Read my review of the first book in the Chain Reaction series, Catalyst.
This book picks up immediately after the first and dives back into the intricate plotting and relationship development that I already loved about this series. This is another long installment, but between all the layers of story, it never feels slow. Crane creates a delicious mix of external plot movement, internal character development, and multiple levels of relationship arc progression between five fully fleshed-out main characters in a way that never left me lost or feeling like any of our heroes gets left behind in the shuffle. The way we left Quinn, Sebastian, Will, and Peyton felt perfectly balanced and full of potential; throwing Jericho into the mix heightens all aspects of the story in a way I adored.
No one could have predicted Jericho (possibly even the author herself) or the effect he has on the other four main characters of this story. That being said, Jericho certainly couldn’t have predicted the strong effect they have on him, either. Jericho might put on a bit of an act to appropriately insert himself into their lives as Sebastian’s much-needed protection from an external threat, but his catnip act backfires spectacularly when it turns out the others are actually catnip to him. This intriguing new facet to their lives accompanies the continuing relationship development between the original four men, both between the “initial” pairings and in multiple variations that serve to strengthen all of the necessary emotional bonds. These developments are sweet and spicy by turns, with the flavorings always serving the needs of the story rather than ever feeling shoe-horned in.
The external storyline might be secondary to the fascinating development of the individual and collection relationships at play, but Crane keeps it compelling in a way that feels more intentional than just a method to move the characters around the board. Each member of this cast of heroes works in different facets within and around the law, which offers unique opportunities to approach the outside threat that continues to creep closer to home. Even with so many main characters, Crane never forces them to work in a vacuum. As someone who appreciates sprawling world-building no matter the genre, I enjoyed the supporting cast and the roles they play. I’m especially interested in learning more about Jericho’s team, particularly once I figured something out about a specific secondary character.
My favorite aspect of this story is that though it falls into the romantic suspense category, none of the relationships that develop feel more like trauma bonds than a realistic progression of emotion. Too many characters and dynamics are currently at play for me to be certain of the happily ever after, but they are all too interesting for me to settle for that anyway at this point in the story. This installment in particular creeps closer to a “happily for now,” with the closing moment an especially important turning point that I loved, making me all the more invested in what comes next for this fascinating collection of characters.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.