Will Derrie is finding his sex life unsatisfying. He is ashamed of his kinks and his need to be dominated, so he doesn’t share his needs with the women he dates, and as a result, he never quite gets what he wants out of his relationships. When Will meets Hugh Reynolds, Hugh offers to give him the Dom/sub play Will craves, but without the sexual relationship, as Will is not gay. Hugh doesn’t allow Will to hide from his needs or desires, and opens up a whole new world for Will that satisfies him emotionally. Hugh is careful to keep some distance between them as Will is not into men and Hugh knows ultimately he will end up with a woman. But the emotional connection between them is strong enough that soon Will craves a sexual relationship with Hugh as well. The men have a wonderful connection, each getting so much out of their relationship. However, both know what they feel for each other is never going to be romantic love, as much as they have grown to care for one another.
When Will moves away, Hugh finds himself more adrift than he expected. When he meets Truman Jennings at a conference, Hugh finds that last piece he was missing in his feelings for Will. As much as Hugh cares for Will, his relationship with Truman is so much more, with a deeper connection and stronger feelings. The guys begin building something between them, but Will is never out of the picture. Truman accepts Will and Hugh’s relationship and encourages Hugh to continue things with Will when he is in town. In fact, Truman finds the dynamic between the two men incredibly erotic, bringing out his voyeuristic side, and occasionally putting the three men together in increasingly hot ways.
Hugh wasn’t looking for love or even a relationship when he first met Will. But over the year he found incredible companionship and closeness with two amazing men. Hugh and Truman share a growing love, as well as a deep connection with Will that only enhances what they have between them.
Oh, I really loved this one! I found these guys amazing and so fascinating and I was engrossed in their relationships from the very start. But before I go to far, a bit of background here. I was reading the Lead Me into Darkness anthology when I came across a short story featuring Hugh, Will, and Truman. I had never read anything by Ripper before but I loved the story, so much so that I immediately went looking for other works by the author. I was surprised to find that the short was part of the larger Scientific Method series, a series that looks to be about 7-8 books, plus a lot of extras. So I immediately went to pick up the first of the series to get more of these guys.
Catalysts is actually a revised version of the original first two books in the series. It combines Scientific Method (which itself is a combination of a bunch of shorts into one volume) and Hugh’s New Dude. My understanding from reading the notes from the author is that Catalysts has actually been revised and cleaned up with a new ending for the two stories in order to better set up the relationships over the rest of the series. This book definitely doesn’t read like a bunch of individual stories put together. It is very seamless and flows easily into one long novel.
Ok, so back to the story. This is a very character driven book and Ripper creates such amazing characters in Hugh, Will, and Truman. I found them completely fascinating and learning the nuances of their personalities and seeing how they interact with one another kept me completely engaged throughout the book. The first part of the story follows Hugh and Will as they meet and develop their relationship. Will is craving submission and too ashamed to ask for it with the girls he dates. Though he never has had an interest in men, he is drawn to Hugh and what Hugh offers him. I loved watching Will blossom as he finds peace in his submission. He begins to be brave enough to reach for what he really wants and it is lovely to see how much peace and happiness he gets from his sessions with Hugh. Will begins to grow in strength and confidence as the story goes on. He starts as a shy, insecure guy just finishing college, and ends with so much more sense of himself and acceptance of his own desires. Will still has a lot of insecurities, but we see so much growth over the book.
Hugh is kind of the center point of the story and I found him equally fascinating. He has a self described “shrink kink” and part of the fun of domination for him is really understanding what drives his subs and figuring out what they need and how to push their buttons. It makes Hugh a great character to guide the reader because we learn so much through his eyes about the other characters. Hugh is this slightly stuffy, formal guy who can come across a bit cold. But at the same time, we see the depth of his feelings for Will, and later Truman, as well as the relationships he has with his close friends. I liked seeing Hugh navigate this relationship with Will, one that isn’t quite just Dom/sub, but isn’t romantic either. I love how Will pushes Hugh slightly out of his comfort zone and how much he grows from it.
Now despite how much Will and Hugh care for one another and how close they grow, both these men know that the relationship is not a romantic one. Though Will happily undertakes a sexual relationship with Hugh, both men see a woman as Will’s long-term partner. I will admit after spending the first half of the book with these guys, it was a little hard as a reader seeing Will leave and knowing they weren’t going to have a romantic HEA together here. As romance readers we are sort of trained to want to pair our guys off, but I like that this book takes a different approach than most and gives us a different, but equally special relationship between the two men. I think that is part of the reason this book works so well as a combined story. I assume the original two books split between Hugh and Will, and then Hugh meeting Truman. So for me it worked nicely to have the stories combined and move immediately into the new relationship with Truman, as well as the combined relationship between the three men.
When Truman enters the story, we see that what he and Hugh have is different from what Hugh had with Will. This is the true romantic partnership. While Hugh and Will’s relationship focused mostly on their scenes together, Hugh and Truman date and get to know each other. They have a strong sexual relationship, but not a Dom/sub one. Truman challenges Hugh in a way that Will does not as they have a totally different dynamic. I loved watching these guys interact, and see them slowly bring Will into their relationship. First it is just Hugh and Will, but slowly Truman becomes involved as well. We can see how much all these guys mean to each other and how much they have grown. While Will becomes part of their emotional and sexual relationship, I wouldn’t call this a menage story. This is the story of two partners (Hugh and Truman), who have a close and loving relationship with an occasional third.
The one place I think could have used more development was the start of Hugh and Truman’s relationship. We see things develop in great detail between Will and Hugh, but with Hugh and Truman there is more telling than showing. Most of their sex scenes alone are short or fade to black, and we are told more about the developing romance than actually seeing it on page. I think the transition to a relationship with Truman would have been easier to make as a reader if we saw more of Truman and Hugh falling for one another.
Ok, so this was a long review but honestly I could talk about these guys forever. They are just fascinating. Will’s need for intimacy and his growth over the story. The way Hugh’s mind works in such interesting ways. Truman’s openness to their relationship and the way the three men build something so special and unique. I think this is a story you could read over and over and discover new things about these guys each time. So I definitely loved this story and am eagerly looking forward to reading more. If you like super sexy, character driven stories with kink and a nontraditional relationship dynamic, I highly recommend giving Catalysts a try.