Warning: this book contains puppies.
From repulsion to attraction: Earth’s magnetic pole reversal has got nothing on my reaction to BDSM! No wonder, the few times I was confronted with people in the lifestyle, it was through sensational TV programs, that displayed it as something from a cabinet of curiosities. I can still recall watching this particularly cringe-worthy documentary as a teen, in which an elderly couple displayed an impressive collection of crops, while their leather, piercings and wrinkled skin contrasted oddly with a porcelain kittens and crocheted doilies filled working-class house. And let’s not forget the voice-over: “During the day Marcel and Dolly work on the assembly line in a toothpaste factory. But at night they wear their kinky harnesses with pride and Marcel gets spanked when he’s been naughty boy”. Didn’t doubt for a second that I would never understand BDSM.
A few years of more nuanced information and tons of excellent BDSM themed books later, I’m happy to say that I not only understand it – more or less – I’m hooked on it. And what a week this has been at Boys in our Books! How awesome that popular authors took their time to explain why BDSM works for them. Lisa Henry was one of those authors and in her post she referred to ‘The Good Boy’.
So I’m not going to beat around the bush here: despite that hypnotizing moment that she described so well in her post, this is my least favorite Lisa Henry to date (not familiar with J.A. Rock’s work YET, so I can’t comment on it). This book is a popular topic of conversation on Goodreads though, with friends both loving it and throwing it aside. Understandable when you consider that this is not a ‘standard’ BDSM book, but one that bravely touches upon puppy play. And although the WOOF factor fell into the acquired taste category, fact is that it loosens the tongues better than alcohol! And I have to say, if there is a book that makes puppy play a completely logical and plausible answer to a given situation, this is it!
The main character in ‘The Good Boy’, rich kid Lane, is viewed as a male version of Paris Hilton by those who know him only from the paparazzi shots. As his parents’ investment company proves to be nothing more than a scam, a shiny bubble that bursts when the glamorous couple runs out of luck, Lane becomes the scapegoat. The party animal that everyone loves to hate. But what if he is a dependent and damaged kid with strong submissive tendencies instead?
Usually, I really enjoy story lines in which a damaged guy is teamed up with the strong, protective, dominant type. Give me a dude that robs the cradle and a strong D/s theme any day, baby! ‘The Good Boy’ offers exactly that: Lane spirals into the gutter, then meets photographer (and Dom) Derek, who pities the pretty young thing. Unfortunately, I had several issues with this book that took a lot of the fun out of it. To mention something, the set up and pacing. The first thing I noticed when I ‘cracked’ open my ebook was the lovely length. But the slow build up, fits and starts, interspersed with a flashback chunk, a sudden miraculous wrap-up and a sugary epilogue, failed to draw me in. Besides, I always love Henry’s MC’s to pieces...until now. Until Lane. My problem with Lane wasn’t that he is a victim. I understand his personality. I get the ‘why’s’. But it was too much for me. Way too much. Again and again, his patheticness was shoveled down my throat (“Please don’t judge me, please don’t reject me, please don’t hurt me”). To a point where I just wanted to lock the weakling up in a bench with the other lap dogs and a baby monitor, down a bottle of wine and run off to dance the night away. And here I thought I was the nurturing type…
Luckily there’s always still the puppy play. Considering Lane’s personality, it’s not difficult to grasp why pretending to be a dog is a cathartic experience for him. And it’s true that there are few things more beautiful than seeing someone overcome embarrassment, ego and political correct behavior… to watch him peel off all those layers, give it all up and offer himself to another person. The power, vulnerability and trust, mixed with eroticism: I find it intoxicating. It never fails to make me catch my breath. With ‘The Good Boy’, I experienced flashes of this, but never the level of intensity I prefer. The reasons: puppy play is not my kink (YMMV), I didn’t feel any chemistry between the MC’s, and their sex scenes either felt like a chore rather than a passionate exchange or were cock-blocked by Derek’s endless reassurances to a fretting Lane. It’s worrisome when others mention that Lane only had chemistry with a shy dog called Andy. It’s worse when you find that you can’t disagree with them.
Does this mean that this book is a miss? Not at all! It’s intriguing enough. Especially if you’re interested in understanding puppy play or love reading about wounded souls. But if you haven’t tried anything Henry before, I’d recommend starting with one of her other works first.