The Midnight Bargain
By C.L. Polk
Reading The Midnight Bargain could be a very timely literary venture if you’ve recently devoured Netflix’s popular adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton. World Fantasy Award winner C.L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain grounds itself within a fictional country of Chasland, heavily influenced by the time period of Regency England. Similar to the marriage market of Bridgerton’s debutants, Chasland’s ingénue’s in the Chapter House takes center stage in this story. What makes an ingénue worthy of a fine gentleman’s hand? Why, the normal things – connections, family, money, and her magic of course. The Midnight Bargain’s heroine is Beatrice Clayborn, eldest daughter to a father whose fortunes have never quite reached their potential. After a disastrous investment, Beatrice’s father knows a smart match for his daughter could turn the tide for their family. While Beatrice might not come with connections and fortune, she is blessed with a desirable abundance of magic.
As fairytales often remind us, magic comes at a cost. For the women of Chasland, that statement could not be more accurate. New brides find their lives forever altered when husbands lock the mandated warding collar around their neck, dampening their perception of the world and shutting off their ability to perform magic. Beatrice is coming apart at the seams, being pulled between true love, her right to perform a gift she was born with, and the responsibility to save her family’s fortune. The ladies of Chasland can’t catch a break. Gender denies them proper training and education, society demands they give up their right to use magic at a marriageable age, and there seems to be nothing they can do about it but submit. Beatrice Clayborn never began the novel with an intention of bringing society to its knees. She began this story, like most readers, on the hunt for a book that might change her life. With the help of a few friends and a luck spirit named Nadi, she finds the power to shake off her oppressors and master the spells she so desperately wants to use.
While all the parallels to Regency England’s confining arranged marriages got me interested, what really hooked me was Polk’s heroine being courageous enough to sacrifice all for the betterment and equality of her sex. The Midnight Bargain is a dash of romance, mixed with the complexities of female friendship and a healthy dose of bringing down the damn patriarchy. If you’re looking for an immersive world with an interesting magic system that feels historical, you can’t go wrong with The Midnight Bargain.
If you liked The Midnight Bargain, Ashley also recommends:
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab