Special thanks to NetGalley and Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads: Impassioned (The Phoenix Club #2)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Publish Date: 24 August 2021
Genre: Historical Regency Romance
In nearly two years of marriage, Sabrina Westbrook has barely spoken to her husband and shared a bed even less. Both activities would require they actually live together. As it is, the Earl of Aldington attends to his seat in the House of Commons, while she and her crippling social anxiety tend to his country house and gardens.
Their arrangement is quite civilized, and their letters are painfully polite. Their twice-yearly visits are…awkward. But, if Sabrina can muster the necessary courage, all of that is about to change. Starting tonight.
Heir to a dukedom, Constantine Westbrook knows his duty: to country, to family, and to the shy, retiring wife whose beauty stole his breath the moment they met. Whose arousing, enticing body he’s never seen in the light of day. Or any light at all.
However, there’s something different about the woman who shows up in London unannounced. For the first time in their marriage, Sabrina has a request. No, a demand. But wanting and having are two different things. And to give Sabrina her heart’s desire, they’ll both need a few lessons in love…
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Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: Despite this book relying on tropes I’m not overly fond of in romance (miscommunication and deception), I found myself liking the characters enough that I wanted to get to their HEA. I enjoyed seeing Sabrina and Constantine deal with their insecurities and issues that stemmed from their upbringing and troubled family relationships. I loved seeing them come out of their shells, stand up to their bullies and find confidence to pursue their wants outside of society’s expectations. The sexual tension between these two was also surprisingly steamy and it was built up in a nice slow burn fashion, complete with swoon-worthy courting, too!
It’s been a while since I read a Darcy Burke romance but it was nice to come back to her regency romance world. I enjoy her writing and the era comes alive through her descriptions and the words/phrases from this period. It feels authentic, although I can’t really comment so much on the accuracy of it, just that it feels realistic to me.
This one had a bit of a rough start and our H/H took a while to understand the real problem between them and their arranged marriage (hint: it wasn’t sex). This does lean heavily on the miscommunication trope, plus there’s also a fair bit of deception that lasts until the conflict at the end, so if these are two things you don’t like in romance, this book might not be for you. While I normally also don’t like these tropes, and they did frustrate me when I was reading, I liked both characters enough to want to continue and see them get their HEA.
Sabrina and Constantine each have their own issues to overcome that stem from their upbringing and troubled family relationships. Sabrina suffers from extreme social anxiety and that isn’t helped by her horrible parents who belittle and demean her and treat her anxiety as a joke, which causes her to retreat into herself and become a ‘wallflower‘. Constantine has been raised to be the perfectly rational, unfeeling and coldhearted Duke by his father who is more of a domineering dictator rather than a parent, and who expects his favourite son to be just like him. These personal issues have led to misunderstandings and constant miscommunication between our H/H, but both want desperately to change that and as they break down the walls in their marriage, they also learn to stand up for what they want. I enjoyed seeing them break out of their shells, find their voices and finally stand up to their bullies, though I wish we did get more details specifically about how Sabrina overcame her anxiety. It felt overly simplistic as if she decided to get over it and that was that; however, it wasn’t a “magic cure” whereby the end she didn’t feel anxiety at all because she continued to suffer from her nerves, she just got better at managing it.
There’s also a delicious tension that builds up between these two. What starts out as Sabrina boldly demanding her marital rights to get with a child, turns into a tentative and swoon-worthy courting between husband and wife, and it’s not only very sweet but also delightfully steamy—the sexual tension developed so nicely and it’s well worth the slow(ish) burn when they finally give in to their desires and get together! That said, I wish it didn’t take them so long to realise that lies and miscommunication were what made their relationship so awful in the first place and that the deception they participated in to get to their marriage on more stable ground didn’t aid in that. But you can say the journey to get there was definitely sexy and fun! 😉
Overall, despite the use of tropes I’m not very fond of, I liked our H/H and I’m glad I read this book! I’m definitely excited for the next book in the Phoenix Club series, but I’ll also go back and read the first one, too.
Have you read Impassioned or is it on your TBR?