Catalyst by SL Armstrong and K Piet
Length: 81,000 words (247 pages)
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.
There are definitely elements of this book I enjoyed, including Logan's struggle with his fetish and its dangers, Kasper's struggles to accept submission and the extremes he takes it, and what he and Logan do to mend their relationship. However, much of this was spoiled for me by the start of their relationship and their transition from patient-doctor to lovers. I have family in the mental health field and I peripherally work in the field, influencing my reaction to Kasper's behavior. I enjoyed the many elements of the story, but could never really sink into the characters, story, or situation.
Although the authors address Kasper's ethical dilemma, the situation still rubbed me wrong. Seriously wrong. I felt like Kasper could/should have approached the situation differently with the same end results. Instead of saying "Oh, hey, I'm attracted to you and we're going to start a relationship, stop being my patient," he continues to see Logan as a client despite their first sexual encounter. This annoyed me to no end, but people not as involved in the field may not feel the same way.
In addition, there are some excuses as to why Kasper behaves this way, including the self-destructive behavior he exhibits later in the book and the reasons behind why he became a psychologist. I can admit that logically I see the reasons behind his behavior, and I know that people are still people and make stupid decisions, but I also know it influenced my feelings on the book.
Logan's decision to seek out help for his blood fetish is well handled, as while part of him recognizes that the fetish is "weird" by outside standards and he goes in expecting to be judged on it, the majority of him is comfortable with his involvement in BDSM. He--and Kasper--both recognize that the blood fetish isn't inherently bad, but when the fetish is in power rather than Logan and when that means Logan loses control and endangers the sub, then the fetish becomes "bad." This of course expands into Kasper's exploration of the BDSM world and becomes an almost mirror image of the experience.
I liked Kasper's fall in BDSM and how he slowly slipped farther in, both positively and negatively, as he struggled to prove himself. It's obvious the psychologist could use some therapy of his own, which several characters recognize by the end. His reaction to Logan's external therapy sessions is also interesting and gives a good look inside Kasper's head--especially after everything he's gone through.
Finally, the ending was satisfying. Despite a rocky beginning for me, I was happy with how everything worked out and where the characters ended up--maybe not fixed, but working on helping each other heal.