The Matzah Ball

by Jean Meltzer
First sentence: “She just needed one more.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the romance setion of the bookstore.

Rachel is the daughter of a well-regarded rabbi, but she has a secret: she is a famous author (under a pseudonym, of course) of Christmas romance books. Jacob is trying to find his way back to Judaism after his mother’s death and is throwing the biggest party of the Season (on the eighth night of Hanukkah, no less). They knew each other, one summer at Jewish day camp, and had a brief fling (they were 12), but never kept in touch. But when they are thrown into each other’s orbit — Rachel’s publisher is demanding Hanukkah romance, and Jacob invites her parents to the Matzah Ball (yes, that is what the party is called). Sparks fly, of course.

On the one hand: I picked up this book because the title made me laugh. It hit all the right “Hallmark movie” moments; no one reads romances expecting them to be anything but predictable. There was even the added bonus of a disabled main character; she has chronic fatigue, which defies much of her life.

But. I didn’t buy that Rachel and Jacob had been holing on to 1) first love at age 12 and 2) a grudge because they had a misunderstanding at age 12. That’s silly and pushed the edge of suspension of disbelief. Also, there’s a throw-away line that’s anti-Palestinian, which I have to confess I didn’t realize was there until I read reviews after I finished. People were also concerned that the author used language around coming out as LGBT when describing Rachel’s “shameful” obsession with Christmas. I have to admit that I found her obsession with keeping it secret weird, but then again: I’m not Jewish.

IN the end, it was fun and cute, but nothing earth-shattering.

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