I’ve been reading and re-reading this book for so long that I can’t even remember how long ago I first read it. While much of Joey Hill’s material is a little on the light side, that’s definitely not the case with Ice Queen (and its sequel Mirror of My Soul.) She’s got a whole series called Knights of the Boardroom that follows each of a loyal circle of doms, each with his own completely distinct tastes and style. She’s got a series called Daughters of Arianne that follows mermaids and angels who indulge in (improbable) but ecstatic DS. No matter how silly the subject matter, one of the reasons I love Joey Hill is that she obviously knows her stuff when it comes to BDSM, and never is that clearer than in the Nature of Desire series.
Ice Queen and Mirror of my Soul follows the story of Marguerite Perruquet and Tyler Winterman, who at the beginning of the story both identify strongly as sexual dominants. From the first moment he sees her, Tyler is sure that he is meant to be Marguerite’s dominant – a fact that she initially can’t begin to fathom. The club they frequent has a rule that requires all dominants to spend a period of time under the tutelage of an already qualified dominant – and Tyler convinces Marguerite, who has never checked that particular box, to allow him to fill that role, in hopes that by the time the requirement is fulfilled, Marguerite will have recognized the power of the connection between the two of them.
If you read reviews in vanilla places (I’m looking at you, Goodreads) the biggest complaint is that this book goes to some dark places, and the BDSM scenes are elaborate and not for the faint of heart. This was one of the reasons this book became such a favorite of mine. I read Fifty Shades of Gray, and several other of the ‘Billionaire and hapless girl’ series (I can think of at least 5 series right off the top of my head.) Let’s forget, for a minute (difficult though it may be) the varying levels of issues in these stories where they just ‘get it wrong’ in terms of consent, ethics, etc (though I do love how well Joey W. Hill generally handles these very issues.) As a reader who was just discovering her own kinky nature and was desperately looking for more BDSM to sink her teeth into, I find that the ‘Fifty Shades clones’ are light on the actual BDSM. A spanking here, some wrists tied with a necktie there and lots of orders and demands.
This isn’t the case with Joey Hill. She’s got some really creative and in-depth scenes. She plays pretty fast and loose with reality from time to time, inventing ingenious devices to implement her carefully imagined scenarios – there’s a bathtub device that lets Tyler suspend Marguerite safely underwater during a shaving scene while she breathes through a tube. I have some serious feels about this scene, there’s a huge vulnerability and trust dynamic in play, and if we felt at all like Tyler were risking Marguerite’s safety, it would be spoiled. However, Hill makes a point of always assuring us that whatever device is part of the current scene is carefully designed and built with safety and control in mind. There’s also a scene (though I think this one is actually in Mirror of My Soul – the two really read like one book that’s been split in half, rather than two separate novels) where Tyler allows Marguerite to top him, maintaining a cool, confident and good humored dominance the entire time. Woof. Also super hot is the scene (this one is definitely in Mirror of My Soul) where Marguerite submits to Tyler by dominating a male submissive that Tyler has invited to the party for this specific purpose. Which is obviously a bundle of good compersion-y fun times.
While some scenes are a bit much for your average vanilla reader, there shouldn’t be anything here that’s overwhelming for an enterprising kinkster, though as with anything, your mileage may vary. However, the truth is that in terms of the actual story, this book gets pretty dark. While I am a strong believer that there are many paths to kink that don’t involve overcoming some previous psychological trauma, I think Hill’s intent in this story is to illustrate the powerful redemptive ability of BDSM, and most of the conflict in the story comes from Marguerite’s immense need to maintain control, which stems from some pretty severe childhood abuse, which is a little difficult to read about at times. Not only that, but for Tyler to truly be the right dom for Marguerite (which he undeniably is) he needs to have some real, working understanding of what that kind of trauma looks like, and he has some dark history of his own. I would definitely recommend that anyone with trigger issues look up a list of content warnings for this novel. Even those who don’t consider themselves to be easily triggered, be aware that this is not a light sexy read – it’s a dark journey into the immense and powerful nature of BDSM, and all of the unexpected ways it can manifest itself. That being said, there’s a lot in this book with which I associate personally, and it’s one of my favorite books of all time.