The Midnight Bargain
I usually describe this as a regency romance mixed into a fantasy feminist manifesto. It has the florious fun of the gowns and parties, but also has demonic bargains and the knowledge that a kiss at midnight ould cause you to lose your magic forever. C. L. Polk isn't shy about mixing the hard questions into this gorgeous and exciting twist on the classic Cinderella story.
If you had to decide between your magical ability and love, which would you chose? Of course, it’s not that simple when your marriage will save your family from bankruptcy, but also take away more freedoms than you know. Sorcery, historical romance, feminism, female friendships, and reproductive rights — this enjoyable novel had everything I needed. Readers of Gail Carriger and Naomi Novik will gobble this up.
This victorian-esque fantasy is like Bridgerton with witches. An easy escape into a different life, but have no fear, there is no cliffhanger at the end of this book.
2021 World Fantasy Award Finalist for Best Novel | 2021 Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel | 2021 FIYAHCON Ignyte Award Finalist for Best Novel | 2021 Canada Reads Finalist | NPR Best Books of 2020 | November 2020 Indie Next Pick | Apple Books: Best Books of October
“A sleek, beautiful book with a quietly serious heart.” —The New York Times
From the bestselling, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Witchmark comes a sweeping, romantic new fantasy set in a world reminiscent of Regency England, where women’s magic is taken from them when they marry. A sorceress must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family.
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?
Praise for The Midnight Bargain
★“The author’s penetrating social critique and deeply felt depiction of one woman’s struggle for self-determination are balanced by her charming take on classic Regency romance. . . . An expertly concocted mélange of sweet romance and sharp social commentary.” —Kirkus, starred review
★“Polk’s foray into a society of magic and politics places the woman in the secondary role, but neither Beatrice nor Ysbeta will stay in place. Fans of romantic fantasy set in a multicultural world will find this a fascinating read.” —Library Journal, starred review
★“Polk expertly balances propulsive pacing, a rich multicultural world, and a vivid and subversive cast of characters. Readers will be swept away by this powerful and passionate fantasy.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A sleek, beautiful book with a quietly serious heart.” —Amal El-Mohtar in The New York Times
“The Midnight Bargain is a smart, compassionate book about the costs of making deals, who pays them and who profits . . . A sharp examination of birth control and parental leave delivered in gorgeous, velvety prose, this was an absolute pleasure to read.” —NPR, “Best Books of 2020”
“The Midnight Bargain is a marvel of fantasy world-building, full of fascinating details and complex rules that govern the rituals of sorcery and marriage.”—Apple Books Review, “Best Books of October 2020”
“This novel is a fast-paced, delightful read full of plot twists, romantic angst, and social justice themes.” —BuzzFeed News
“Smart, sexy, and sincere, The Midnight Bargain is an alter-Regency romance with fantastical magic and very real teeth.” —Alix E. Harrow, bestselling author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
“From page one, C. L. Polk displays an elegant mastery of form. The Midnight Bargain is by turns charming and wrenching.” —Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award-winning author of The Calculating Stars
“A rich banquet of a novel with vivid details, smart dialogue, and a cleverly unfolding examination of what it means to be denied the destiny you know you are meant for—and how to fight for change.” —Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun
“The Midnight Bargain is a delicious mix of forbidden magic and social ritual, with dangerous secrets, impossible choices, coded grimoires, and stolen kisses dressed up in a sensory feast of fancy carriages and corset stays.” —Melissa Caruso, author of The Tethered Mage
“A lush, intensely romantic and intensely political book about love, friendship, freedom and magic.” —Aliette de Bodard, author of Fireheart Tiger
“An absolute dream—at once sparkling and romantic, delightfully magical, and deeply thought-provoking.” —H. G. Parry, author of The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep
“I was utterly charmed. . . . It's the perfect blend of fantasy and romance.” —Kat Howard, award-winning author of An Unkindness of Magicians
“A sparkling, incisive, and razor-sharp fantasy of manners. A must read for anyone who loves stories where romance and fantasy meet.” —Tasha Suri, award-winning author of The Jasmine Throne
“A subversive tale of magic and manners. I stayed up all night to finish this one.” —Ellen Klages, author of The Green Glass Sea