The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
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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?
What I thought
Thank you Erewhon Books and Netgalley for giving me an ARC copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.
*Note: Please read past the first paragraph. I sum up the points of the story first.
This is a historical fantasy that put me in the mind of Victorian London. In this story, Beatrice is at her first Bargaining Season. It is very obvious that this is the only season that she is going to get and she has no choice but to attract a suitor. The Bargaining Season is only for girls that have magical ability. It has been decided in this world that only men are allowed to move forward in the pursuit of magic and women who have the ability are “sold off” to be able to produce more magical children. Once women marry they are put into collars until their husbands let them out. Which usually only happens after they are no longer able to produce children. This is portrayed as a for their own protection move.
Okay now that I have that boiled down to what sounds like a huge gripe let me tell you that I really enjoyed this story. I loved watching these girls (Beatrice and Ysbeta) take charge of their futures and not letting someone else decide what they are meant for. I love watching strong female characters take charge.
Yes, this story does have some instalove, however, I have to think that Ianthe liked/appreciate that Beatrice did not hold back and pretend to be the perfect debutante with him. When asked she told him what she wanted even though it could have had her collared before her marriage and I think that on some level he loved that part of her.
One character that I could not stand was Beatrice’s father. There was something at the beginning of the story that gave me a weird vibe about him and it just got worse as the story went on. He did not deserve the family that he had. But that is just my opinion.
All in all, I really enjoyed this story and I wouldn’t mind a spinoff to see what Ysbeta has been up to.
My Rating: /5