The Midnight Bargain (Paperback)
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November 2020 Indie Next List
“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.”
— Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Winter 2022 Reading Group Indie Next List
“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.”
— Amy McClelland, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ
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?
★“Polk’s (Witchmark) 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
“Smart, sexy, and sincere, The Midnight Bargain is an alter-Regency romance with fantastical magic and very real teeth.” —Alix E. Harrow, 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, 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 Swords & Fire trilogy
“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, 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, 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