Ballet and bondage. It seems to be a striking juxtaposition at first blush, but to my mind they’re a perfect match. Both require discipline, and often call for enduring discomfort for a greater cause. Ballerinas appear to be delicate, but are quite strong and to me this combination echoes the way that submissives in general are often seen as weak while . . . well, if you think that you clearly haven’t met many of us!
But let me tell you about this book. It has ballet and bondage and romance:
Prosper is a dancer in the corps de ballet, hardworking but full of neurosis from her past. Jackson, the demanding choreographer, sees her potential and casts her as the titular Firebird in a sensual new production of the classic ballet. One day Prosper is looking through the fetish personals – not looking for a date, just out of curiosity (has anyone not done that? I thought so!), when she finds one that sounds like it is describing her.
As she is drawn into a “no strings attached” D/s relationship, Prosper is pushed closer and closer to confronting her drive to be perfect and its unhealthy roots. As she explores her needs as a submissive, she is pushed to greater expression on stage. Finally, she learns to be honest with her own desires.
One of the scenes I especially loved in this book was Prosper and Jackson’s first night together. A lot of people think of the pushy and shouty style of dominance as being How It Is Done, but this is a great example of slow and sensual power. There is something so hot about the Dom who can be all calm and quiet because he’s just absolutely sure he’s in charge. The slow-burn style of domination involves Prosper being tied and, since it’s the first night, just touched. It sounds so simple. Even boring. Who would do that? A really mean sadist, that’s who! This scene plays out with so much tension and desire. I was thoroughly pulled in.
The contrast of the demands of ballet and those of Prosper’s new relationship is also beautifully rendered. I think a lot of submissives tend to drive themselves to be perfect, as Prosper does, and part of Jackson’s role is to make sure she is not neglecting her own well-being. This really gets into the safety and nurturing that a good relationship can offer us. I’ve read other books by Annabel Joseph before this one, and one thing she really gets and is able to portray in her characters is how deep trauma can lie, and how having the support of the right relationship and having one’s needs met can help so immensely in healing.
I would recommend Firebird to anyone who enjoys a love story as much as they enjoy searing hot erotica. If you want a heroine who has faced challenges and endured hurt, but finds a better life waiting at the end of it, this is a book to check out. Finally, this is the sort of book that walks that fine line: it’s not a sanitized “everything is great all the time!” version of kink, nor is it a “kink is evil and weird!” sort of book. That middle ground is hard to find in fiction, but it always reads true to me since it comes off as being more real.