The Midnight Bargain follows Beatrice Clayborn, a sorceress on the threshold of selecting a husband. Once married, Beatrice will have to don a collar that suppresses her magical abilities in an effort to protect her future children from becoming possessed by a spirit while in utero. Not only does Beatrice not want to be married, the thought of losing her abilities is a fate worse than death. Facing mounting pressure from both society and her own family – can Beatrice alter her destiny or will she be forced into a life of disappointment?
This is a tough one to review. I will say that if not for the book making the 2021 Canada Reads shortlist, I would never have picked it up. That’s both the blessing and the curse of Canada Reads! Sometimes I get pleasantly surprised by books that exist outside my comfort zone and other times, not so much. Luckily for me, it’s the former that seems to happen more often than the latter.
Fantasy, regency-era and romance are three genres that are decidedly not within my wheelhouse. So, what do I do when I’m faced with a book that takes all three and rolls them into one book? Push through, I guess. I tried to approach this one with an open mind, but its near four-hundred-page count felt daunting to say the least. At about halfway through the book, I started to really feel its length as it just seemed to go on and on with certain scenes seeming like they were repeating over and over again.
That said, I will say that I thought the premise was very interesting. The way in which C.L. Polk described the effects of the collar on Beatrice was particularly heartbreaking and haunting. I also enjoyed the way in which Beatrice interacted with a spirit when it entered into her body as it reminded me of Wesley Chu’s Tao trilogy, one of my favorite series of novels. The back and forth between Beatrice and her spirit – Nadi – produced some funny moments.
I don’t believe I’m even the best person to accurately review this book because I couldn’t honestly tell you what this did right or wrong within the fantasy and romance genre. I love reading more than most anything and this one felt like a chore or errand I had to run. Not exactly the most ringing endorsement, I’m sure.