Petsitting by Syd McGinley – review

Title: Petsitting
Author: Syd McGinley
Genre: BDSM
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US $1.29
Other Information/warnings: BDSM, language
Summary: Charlie needs a firm hand. He needs help. But what he needs most is someone to keep an eye on him while his Master, Ben, is out of town. Ben’s old roommate, John, might just be the perfect man for the job. John is dealing with a death in the family, trying to get his doctorate out of the way, and he has no place to stay. So watching over Ben’s pet, Charlie, seems to be the perfect solution. Charlie blossoms under his care, showing a whole new level of submission, and John is proud that his touch can bring Charlie some peace. Will Ben approve of the new arrangement when he returns?

My review: There’s a lot of BDSM themed writing in the original slash/ m/m world, and a lot of it isn’t very good. Even the good stuff tends to be written from the submissive’s POV, so to find a story which is not only enjoyable and from the dom’s POV, is a real treat. John Fell is, at the start of this short story, in a bad place. His dad just threw him out of the house, his mother just died, and he’s still grieving for his dead lover, killed in a gay bashing some years before. And he has a PhD thesis to write. So you’d think looking after a childish submissive ex-drug user with an attitude wouldn’t exactly be what he needs. However, it gives him something to take him out of his self-absorption, a useful distraction, and both he and Charlie gain a great deal from the experience.

Living a D/s lifestyle 24/7 is actually not that common, and even to many kinksters, it can seem like a bizarre lifestyle choice. Therefore it’s brave of this author to set her hero so firmly within that so unapologetically. In doing so, she gives us just a glimpse of the motivations and benefits to the participants, but I do just wonder how it would read to anyone without at least a basic understanding of the dynamics involved.

At the beginning, John’s attitude to Charlie comes off as purely abusive, and I nearly stopped reading, wondering if this was yet another story confusing domestic abuse with consensual BDSM. I was glad I didn’t give up, because it becomes clear that this is very much what Charlie wants and needs, and far from being abuse, it’s a kind of love and caring that may not work for everyone, but works for him and gives him the framework to grow. In doing that, John also comes out of his shell, but it’s hard work – something not much appreciated by those outside the lifestyle, but very well and sympathetically portrayed here. It’s only a few pages long, and meant to be a taster, but it sets us up for any number of interesting interactions between John and those in his world.

This isn’t a piece of erotica, but an exploration of a mindset and a distinctive, fascinating character – a rich, well-thought universe. I felt privileged to be given an insight into it, and would gladly read more by this author.