Is it too early for holiday romances? I hope not, because I need this mental seratonin treat, and The Matzah Ball by Jen Meltzer is just what the doctor ordered. It’s basically a Jewish Hallmark Christmas movie, but full of Hanukkah jokes, matzah ball costumes, Jewish parents, rekindled romance, misunderstandings, and joy and I was so here for it.
Rachel is kind of..famously Jewish. Her father is a big-time rabbi in Long Island, her mom’s a doctor, and she was raised on Jewish Day Schools and Jewish Summer Camp, including the camp where she had her first kiss with Jacob and was totally humiliated when everyone saw. Cut to like…19 years later. Rachel is a chronically ill romance novelist only…she writes Christmas romances. And no one knows. It’s like her big hidden secret, but when her editor suddenly wants a Hanukkah novel this year, she has to figure out how to get into the Hanukkah mood. Enter: The Matzah Ball Max–a huge party on the last night of Hanukkah. That’s rom-com worthy, right? Well…yes, but then there’s the event’s organizer: Jacob. Suddenly, they are back in each other’s lives, to varying degrees of excitement and resentment, and when Rachel has to volunteer at the event to get a ticket, Jacob and her quickly get off on the wrong foot. Keyword: Matzah ball costume. Can these former childhood sweethearts find the sweetness again, or will the stench of the past and the cloud of secrets keep them from their happily ever after?
Well…this is a romance novel, so you know they get that HEA, but it’s a fun ride to get there! Having the eight nights of Hanukkah as a conceit worked SUPER well for this. Love a good time constraint, and this made sense. Both characters–Jacob and Rachel–were enjoyable to see their POV. Plus, I got to learn a lot about ME/CFS, Rachel’s chronic illness, which the author also lives with. I also loved the Jewish elements of this–learning about new things, but didn’t feel like I “missed” anything not being Jewish myself. I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate some of the Hebrew or traditions, but I was still able to enjoy the book fully!
A 5 star read for me, and I can’t wait to recommend this to people looking for more #ownvoices romances, holiday romances, and non-Christmas romances.
The Matzah Ball is on sale wherever books are sold September 28, 2021.