink you see very often in this genre. I wanted to see how Sean Michael handled it and how deep he went. And here’s the thing, this book stuck with me, I’ve read it several times, and I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, you have to do a little belief suspending. But take the jump, go with it, and you’ll find a really great story.
Where I think I was most impressed, and why this story has stayed with me, was the character of Tyg. It was not just his abuse and torture (for that’s what it was, and it is mentioned and briefly described, though not talked about in detail) and needing to overcome that. It was that he had to do it while having reactions that were of both man and dog. Because Tyg really is both. Though with Dane he does start speaking as a man and expressing his own opinion, essentially he is a man who identifies and lives as a puppy. For Tyg it’s not solely about the sexual aspect, and I loved the way his actions and reactions were colored by his canine perspective. I loved the way Tyg was portrayed, and I thought he was a wonderfully consistent character throughout. He grew and changed with Dane’s help. But it was clear Tyg had it in him all along. He just needed help to bring it out.
Now, Dane is wonderful and sweet and caring and believable. He really is. But he’s also where I need you to take a leap of faith. That no one would tell him he was showing up to help a man-dog is a stretch. That he’d never been interested in puppy play before, but suddenly finds himself okay with it for Tyg? That’s a farther stretch that I had trouble making. But if you go into this story just accepting, then it becomes a sweet tale of two men who are perfect for each other, who need each other, and show up in the other’s life at exactly the right moment.
Some of the other plot points were a little stickier. I would have liked to know more about Yves, Tyg’s former owner, and what had gone on between them. When he shows back up again, his actions seem incredibly extreme with nothing to base them on. There are a few other niggly things, like a chapter in a different character’s POV and a couple of glaring typos, which pulled at me. But on the whole, I could just roll with it and enjoy the good parts.
Ultimately, I came down on the side of really enjoying this book. Thought there’s a certain fantasy element to it, I found it to be a fairly good portrayal of puppy play that showed the kink in a positive light. I think that, more than anything is what keeps me thinking about this book. Puppy play was treated as just another kink and given the respect it was due. If you’re looking for a different and interesting story, one that is both hot and sweet and at times, deep, then Puppy Love is definitely the one for you.