Reactant follows immediately after Catalyst, the first book in Aurora Crane’s Chain Reaction series. As the series features a suspense plot, this review will have some spoilers for the ending of the first book.
Quinn, Peyton, Will, and Sebastian are moving forward in their relationship together, but they are still figuring out exactly how they might work as a foursome. Though Quinn/Sebastian and Will/Peyton each have history together as couples, making things work with all four men is much more complicated. Yet something about the guys together just works and they are determined to explore what could be among all of them.
The guys are also still reeling in the aftermath of the threat to Sebastian and Peyton’s lives and the revelations about the true nature of Hunter and his team. They are surprised to learn that “Warren Boiler,” the drug dealer Sebastian was trying to keep out of jail, is really Jericho Rowlands, Hunter’s brother and an elite member of their team. When Hunter’s group discovers information suggesting that Sebastian is still in danger, Jericho steps in to serve as bodyguard while they track down the source of the new threat. Sebastian isn’t thrilled about having the added security, especially as he finds himself strangely drawn to Jericho, but his men are also determined to see him protected.
It surprises all of the men when they realize there is something between them and Jericho, a pull none of them can ignore. No one knows quite how Jericho might fit in to their group, particularly as the quad are still figuring things out among the four of them. But at the same time, none of them can quite let go of the connection they also feel to Jericho. And Jericho is feeling a connection in return. However, he isn’t normally a guy looking for commitment, not to mention he isn’t sure how he fits within this group of men who are already building something together. Still, Jericho can’t deny that he wants them all. As the threats heat up, the guys dig into who is behind it all and why. Now, it will take all they have to stay ahead of the killer and hope that when it is all over, they can find a way to make things work together.
This second book picks up immediately after the first and jumps us right back into the action. The primary focus here feels like it’s on the relationship, as the guys are still sorting out exactly how things might work among the four of them and where they stand with one another. They seems pretty clearly to want to explore a relationship with all of them together, but the situation is complicated, particularly as their pasts all come into play. Into all of that we add Jericho, who has an attraction to all four men that they return. Jericho initially wants just a night of fun with the other four, but it soon becomes clear there is an emotional connection and Jericho has to figure out what he wants (and what he can have) with the larger quad. We get POVs from all five men, something that I think really helps to get to know them more individually. Crane also does a nice job here making these guys feel different and distinct from one another. I had no trouble getting a sense of each of them and remembering details about them. Of course, any time there are a five main characters, it is hard to give full time to everyone, and I don’t think we sink as deep here into character development as we might in a book with fewer leads. I found for Jericho in particular, there are some elements that don’t really get addressed, such as some references to his difficult past. The guys also mention (or think to themselves) about the importance of having some conversations about their relationship, but they don’t really ever happen. There are so many questions they need to resolve — the status of their relationship, exclusivity, what they may want with Jericho, etc. These things come up and there will be a nod that they need to talk about it, but they don’t really ever do it and the story ends without much of this being resolved or discussed. Still, things end feeling solid among the five of them and Crane does a great job managing this large group of men and making the characters feel distinct and the interactions between them easy to follow.
The mystery/suspense plot continues here in the wake of the original foursome learning the truth about Hunter and Jericho’s roles in the past case. We learn as they dig more into the situation that things are not resolved, despite Peyton killing the attackers in the last book. Someone has a kill list and Sebastian is on it and it they don’t know who wants him dead or why. This part of the plot mostly takes a backseat to the relationship side of things for a lot of the book and the suspense plot isn’t as big a part of the story as in the first book, beyond the fact that it brings Jericho into their lives. With so many characters, I can understand why they need to be the focus, but I do wish the suspense end was a little bigger part of the story. There are some intense moments, but for most of the book, it is sort of just riding along in the background. The suspense element doesn’t really resolve here and the story looks to be continuing on in the next book.
Overall, I really am enjoying this series and think Crane has created a really engaging, large poly romance. The characters are great and I enjoy their relationship and the dynamic among them. I am looking forward to seeing what is next!
Note: This book is part of Crane’s larger Chain Reaction universe, and this story takes place in the timeline before the most recent release, Third Time Lucky (as will the third book in this series). You can easily read this series without the related books, but you will definite want to read this after Catalyst.