I Read Some ARCs, So Here are Some Reviews ft. A Valentine for Christmas, Tread of Angels, Counterfeit Courtship, and Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun

I swear to y’all, I really am reading books. It’s just, I’m doing it a little randomly and also not in any sort of sensible order. So here I am, bringing you reviews for books that released in… November through the end of the month, as one does. Anyway, I want to clarify that I was saving my reviews of A Valentine for Christmas by Reese Ryan and Counterfeit Courtship by Synithia Williams because of Harper Collins being ridiculous, but it turns out the Union is totally chill with us posting reviews of Harlequin and Carina titles because they don’t qualify for the Union. Or something. Anyway, so I’m really stoked to tell you about both of those because they’re both great category romances. And then Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse is a book I still don’t know how to talk about because Roanhorse is so smart and I am so… not on her level. But then I get to tell you all about Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun and I’m really stoked about that because I loved it. Thanks to Netgalley for the eARCs and the audio ARC of Finlay Donovan. So let’s get started!

Covers of A Valentine for Christmas by Reese Ryan, Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse, Counterfeit Courtship by Synithia Williams, and Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano

A Valentine for Christmas
by Reese Ryan

What It’s About: Nothing like a little meet cute on the plane due to turbulence helped along with the guiding hand of fate to bring a couple together. Chandra Valentine is on her way to this small town because he dad asked and Dr. Julian is on his way home to fulfill his duty. The two of them keep being thrown together until they start choosing to be thrown together instead.

What I Loved: I really adore the way Ryan introduces a cast of characters and so quickly gets us attached to them. Additionally, this is a spinoff series of the Bourbon Brothers and it was so cool to see so many familiar faces. I largely appreciated the way the attraction between Chandra and Julian too. It felt like the attraction was just as much based on an emotional intensity as the physical attraction they felt for one another.

What I Didn’t Love: I’m sorry, but a 9 year age gap when the ages are 30 and 39 is just not enough of a big deal for me to believe all of the intense angst that went into it. Chandra was so insecure about it, but I was not really here for it. Throw in one of my least favorite plot surprises and this category dropped a bit in rating for me. Also, why is this called A Valentine for Christmas when there was nothing really Christmas related? Just wondering.

Overall: I enjoyed this one and appreciated the set-up for the books to come! Y’all know I will always read a Reese Ryan category so I’m happy for a new series from her regardless of my feelings on the first installment.

Tread of Angels
by Rebecca Roanhorse

What It’s About: Oh boy. So, Celeste’s sister is accused of murder and Celeste is like, “She absolutely did not do that, my angelic sister.” Only the person Celeste’s sister is accused of murdering is like, a high up person on the other side of the… conflict? There’s a ton of world-building smashed in here that went way over my head, but there’s also a romance that… well. It does something.

What I Loved: The character dynamics are really interesting. I loved seeing how Celeste was so committed to her sister and how that commitment impacted every other relationship in her life. In a contemporary romance, the lesson here would have been people-pleasing is bad and boundaries are good, but in this book, I’m not sure it’s a lesson, so much as it’s just telling a compelling story.

What I Didn’t Love: Honestly, I do not understand the world-building and I’m 99% sure that’s on me. But like, the amount that I grasped of the world-building is that there was a fight between God and Lucifer (this is largely actually me pulling in my Christian upbringing, tbh) and now there are one side of people who are descended from the good angels and then there are half-breeds and finally, the people descended from the bad angels. Is that accurate? I haven’t the slightest. Hence my difficulty really following the story.

Overall: I really think if I was a better fantasy reader, I might have had a better time with this book. But I’m generally here for the characters and the vibes, but this book needed me to actually follow the world too and my brain just couldn’t do it. This got a very much it’s me not the book three stars that I rounded to four on Goodreads because it didn’t feel fair.

Counterfeit Courtship
by Synithia Williams

What It’s About: Tyrone and his brothers have finished filming Season One of their tv show and Tyrone is spending the break trying to make sure they get a Season Two by networking the hell out of the people on the network. He finds himself attending a wedding where he’s seated beside make-up artist, Kiera. The two share a steamy kiss that goes a little viral and the execs are suddenly hesitant about giving them a Season Two because they think Tyrone isn’t being so family-friendly. So obviously, Tyrone blurts out that it’s alright, he and Kiera are together and some intense fake dating commences.

What I Loved: Honestly, basically the whole thing. Kiera has some deep insecurities from when she was growing up and I loved how Williams explores that in such a short space. I especially loved that Kiera has largely worked through it on her own, but it’s still helpful to have Tyrone supporting her and telling her how stunning she is. I really loved the relationships between Tyrone and his brothers and felt like it was a great conclusion.

What I Didn’t Love: It’s not that I didn’t love it so much as I just really wish there was more space in categories sometimes to fully explore the way the brothers all have their own hang ups over the way the other brothers and them interact. I think we worked through each of those in a fairly satisfying way, but I just know what Williams’ can do with more space and I think I would have really loved to see that arc fully explored.

Overall: I loved this book and this series and I highly, highly recommend.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun
by Elle Cosimano

What This Book Is About: This is the third book in the Finlay Donovan series, which is a cozy mystery type situation that has hilarious antics and also a through line of a will they/should they romantic tension situation. I’m obsessed with the series and the truly fantastic characters and am already anxiously awaiting book four.

What I Loved: This book really felt like a return almost to book one (my favorite) in the way that you could tell that Finlay was trying to do the right thing and Vero is trying to get them paid. Lol. But seriously, I loved getting to explore these relationships in this book because it really felt like we went a little deeper. I’m loving the slow reveals of Vero’s past and the slow (too slow, arguably) progression of the romance between Finlay and Nick.

What I Didn’t Love: It ended. Lol. I’m obsessed, okay? OBSESSED. I keep shoving this series down everyone’s throats. I love it SO much.

Overall: This book was perfection and I am so anxious to have it on my shelves. Also, I should mention, I was lucky enough to receive an audio AND digital ARC, which is great, because I love listening to these books. Angela Dawe is a divisive narrator in the romance community, but personally, I think as long as you speed her up to your comfort level and don’t tie yourself to 1x speed, you’ll be fine. I’ve listened to all three books and I don’t see that changing in the future.

Closing Thoughts

What a fantastic group of ARCs, honestly! There were no DNFs, which is so satisfying. I have a bajillion more to read (approximately) and I swear I’ll work on it. Here’s hoping I get fully caught up one day!


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