Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.
In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.
The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?
Hi and welcome to my review of The Midnight Bargain!
I recently read The Beautiful Ones and before I started, I felt some trepidation because the whole novel of manners meets fantasy thing was a bit of a leap into the unknown for me. I ended up loving it and because of that reading experience, I felt very confident about The Midnight Bargain. To my mind it’s still not a combination that makes a whole lot of sense in theory, but it does work in practice! Regency fantasy? Hell yes, consider me a fan!
In the world C.L. Polk created here, magic is meant for men, not women, at least not young women. Not every person has magic, but of those who do, it’s only the men and the crones who are allowed to study magic, to become magi. Young women either remain unmarried and study magic in secret or receive a collar around the neck when they get married, a collar to which their husbands hold the key. See why it reminded me of Vox? No, these collars don’t give off electric shocks when sorceresses do magic. It prevents them from doing magic at all. This story element gives The Midnight Bargain that feminist feel that The Once and Future Witches has, women, sorceresses, united not only in magic, but also in a certain degree of rebellion against oppression, especially in the upper echelons of society where girls who come of age are expected to reel in a wealthy husband, accept the collar, and produce children.
Beatrice has magic, she has been looking for hidden grimoires around town, studying them, becoming more prolific and she’s always been convinced that she wouldn’t marry, that she’d become a mage in secret and help her father expand his riches in this way. When she meets the Lavan siblings, all her well laid-out plans get scuppered. Ysbeta cheats her out of a grimoire she was about to buy and Ysbeta’s brother, Ianthe, well, he’s something else. Beatrice didn’t expect to find a friend and like-minded soul in Ysbeta, and she sure as hell didn’t expect to fall for Ianthe.
The Midnight Bargain was my first C.L. Polk novel but it won’t be my last. I just loved her writing and her world-building. I was sucked into the story right away, intrigued from the get-go and the mix of costume drama and fantasy and feminism as well as a cast of plotting and charming protagonists and vile antagonists kept me entertained throughout.
The Midnight Bargain is out now in digital formats, paperback and audio.
Huge thanks to Orbit for the gorgeous finished paperback! All opinions are still my own.