ARC Review: Romancing the Heiress by Darcy Burke

Special thanks to Zealous Quill Press for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Romancing the Heiress (Lords in Love #3)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Publication Date: 04 April 2023
Genre: Historical Romance

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)


Thanks to his profligate father, Phineas Radford is in dire straits. His estate verges on bankruptcy, and he doesn’t have the funds to maintain his family’s botanical gardens–an intrinsic part of Marrywell’s annual May Day Matchmaking Festival. He prays no one learns of his secret desperation or there will be a panic about the future of the festival, which everyone relies on to fill their own coffers. The only way to save his estate and the town is to find an heiress to wed before time runs out.

After five years away, Leah Webster returns home as the companion to a wealthy young Society lady who is in search of a husband. Her employer quickly captures the attention of Leah’s oldest friend…and longtime secret tendre. Leah is determined to prevent the terrible mismatch between the provincial Phin and the High Society jewel until she discovers Phin’s noble reasons for the courtship. Though her own heart will surely break, Leah hatches an imprudent plan to save her town and the man she still loves.


Child abuse (recounted-emotional, verbal, physical), death of parent (recounted), murder (recounted), gambling debts, on-page sex, gaslighting

TL;DR: I’ve enjoyed quite a few of Darcy Burke’s books, most recently her Phoenix Club series. so I was looking forward to trying one of her stories from a different series. Sadly, I didn’t end up enjoying this at all. My biggest issue is that I didn’t feel the chemistry between Phin and Leah, and I found that there was too much “telling” and not nearly enough “showing”, which left the characters and romance feeling shallow. That said, I know I’m very much in the minority with my feelings if the other reviews and ratings are anything to go by, so I have no doubt that others could end up loving this more than I did!

I was intrigued by both Leah and Phin’s characters as they’re both good people who want to do right by others. For Leah, that means putting up with a passive-aggressive employer until her charge becomes betrothed and for Phin, that means keeping the bleak reality of the state of the botanical gardens hidden from everyone in the village. Leah wasn’t a difficult FMC to root for. After suffering horrible abuses by her mother at home, she left to become a companion to an elderly woman who was more like a mother to her than the one she grew up with. She’s sharp and has an admirable ability to put up with ridiculous peoples’ nonsense and keep her sanity. She has always harboured feelings for Phin, her childhood best friend, and even all these years later she still feels the same and hopes maybe, since he’s unmarried, something can happen between them. I wanted her to have a bit more pride when it came to Phin!

Phin is a horticulturist who finds it easier to manage plants than to manage his family estate, particularly the botanical gardens, which has steadily fallen into disrepair since his father died and emptied the coffers with his debts several years ago. I admired Phin’s attempts to keep his grandfather’s dreams alive but sadly, I didn’t connect with him at all. Both characters came across as fairly young (even though they were in their mid-20s), and his indecisiveness and desire to “have his cake and eat it too” was irritating. I didn’t believe that he suddenly “rediscovered” feelings for Leah after remembering that they shared a kiss 20 years ago(!), and while I get his desperation to marry for money to save the garden, the suddenness with which he goes from preparing to propose to one woman to then professing love and asking for Leah’s hand in marriage the next was a bit too unrealistic for me to suspend my disbelief. There is one on-page sex scene later on in the book and to be honest, I found it awkward and thought it read like a short sex ed scene instead of something that was sexy.

Ultimately, there’s a lot that happens on these pages and I felt maybe it was a case of too much all at once that made everything feel a little too shallow. This goes beyond the romance and can be said for the “conflict” between Leah and her employer and her mother as well. I guessed what the issue would be from the beginning but the total lack of tension didn’t do anything to help either because when everything was revealed it just felt a little anticlimactic. Overall, I’m sad that this wasn’t the book for me but I do think that others who enjoy a light, historical romance with earnest characters and a bit of steam may enjoy it more!

Have you read Romancing the Heiress or is it on your TBR?

10 thoughts on “ARC Review: Romancing the Heiress by Darcy Burke

  1. Nice review, Dini. I liked the idea of a horticulturalist, but too bad the chemistry didn’t work for you. It is hard when you have enjoyed other books by the author, but this one didn’t measure up. Moving on, Dini.


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