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Review: INTO THE BARGAIN by Colleen Cowley



A young lady with no income—and shortly no home—must be in want of a wizard husband. Pen Novak has two weeks to find someone to marry. Otherwise, she’ll be spirited off to live with her awful uncle. Fortunately, her town’s omnimancer is on the market, and he plans to choose someone at a ball in thirteen days. Unfortunately, he’s not the type to appreciate cleverness, persistence or anything else Pen has to offer. Enter the wizard’s intriguing assistant, who makes her a magical brew that could virtually guarantee her selection, in exchange for a favor. Which he won’t specify. Nor will he tell her his name. Of course, she shouldn’t accept. Especially as she starts to notice his fine eyes and tempting lips. But with all the job openings in town meant for men only, what other choice does a young lady—or, rather, a not quite so young lady—really have? Into the Bargain is a fairy-tale-inspired fantasy romance set in the Clandestine Magic world, shortly before the events of the trilogy that begins with SUBVERSIVE. This quick read (21,000 word) novella is a standalone story with an HEA, perfect for fans of Gaslamp fantasy, feminist awakenings and slow-burn romance with some steam. 

GUEST REVIEW by Sophia Rose

Opening Lines:

The wrong man answered the door. Pen put on her well-worn polite smile, hoping it concealed her anxiety. “Hello. I have an appointment to see the omnimancer.” 

"The Clandestine Magic" series was one I thoroughly enjoyed when I read and then later, listened to the trilogy.  I loved discovering Into the Bargain is set in that world and gives a strong nod to several fairy tales as the story spins out.


Into the Bargain has a Gaslamp fantasy tone that is set in an alternate twenty-first century when women are less than second class citizens and magic users are the apex strata of the world. I appreciated that the novella developed this background and setting while launching into a story that captivates interest from the opening page with a woman feeling a strong sense of urgency when meeting the omnimancer’s assistant who is mysterious and more than he seems.


For those familiar with the "Clandestine Magic" world, there is a crossover moment when familiar characters are recognized in one scene, but those new to author Colleen Cowley’s writing will have no trouble slipping into Pen’s story. Pen's choices are not easy, and she did the best she could. I was rooting for her all the way. In the end, I was glad to revisit the series, meet a strong yet surprising heroine, and immerse myself in Cowley's poignant, if subtle, romance.

Into the Bargain: A Clandestine Magic Fairy Tale by Colleen Cowley

Fantasy Romance

Publisher: Slender Sky Books

Published:  1.31.24

Pages: 86

Rating: 4.5 stars

woman seated with back to camera, wearing cowboy hat
Author, Colleen Cowley


1. “Colleen Cowley” is not my normal, everyday name. It is a family name of sorts, though.

2. In my teens, I wrote a really awful high fantasy with a portal and many other clichés. And then I took a novel-writing break that I thought would be permanent.

3. As much as I love The Hobbit, my favorite sort of fantasy is set in our world. There’s such possibility in the idea that something magical could be happening right under your nose.

4. I am a sucker for stories with billowing coats, banter, and wizards.

5. All forests, I suspect, are at least a little bit magic.

6. Some of my books are available only to my lovely newsletter subscribers.


Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, piano-playing, and gardening. Road trips and campouts, museums and monuments, restaurants and theaters are her jam. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, baseball, cats, Scooby Doo, and chocolate.

As a lifelong reader, it was inevitable that Sophia would discover book blogs and the joy of blog reviewing. In 2012, she submitted her first book review and is currently an associate reviewer. Sophia is a prolific reader and audiobook listener which allows her to experience many wonderful books, authors, and narrators. Few genres are outside her reading tastes, but her true love is fiction particularly history, mystery, sci-fi, and romance. Sorry, no horror...or she will run like Shaggy and Scooby.

Connect with Sophia via FACEBOOK GOODREADS TWITTER  




Thanks, Sophia Rose, for this review, and thanks to Christina for hosting it. No surprise to either of you, but I am a big fan of Cowley's and was very excited for another chance to visit her Clandestine world! Hope many others get a chance to meet these characters, as well.

Replying to

Yeah, I hope others find her Clandestine series, too, because its fabulous. This little standalone reminded me why I loved it. :)

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