- The Good: Strong feminist POV, magic, spirit hostings, dances, picnics, and midnight beach frolics
- The Bad: Fast romance, built-in classism
- The Literary: Internal dialogue with a spirit offset with colons and well-woven into external conversations
Entering her first bargaining season, Beatrice Clayborn must find a wealthy husband in order to save her family from destitution. Beatrice wants to help her family, but she longs to pursue magic and become a full-fledged Magus instead. If she marries, she’s be locked in a collar that cuts off magical powers to protect her unborn children. Beatrice summons a spirit to aid her, but the price is her first kiss, which entangles her with the wealthy handsome Ianthe Lavan and his sister Ysbeta, who has secret passions of her own.
The Midnight Bargain is a delightfully fun fantasy romance in an alternate regency-era England. The more Beatrice spends time with the Lavan siblings, the more her plans go awry. She finds an ally in magic, but she’s also falling in love, and her decision only becomes harder and harder. She must save her family, but if she marries, she’ll sacrifice her magic and her dreams. Beatrice is tenacious and spunky, and outspoken on the ways women lack the advantages as men. And paired with the luck spirit Nadi she summons, Beatrice also becomes spontaneous and strong.
Beatrice’s relationship with Ysbeta is more nuanced than her immediate romantic connection with Ianthe, who makes her feel wobbly in the knees when she’s not on her feminist soapbox. But at least Ianthe is considerate and caring and empathetic to Beatrice’s cause without being a pushover. But Ysbeta is a force of nature, and their partnership eventually blossoms into a very deep friendship.
With attendants, maids, and cooks following at our heroes footsteps, the equality issue does seem to fall a bit flat, but if you make allowances for the unmentioned classism, this light-hearted fantasy is nicely satisfying.
Highly recommended as a magical romantic escape! Thanks to Netgalley and Erewhon Books for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!