The Matzah Ballby Jean Meltzer
Setting: New York
Published on September 28, 2021
Format: eARC Source: Netgalley
Oy! to the world
Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade sheâ€™s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.
But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkahâ€™s not magical. Itâ€™s not merry. Itâ€™s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachelâ€™s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemyâ€”Jacob Greenberg.
Though Rachel and Jacob havenâ€™t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkahâ€”and Jacobâ€”in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze.
This book was a delightful story about a Jewish woman who has been hiding her love of Christmas – and her career choices- from her family.
Rachel is the daughter of an influential rabbi. She knows his thoughts on Jewish people who work on Christmas-themed projects. He is not a fan. Her family doesn’t know that she isn’t a freelance writer like she has told them. She’s a very successful romance writer who writes exclusively Christmas stories using a pen name. She’s even had four TV movies made of her books.
When her publisher decides that they don’t want any of the same books from her, they offer her one option for a new contract. She needs to write a Hanukkah book. Her publishers are completely clueless about the holiday even when she tries to explain that it isn’t analogous to Christmas. There is nothing fun about Hanukkah in Rachel’s world.
Rachel also has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She tries hard to balance the expectations of family and friends who don’t always understand what she is able to do and not able to do. She has put a lot of guilt on herself over what she feels are her limitations that let other people down. This comes to a head when the only way to get tickets to The Matzah Ball is to work as a volunteer for the week preceding the event. She doesn’t tell the organizers that she has physical limitations and this doesn’t go well for her.
Jacob is dealing with the death of his mother and with returning to New York for the first time since his parents’ divorce. His investors are demanding Instagram-perfect moments that better be trending immediately to raise excitement for the ball. Nothing is going as planned.
This book does a wonderful job showcasing the world of conservative Jewish people in New York as well as the lives of people who are not as observant as they used to be. Add in realistic chronic illness representation and you have wonderfully realized characters with real depth. I’d recommend this book for anyone who loves warm and fuzzy contemporary romances, even if they aren’t about Christmas.