Once I realized that author Susan Grant wrote a romance with an alien puppy in it, I knew it was my duty to review it. Star Puppy is a science fiction novella told from the points of view of Trysh, an Earther pilot, and Prince Rornn, the Vash exchange officer and fellow pilot. The Vash are a humanoid alien race. The story is also told from the point of view of Puppy, who is an alien creature that resembles a dog in appearance and behavior. The alien creature is called a Yipwag which is just too cutesy for me. Behold, as I write this review without ever using the yip word again as I refuse to accept that such a word exists.
The setting is a space outpost. Most of the people on it are from Earth. Rornn is Vash. The Vash and the humans are allies against a third race (the Dragaar). This book represents a relatively peaceful interlude in the middle of several full-length novels about the interstellar conflict. It works fine as a stand alone – the exposition isn’t too lengthy, but there’s enough of it to understand what’s going on.
Trysh has been in love with her best friend, Rornn, for a long time, but she doesn’t want to get involved with him because he’s a prince and she’s a commoner, which might not work out. Additionally, she doesn’t take Rornn seriously when he flirts with her because he flirts with everyone. He’s famous for it. Trysh refuses to jeopardize their friendship on what she assumes is a passing fancy of Rornn’s.
Rornn is ready to turn over a new leaf. He really is only interested in Trysh. He tries to win her interest with flattery but nothing works – until a stray puppy turns up (Puppy stowed away in a cargo compartment and when the ship docked she tried to run away but was caught). When Puppy’s ship docks and Puppy comes running out of the storage area, Rornn realizes that the puppy is the way to Trysh’s heart. As soon as he holds Puppy, he realizes that he also adores Puppy and that Puppy feels safe with both him and Trysh. “You are safe with me,” says Rornn, causing me personally to dissolve completely. “I will not let anything happen to you. You are home.”
When Trysh and Rornn are flying, Puppy gets training at the K9 center, but when Trysh and Rornn are on base, Puppy is all theirs. She helps Trysh, who has serious trust issues, become more trusting and she helps Rornn not only mature but demonstrate to Trysh that he can be caring and responsible long term about something other than flying. Also, she’s just really cute.
Reader warning: there is a section in which Puppy relates her birth, and her escape from death. It’s harrowing. Puppy ends up fine but that chapter is intense. It’s also skippable. Puppy had a terrible first few days and weeks, then she was saved and all is well – that’s all you need to know.
With regard to Trysh and Rornn, I was much more invested in Puppy’s well-being (again, Puppy is fine, she gets snuggles all the time) than I was in theirs, but I like how these two complement each other in battle and back each other up even when they are unsure about each other’s decisions. A scene in which they, in unison, say “I take full responsibility” while exchanging supportive glances is funny but also establishes that these two people are serious about functioning as a team. While the term “friend zone” is used, and I hate that term, I otherwise liked their romance. They are clear communicators after a rocky start. Rornn is honest about his intentions and Trysh is honest about her concerns. They have great sex and logical plan for the future. This is a novella, so the relationship zips right along, but that’s fine.
My problems with the book were as follows.
- The word for an alien puppy, a word so cutesy that that I refuse to dignify by typing it here, has to go.
- The term “friendzone” should die in a fire.
These are quibbles, especially since “friendzone” isn’t even used correctly (Trysh and Rornn have a mutual attraction to each other ). More serious is the resolution of Trysh’s daddy issues when she is reunited with the father who abandoned her when she was a child. My cold dead heart was not warmed by his apology. I found his appearance to be convenient and too narratively easy. Also, I felt strongly that he needed to be beat up a little. Maybe a lot. Yes, definitely a lot.
Overall, having Puppy narrate parts of the book brought a depth to what was otherwise a brisk, light story. I love Puppy’s description of Trysh’s longing for her father’s approval:
My Trysh is a lot like me. Our early lives were hard, and we never knew our fathers. Her heart was broken by that and even though the pieces knitted back together, it too easily tore along the same scars…sometimes it’s those who pay us no mind, who won’t acknowledge us no matter how hard we try, who won’t care for us or love us the way we deserve to be loved and cared for, that we seem to focus on the most.
And Puppy’s description of Rornn’s wooing technique:
When it came to communicating his love for My Trysh, My Rornn was like a dog that jumps when he should sit and barks when he should listen.
It’s a sweet, short novella that is sure to cheer you, despite that fact that Trysh’s dad gets to make a big apology instead of being used as puppy chow. Above all, Puppy gets the happy ending she deserves. Good dog!
Added note: Please spay and neuter your pets!!!!!!!