Bailey Richards can’t help stopping by the adult toy shop to visit the beautiful unicorn tail they are selling. After stumbling onto some unicorn play online, Bailey has been intrigued and he wants the tail so badly. But it is not only way out of his price range, he is also nervous about even trying such a thing. Still, Bailey is compelled to visit it often and is saving up all he can from his job at the diner in hopes one day the tail can be his.
After leaving his career in construction, Sam Thurston bought the Pleasure Palace with a plan to revive the old store and bring it more upscale (starting with changing the name). Sam has noticed Bailey coming in and out of the store and finds himself incredibly drawn to the quiet, shy, and awkward young man. Sam finds Bailey beautiful, but Bailey is clearly so uncomfortable that Sam doesn’t want to make things worse by approaching him. But when Sam ends up in the diner where Bailey works, he takes a chance and asks Bailey out.
Bailey is overwhelmed by even the idea of spending time with Sam. Sam is gorgeous and older and has his life together. Bailey is just barely hanging on with his job in the diner. He also has few friends, has never dated, and has no sexual experience at all. Bailey also worries what Sam will think about Bailey’s interest in unicorn play. But Sam is sweet and kind and makes Bailey feel surprisingly comfortable. For his part, Sam finds Bailey wonderful, but also worries that once the young man gains some experience, he will want to move on to men more his age. The near 25-year age gap makes Sam doubt Bailey would want him long term. But the two men are connecting surprisingly well, and together they may find the happiness both have been missing.
Pet Me is the first book in Angelique Jurd’s new Toye Shoppe series, presumably centered around Sam’s store. In addition to Bailey and Sam, we also meet some of Sam’s friends and business partners, his employee, and a group of customers they all befriend. We already have some hints of partnerships within this group, and I liked the nice sense of found family among them all. I particularly enjoyed the group of customers (whom Sam affectionately dubs “the Brats”), as they befriend Bailey and start to give him that connection he has long been missing with his peers.
The story is fairly light on conflict and mostly focuses on Sam and Bailey coming together. There are a few issues that crop up, though most of them aren’t real hurdles, such as the age gap. While Sam mentions it as a concern, it never really plays a role in the story. Bailey also worries about Sam’s reaction to the unicorn play, but again, it’s really a non-issue. The real focus of the story is on Bailey sort of coming into his own. He is 25 years old, but incredibly shy, awkward, and naive. He has few friends (and those he has, like his co-worker, he doesn’t realize consider him a friend). He has also never dated or had any sexual experience. There is a nice sweetness to Sam and Bailey’s interactions, as Sam takes things at Bailey’s pace and has a gentle, patient way about him that lets Bailey slowly gain the confidence he needs. This isn’t a Daddy/boy story, but there is a lot of that vibe here as Sam very much takes care of Bailey. At the same time, as the guys begin to explore the unicorn play, we see Bailey really find his inner strength and confidence.
I think your feelings about this story will rest largely on how you feel about Bailey. The dynamic between these guys is one that I tend to enjoy — an older man who is caring, loving, and doting, with a shy, inexperienced man who needs that nurturing. So I enjoyed the connection between them and found Bailey to be mostly endearing. But at the same time, he is really REALLY intensely shy, awkward, naive, and frequently clueless to an extreme that never really made sense to me. It is not the sexual or dating inexperience. It is that he seems so frequently bewildered and overwhelmed by the world around him. I kept waiting for some explanation about his past or his personality that would help explain this kind of intense naïveté in a 25-year-old man, but we never get it. We learn that Bailey’s parents died when we was 18 and it is clear he is struggling financially. But that doesn’t explain why he is constantly finding himself confused and overwhelmed. A waitress says “enjoy your evening” after their date and he spirals trying to understand what she means, what Sam might want, etc. He has no understanding of subtlety, particularly when it involves interacting with other people. Bailey is not incompetent or unable to manage his life. He is just so often bewildered, overwhelmed, and clueless to an extreme that is never really explained by the development of his character or his backstory. So like I said, the relationship dynamic here is one that works for me and so I found the connection between the men charming and I enjoyed seeing Bailey’s growth to gain that inner confidence. And I think most readers will find him endearing, but there will also be folks for whom Bailey is too much.
Two other notes. First, things happen super fast here, particularly given where Bailey starts. The guys go from Bailey’s first kiss to unicorn butt plugs in like the span of a week. Also, if you are here for the unicorn play (think pony play but with rainbow tail, more sparkle, and some attitude), we don’t really see much of it. The guys meet because Bailey is drawn to the tail, but we are most of the way through the book before the guys actually try it together. We get a few scenes of Bailey dressing up and some sexy times between them, but the actual unicorn play is pretty minimal given the story set up and blurb. If you are wary about reading this kink, I think it is kept minimal enough that this story could be a good introduction, but if you are grabbing this book just for that, you may be disappointed.
I do think this one is a nice start to the series and gives us the foundation for the shop and many of those in it’s orbit. I enjoy found family stories and I think this one is set up nicely with a lot of potential. I am looking forward to seeing where things go from here.