Dec 15 2014 1:30pm

A Great Miracle: Jewish Heroes and Heroines in Contemporary Romance

December is here! The nights are getting longer, the temperature colder, and Hanukkah is fast approaching. Although there are plenty of traditional options to keep folks warm and happy during those eight nights—like candles, songs, and sufganiyot—there’s also the cozy feeling of curling up on the couch to read a good romance book by the light of the shamash.

As part of this year’s celebration, I went looking for some recent contemporary romances featuring Jewish heroes or heroines and was recommended some fabulous new-to-me authors, Emma Barry and Allison Parr. Both authors write modern, Jewish characters whose personal identities and social lives are, in some part, influenced by their faith.

In Barry’s Private Politics (The Easy Part series), the hero, Liam Nussbaum, identifies as culturally Jewish, but in his thoughts, his conversations with his mother, and later on in his relationship with WASP Alyse Philips, his cultural identity is overtly, specifically discussed in the book, and is a part of the characterization and plot as much as many of the other events that happen in the story. Political blogger Liam is a smart-but-schlubby guy whom nonprofit director Alyse hadn’t really considered before an investigation throws them together. The story is very engaging—suspenseful at times but primarily a romance about confidence, goals, and love. It’s the perfect book for holding in one hand to read while the other forks bites of latkes into your mouth.

Allison Parr writes excellent New Adult romance. The New Adult angst in her books doesn’t feel overblown; it feels legitimate and legitimately young, and the mostly positive interaction between all characters is really refreshing. And it just so happens that two of the three books in her New York Leopards series feature at least one Jewish main character. In the first book, Rush Me, Jewish tradition—Friday night dinner—is what sets up Rachael Hamilton, the half-Jewish heroine, to spend more time with Ryan Carter, the golden boy Catholic hero. Like Barry, Parr doesn’t beat us over the head with talk about religion. It’s simply a part of Rachael’s upbringing, and something that bring the heroine and hero together. In Imaginary Lines, the third book of the series, both the hero, Abraham Krasner, and the heroine, Tamar Rosenfeld, are Jewish. In fact, they met at Abe’s bar mitzvah. But again, there’s no neon sign screaming, “They’re Jewish! This is a big deal!” Because it’s not, at least to the characters in Parr’s stories.

I love seeing Jewish characters like these in romance novels, since the way that Judaism is incorporated into their lives and the lives of those they love is similar to my own experience. These are the books that make you pretend to be too sick to go to Hebrew school, so that you can stay in bed and read, instead. They’re the books that make you hungry for challah and knedelech because those foods are wrapped up in wonderful memories. They’re the books that show us that we have more in common than not, and that love across faiths, between faiths, is deep…and definitely sexy.

But in the world of mainstream contemporary romance, Jewish heroes and heroines are a bit difficult to come by, which make it all the more exciting and fun to see Jewish characters in Barry’s and Parr’s books. So this Hanukkah, treat yourself—pick up a romance with a hot Jewish hero or a sexy Jewish heroine and watch the sparks ignite!

Do you have any recommendations of great recent romances featuring Jewish lead characters?


To learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

Private Politics by Emma Barry  
Rush Me by Allison Parr  
Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr  




Audra North fell in love with romance at age thirteen and spent the next twenty years reading as many romance novels as she could. She is a contemporary romance author of seven contemporary romances, including the Stanton Family Series from Entangled Publishing. Audra also occasionally dabbles in cyberpunk erotica. She is the organizer and publisher of the Love in the Rain anthologies to benefit RAINN and a regularly contributing member of the Wonkomance blog. She is a member of the New England Chapter of RWA.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. TheresaRomain
Hi, Audra--thanks for the post! I know you're focusing on contemporary romance here, but Rose Lerner's next historical (TRUE PRETENSES, out in a few weeks) has a Jewish hero. It's just wonderful.
Darlene Marshall
2. DarleneMarshall
Thanks for the recommendations! I haven't read anything that I'd recommend in the romance genre, but I'm still a huge fan of Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mysteries. I like the characters and I enjoy it because their religion, and the observance of it, is such a huge part of their lives.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!
3. Audra North
Theresa, thanks for reminding me of Rose Lerner's historical! I am really looking forward to reading it!
4. Audra North
Darlene, I've never read Kellerman's books but now they're going on my TBR list! :) Great to get recs.

Happy Hanukkah to you, too!
Maggie Boyd
5. maggieboyd66
I'm so glad you wrote this post. I've been looking for some good reads with Jewish characters and have had a really tough time finding any. These are going on my TBR.

Most of the books that I've read with Jewish characters have heroes or heroines that don't practice their religion, such as Jane Heller's books Sis Boom Bah, Name Dropping and Lucky Stars. They are funny and sweet novels with an edgy sense of humor.

A more recent novel is Love with Noodles by Harry I Freund. It reads like a romance written by a sixty year old widower, which it absolutely is. It was fascinating though to read about someone who felt a strong sense of culture even if he didn't feel a strong sense of faith.
Darlene Marshall
6. DarleneMarshall
Audra, I recommend starting with the first Kellerman, The Ritual Bath. The characters grow and develop over the books, in real time, so reading them in order helps to get you immersed in their lives.
7. goddessani
There are some good M/M books revolving around Chanukkah. Two I really enjoyed are Eight Nights and Daybreak by Keira Andrews. The main character in each is Jewish who has a non-Jewish boyfriend that he introduces to the faith. Very sweet. Daybreak is a continuation of the characters after the holiday.

I appreciate these titles and will definitely be checking them all out.
Stacey Wahrman
8. staceyw
I really liked Walk with Me (and Cardeno C.'s other books, but especially that one). M/M, it's a slow buildup to a romance between a young rabbi and his mentor's son. Some truly hilarious moments. Thanks for all the suggestions!
9. rubymydear
Alyssa Cole's story from the upcoming The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology features a Jewish boxer. I'm pretty excited to read all the stories in this book!
10. willaful
There's a sweet Jewish couple during World War 2 in "Eight Tiny Flames" by Christa McHugh, which is in the A Very Scandalous Holiday anthology.

Recent RITA finalist The Bells of Time Square by Amy Lane is another World War 2 story with a Jewish hero. Wonderful tearjerker.

There's several Jewish characters in the YA collection My True Love Gave to Me, including one who literally plays Santa -- complete with housebreak -- to help out his boyfriend.

And of course True Pretenses. I have a First Look of it here on the site.
11. teri Z
Hostile Makeover by Wendy Wax is a great contemporary romance (and the first and only one I found with a Jewish male lead). The plot is a Jewish twenty-something female who is only (she thinks) attracted to alpha males and since she's believes there are no Jewish alpha males, her dating life is unfulfilling... It was a sweet funny read, semi-chick-lit. It didn't gloss over the fact that the main characters were Jewish, nor end with her accepting a Christian mate. The story includes Shabbat dinner, candle lighting and even a bris! It's too bad this was the only romance (non-historical) that I found that included non only Jewish events, both partners Jewish but also a hot non-nebbish Jew! (Which irl I can only think of one, Mark Cuban!)
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