Published by Erewhon on October 13th 2020
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?
I read The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk as part of the Kobo Plus program. It’s nice to see traditionally published books also being included in the program, and I really wanted to read this one. Fantasy romance stories with regency elements are my jam! (Have I mentioned Stephanie Burgis lately? She writes more of these kinds of books.)
Right for the start, Polk pulls into a magical world where women aren’t supposed to practice magic. But our main character Beatrice is good at it and wants to keep practising. She’s ready to sacrifice everything to fulfil her wish. But of course, people get in the way. Ysbeta, another woman who wishes to practice magic, and her brother, Ianthe, a man looking for a wife. Beatrice’s father wants nothing more than Beatrice to find a husband this season because of their monetary problems, and they wouldn’t be able to finance another season for her or her sister.
Beatrice is torn between her magic and her duty to her family. Then Ianthe because another factor in her life and she’s all the more confused. The book focuses on Beatrice’s growth throughout the season, but the arcs for Ysbeta and Ianthe are strong too. While the story itself might be a tad predictable, it’s the characters and the writing that make this book worth reading.
It was a comfort read for me, like a warm blanket I needed when the pain was taking over my life. And as such, I’ll give this book five stars. Sometimes reading the right book at the right time is all you need. And I was glad I could read this when I did. It’s the first book I’ve read by C. L. Polk and it made me want more immediately. I’m currently reading Witchmark so you can expect a review soon.