A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: This book tackles a subject that many readers are probably afraid to approach with a ten-foot pole (blood play), but does so in a way that had me swept up in the lives of two characters who are trying to reconcile their quickly spiraling fetishes into a loving and ultimately stable relationship.
** This review might be seen as having spoilers **
After a near-fatal accident, Logan Walker seeks help to control the compulsive blood fetish that almost cost his submissive’s life. Help happens to be in the form of an athletic, smart psychologist by the name of Dr. Kasper Bromley. Kasper, though, soon finds himself swept up in the fantasies Logan came to him to control. Reluctantly throwing his ethics to the wind, Kasper submits himself to Logan, gambling his career, his future, and his heart on this intriguing man and the lifestyle he offers. But when Kasper’s desires outpace Logan’s, the young doctor is swept down into a whirlpool of sex and sadism that even Logan’s love may not be enough to rescue him from.
Before I jump headlong into what I will tell you now is going to be a review of a fantastic book, I first want to talk about the specific kink that this story is built upon. Blood play is something that I’ve never been interested in reading, and frankly scares me outside of a vampire story. But, having read and loved SL Armstrong and K. Piet’s previous book The Keeper (reviewed here by Tj), and after being asked by Anke since we have similar reading tastes, I decided that of the authors in this genre, I felt I could trust this subject in the hands of these two authors, who show a great deal of compassion and understanding to their characters. The reason I even bring this up, before getting on to the review, is that I think this is a fascinating and wonderful book that many people might discount from the subject alone. If you like to read BDSM in general, but aren’t sure about Catalyst, I’m here to tell you not to be afraid and to take a chance. This reader is happy that he did.
Catalyst tells the story of Logan, an accomplished Dom whose cravings for blood have recently crossed the line into negligence to his latest sub, ultimately putting him in the hospital after Logan’s haze of lust at the taste caused him to slip and nick an artery with his sterile razor. The story starts in the office of Dr. Kasper Bromley, a psychologist, with a hesitant and slowly building dialogue between patient and practitioner. Logan came for help, finally telling himself that his cravings are sick and he can go no further. Since the incident only a month or so prior, Logan has only been able to come by pricking his own fingers and drinking the blood. The harder he tries to resist, the quicker he seems to fail at his self-imposed limits.
Kasper, for all that his money, education, and connections may seem, is not a happy man. He has done everything in his life to please other people, mostly his father, who even in death seems to hold a hand over his son’s decisions. Yet, even with this knowledge, Kasper continues to believe that he is content, if not happy, with his life. It takes his new patient, Logan, to show him a world where submission can mean a break from the daily rigor of keeping his life in constant control. The more Logan tells him of the culture, the more Kasper’s fantasies of submission spiral away from him. The more he fantasizes of Logan, however, the less he is able to hide from Logan’s steady and watchful gaze. Logan can see that they’ve crossed a line somewhere, but now the only blood he craves is Kasper’s. Unable to keep his rigid conformity, Kasper unleashes his deperation to please and their roles reverse. Now Kasper is the student, and Logan sets out to teach him everything he knows. Ultimately, however, their lives are moving in different directions. While Logan is slowly coming to balance his cravings for blood, Kasper’s desire to please at whatever cost is affecting the trust that Logan has implicitly placed in his care, as his doctor. With that trust breached, their relationship is set up for failure, and Kasper seems hell-bent on pushing his limitations further than humanly possible.
The most beautiful aspect of this novel are the characters, Logan and Kasper. To deal with a topic such as blood play in a contemporary setting and for the fetish not to come across as a glorification or purely for shock and awe, the reader needs to feel a connection to the characters and understand why this fetish is important to them. The understanding that is implicit in the writing of this book shows that the authors gave these characters the care that they deserved, and because of that I felt for them and cared about their growth. Logan starts to learn this early on as an aspect of his therapy with Kasper. Why does drinking blood make him feel powerful? Is it really a sickness, or is it a fetish like any other that happens to have a higher risk? For all of Logan’s hangups at the beginning of the story, he really is quite a healthy man. He first felt the taste of blood as he lost his virginity and bit into his lover’s neck as they came. That association, of blood with release and reward, fueled his fantasies and over the years became a full time addiction. One thing cannot go without the other. Kasper, on the other hand, is a very repressed man. In fact, he has repressed his repression, living in a safe world and inside a safe mind. The passion that is fueled by his conversations with Logan give him the oppurtunity to relinquish the control that he has so tightly bound himself to during the 37 years of his life. The problem that Logan soon begins to understand, is that Kasper cannot trade a habit of control with an addiction to submission without first dealing with that repression. The consequences of shifting those feelings onto a fetish that can be dangerous are an absence of limitations, and an absence of limitations is asking for trouble.
The way the authors delved so deeply into these two men is what really pulled the story together. I really felt like I understood them, could even relate to them, though their behavior could be seen as extreme. Also, the authors allowed the characters to set the pace of the story. They dropped into the lows that were needed to realize the potential of their relationship. The authors didn’t shy away from dark and heavy scenes to show Kasper’s desperation, or Logan’s need to understand it. Perhaps the reason I felt that the story delved so deeply into the characters inner thoughts was that the story rarely breaches into the outside world. The bulk of the book deals with scenes between just the two of them, though often they are public scenes at clubs. The insular feel of the story worked well in this case, and because their interactions were almost always between them alone, almost every scene dealth with sex in some way. The book was full of it (and it is HOT), because that was the way Logan and Kasper got to know one another, and later, how they worked through their problems. A side effect of this depth in the characters interactions is that the love and care for each other (though it is often deep below the surface) is obvious. Not only did I want to cheer for them, but they cheered for each other, especially Logan. It is nice to see that the characters you are cheering for really and truly care for one another. It is one thing to read about an Alpha Hero stepping in front of a bullet for someone, but it is a much more difficult and loving gesture, I think, to read about regular, flawed men slogging through the hard times with someone, coaxing them to be a better person. I appreciated that level of devotion between them.
The only reason that this story did not get a five star rating from me is that I had to suspend belief when Kasper, in one scene, finally throws caution to the wind. He has spent decades wrapping himself up in an “agreeable” life and he puts his whole life at stake by becoming involved with a patient. It was given consideration and Kasper warred between his career and his desires often before that point, but I still felt like he would refuse more than he did. Other than that, this book was a wonderful read, though admittedly dark. Still, though, I came out on the other side happy that I had read it and eager to pass along a splendid review to you. This book is admittedly not for everyone. The scenes are always in some BDSM context, and they are often pretty heavy. The scenes, however, are handled with care and I never felt that the trust I had freely given to the authors in reading about this subject matter was betrayed, which I have felt before. More than anything, I appreciate the authors for that. Highly recommended.