No Roses, All Thorns – a tale of sexual slavery

Fantasies of sexual slavery might be hot, but the reality is not pretty. Or at least, that seems to be the lesson to take away from Laura Antoniou‘s Marketplace series. This series of books is filled with slaves who do not get what they want. Because, guess what, a slave’s desire apparently doesn’t matter. I know, shocking right? Focussing on Master/slave relationships, this series of novels shows insights into the slave-fantasy as well as addressing some of the forms these relationships can take.

In the first novel (which is also called Marketplace), four applicants arrive at the house of Alexandra and Grendel, two well-known slave trainers who have strong ties to the world of erotic slave trading. The four new applicants are completely different from each other, but have one thing in common: they dream of being a full-time slave to at least one Master. The two men and two women have all quit their jobs to start living this life they so desire, and arrive on the premises with an idealized perspective on sexual slavery. To show what this slave training entails, it could be fun to focus on these four slaves seperately.


This picture-perfect French Maid style slave is brought in by her Mistress, to fix her “dullness”. Though Claudia is perfect at pouring tea and “can take a nice beating, she is extremely shy and not a tiny bit prudish. She cannot speak about sex, refuses to masturbate in front of her Mistress and does not want to be penetrated. When pushed to do something she does not like, she starts crying and demands attention until she gets her way. This is a problem, not only because slaves are not supposed to dictate the activites performed; according to her Mistress Madeleine, it also makes Claudia quite dull and useless. Unless you are really into tea parties of course. Must be a thing.

So Claudia learns to manage a household, to stop whining and be more confident in her sexuality. Now, the interesting thing here is that she was a slave who did not focus on her own sexual pleasure. Rather, Claudia dedicated herself to the pleasure of her Mistress. And that made her less desirable for sexual slavery. This tells us two things. In this narrative being sexual is not a prerequisite for being a slave. But for that particular Mistress, a slave who denies her own sexuality; only lives to please her Mistress; and is not comfortable with her own sexuality, becomes dull in the end. This tension is interesting and well worth exploring.


Enter the bisexual leather bottom who likes licking boots and showing off. Brian is brought in by a “spotter” for the Marketplace. Conveniently, this is also the name of the slave trading world Alex and Grendel are gatekeepers for. Brian’s problem is that he likes showing off his submission in a way that is extremely performative. It is this performative element that has to be extracted, as both the spotter and Alex and Grendel’s majordomo Chris believe there is a “true slave” hiding in Brian. So all that’s left is for them to bring that slave out. Which they do by… ignoring him???

gay leathermen applauding this twist on sexual slavery
Well, did not see that coming!

Yep. Brian is denied attention and orgasms for six weeks, apart from the occassional beating when he does something wrong. Like the other slaves, the Masters expect him to do housework and help in the stables, but Brian does not get specific training in any subject. Rather, they do everything to take away his dignity and the aesthetic he aspires to. By putting pink bows in his hair, around his cock and through his nipple rings, for example. The insatiable, female housekeeper uses him sexually, though he never has private sessions with either Grendel or Alexandra. His role in the first book is not that big, though he does make an appearance in the second and has a short story dedicated to him. Still, the performative element of sexual slavery that Brian introduces is extremely fascinating.


The Robert character brings up some interesting issues. This “french maid” is brought in by a male to female transgendered Mistress, who found him in a support group for people who want to transition. As it turns out, he only wanted to undergo surgery because his former Mistress taught him to hate his penis (or, as he calls it, his “nasty thing”) and men in general. When at one point Robert tells his story to his fellow slaves, we find out that he has always had fantasies of being dominated by a strong woman. When he finally found a Mistress willing to do that, she taught him to hate himself. According to her, no woman would ever want to dominate a man. She dressed him up in women’s clothes; taught him to walk in heels; and punished him for the entire history of men’s oppression of women.

With her training, Robert turns into a very clumsy french maid, who talks in a high pitched voice; hates his body and gender; and has no confidence. Though both with Claudia and Brian it is easy to see how their idea of what a slave should be influences them in such a way that they are less desirable slaves; with Robert this is even more clearly visible. However, one big difference is that Claudia and Brian came up with their own ideas, whereas Robert is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a Dominant/Master abuses their power.


And then there is Sharon. Just like Brian, Sharon desires attention. Sharon also assumes that because she is beautiful everyone will just give her what she wants. Funny. She states she should be a pleasure slave, which in her mind comes down to having a beautiful man who worships you, lets you lounge around the house all day and uses you sexually whenever he wants. Housework is beneath her, she does not want to learn beyond what she read in fictional works and she actually lied and stole her way into Grendel and Alexandra’s house.

Of all the slaves, Sharon is used sexually most often. Though they try to teach her a lot of theory about what it means to be a slave, try to fix her speech patterns as well as give her a rudimentary understanding of the most common topics and board and card games that potential masters would enjoy, most of the Sharon bits are about people having sex with her. Sharon acts as a sex slave for for the household staff, guests and the other slaves. However, the Masters only use her mouth. A far cry from the beautiful and worshipping Master she dreamed about.

So this is what it comes down to. If you like pretty and romantic, the Marketplace is not the book series for you. However, Laura Antoniou managed to write a series that captures your attention, is extremely hot, and makes you think about what sexual slavery actually means. And makes you wonder about the “real Marketplace”. And how to find it. It is basically the Harry Potter of the BDSM world.

Happy reading!

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