Review: Catalyst

CatalystCatalyst by S.L. Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catalyst is a hardcore BDSM story filled with tension and emotion. The characters are flawed, human, and very complex. The BDSM kink featured – in this case blood play – is woven intricately into the story. It’s essential to the characters, their dynamic, their obsessions, and ultimately their failure or success as a couple. The complexity of the men is what elevates the story from being simply a heavy BDSM erotica into an angst filled emotional journey. The writing is somewhat languid but with each story I read by this duo it gets tighter and crisper. I personally like Catalyst more than anything I’ve read by these authors and easily recommend it to readers.

The blurb in this case is pretty spot on. The story is the journey of Logan Walker and his lover Kasper Bromley. Kasper is the psychologist that Logan starts seeing to help with his blood fetish and obsession. Initially the two are merely professional but the attraction can’t be denied. Soon Kasper is so overwhelmed with his fantasies that he gives into Logan and starts a journey into submission that soon turns dark. When Kasper’s issues start to take over their relationship, Logan isn’t sure what to do. With Kasper spiraling deeper and deeper into the scary areas of BDSM and Logan fearful of his own dark needs, the situation becomes explosive.

The plot is very character driven but moves along at a crisp pace and good tone. There is some suspension of disbelief required with Kasper’s job and his professional ethics though. One major compliant is that I just couldn’t ever believe Kasper would throw away his morals to get involved with a patient. Not only get involved but continue under the pretense of “treatment” when clearly that professional relationship was shattered and broken. Added to this issue the one of safety which when dealing with blood is not minor but I could get past that for the sake of fictional romance. I would have also liked to see Kasper end the therapy after the first time they had sex. This issue may seem small but it overshadows the first part of the story for me. I kept thinking how unlikely and unrealistic it would be for Kasper to act like he did. However that said, it’s a familiar trope (doctor/patient) in romance and the writing does a credible job of justifying and showing how certain things evolved.

Once the issue of therapy is set aside, the real intensity and conflict to the story take place. At this point (about halfway through) I couldn’t put the book down. The story becomes compelling and fascinating as Kasper goes deeper and deeper into his obsession and submission with Logan. There are subtle, quiet warning signs that all is not well with both men yet the reader is swept up with their passion and need. It should probably end but they’re so in love and don’t want it to end, nor do they want to harm each other. Neither is perfect and here the characterization is complex and well crafted. Kasper is arguably the more damaged of the two but their chemistry and dynamic together create another layer of intensity on top of their own problems.

The drama of their relationship, the arguments, the rock bottom, and then the slow road to recovery is simply fascinating. I especially love that when the two find their way back together, that doesn’t mean a happy ending. I really appreciate that the story didn’t ignore the men’s needs and desires simply because it led to disaster. Instead it asks the question of can such deep obsessions be moderated at all and how do they handle such needs together and separately. There are no simple, easy answers to the questions asked and that is the most engaging aspect of the story. The twists keep you guessing about what will happen, just how far the story will take you.

The writing tries to focus on showing the reader the actions and offers a lot of interesting dialogue. There are a few clumsy information dumps – such as the conversation between Kasper’s best friend and Logan – but the focus on the main characters keeps this to a minimum. The prose tends to be more languid, with a careful, thoughtful feel to the choices and uses more words than necessary to get a point across. Sometimes the story will repeat information just offered. I would have liked Logan and Kasper’s past to be introduced earlier as the beginning is slow to take off.

These issues are pretty minor compared to the engrossing story though. The dark sides of BDSM are well portrayed here and without judgment. Instead the story is compelling and by turns fascinating, especially the end when Kasper and Logan are deeply into their domination/submission. The beginning starts slow so I recommend readers stick with it as it does slowly pick up the pace to a quick end.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Catalyst

  1. Tam says:

    I kind of read through my fingers when I got to “blood play”. I know my limits and this is definitely past it, which is not to say it might not be an amazing book and well written, but not for me. Great review that helps me decide.

    • Yea this definitely won’t be everyone’s kink. I will say the blood play has very minor on page time. In that there is way more discussion about it than actual doing of. But that still may not interest you.

  2. At the risk of sounding redundant after S.L.’s comment…

    Thank you so much, Kassa! Your comments were completely fair and well thought out. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and the journey of the characters to rock bottom and back. ^_^

    We hope you’ll continue to enjoy our work in future releases. Thank you for taking the time to read and review us once again!

    ~K. Piet

  3. Eden Winters says:

    I don’t mind blood play, kink, or BDSM. Okay, angsty darkness is my thing. However *wibble* no happy ending? Please tell me it’s at least a little happy.

    • Ack sorry! I gave the wrong impression. There is a *very* strong happy ending. I just meant to say that it’s not immediate. In most books once the couple is back together – boom perfect ending. In this one they get back together and have to work to find what works for their relationship. It’s not an immediate all is perfect right away.

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