I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen
Published by Avon Impulse on December 1st 2015
Genres: Anthology, Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound
ADD TO GOODREADS:
This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.
It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?
Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.
When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman's apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.
All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed.
This time of year there is no shortage of Christmas stories published that help spread holiday cheer. It’s such a rare treat to find an anthology like this, focusing on the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. The lighting of the candles of the menorah for eights represents faith, perseverance and belief in miracles. Each of this ideas is celebrated in the four short stories by Megan Hart, Jennifer Gracen, KK Hendin and Stacey Agdern.
There are few Jewish heroes or heroines in romantic fiction, and certainly there are not many stories where the the faith is so throughly represented. As with many religions, there are different sects within Judaism and the variety is depicted in this collection allowing for readers to gain broader understanding of the traditions surrounding the faith and Chanukah. With the different levels of religious observance comes variations in food, language and social interaction. There’s discussion of kosher eating practices, a smattering of Yiddish and, in one story in particular, quite a bit of Hebrew. There’s also a big difference in the levels of physical intimacy described and experienced by the characters – one story is rather explicit while in another the couple’s strict religious practices prevent them from even hugging. This disparity could be a little jarring and the collection may have been better served with more cohesion tying the tales together.
Megan Hart’s story, Miracle, tells the lovely tale of a shy young man struggling to adapt to a more secular life having left his strict Orthodox community. As Ben questions the stringent tenets of his upbringing he begins a friendship with his neighbor Amanda. Their common faith and natural chemistry lay the foundation for Ben to find his own way as they turn from friends to much more, giving Amanda and Ben a solid chance for a happy future together.
A Dose of Gelt by Jennifer Gracen features a young couple I could easily meet at my Synagogue. The characterizations and dialogue of Evan and Shari are so natural and honest. This is a young couple who are in a committed relationship, in love and enjoying their time together. Unfortunately Evan’s overbearing family cause him to want to step back and reevaluate what he wants for his future. After he completely bungles the entire conversation with Shari, he spends the rest of the nights of Chanukah wooing her back. A very romantic and realistic warning of the dangers of thinking too hard and not trusting your heart.
Molly, the heroine of Stacey Ogden’s A Home for Chanukah, comes across as a bit of a flibbertigibbet. Her impulsive and emotional nature are in contrast with her neighbor and fledging love interest, Jon a laid back music executive who travels the country scouting contemporary Jewish music talent. Planning a holiday party for their apartment building brings the two young people into close contact and they soon give into their obvious attraction for one another. A more detailed backstory for the two main characters might have aided in making a deeper connection to them for the reader. Molly’s grief and emotional reaction on their first date seemed incongruent with her usually bubbly personality. Ben’s almost cruel reaction to Molly’s meddling came out of the blue for the chill guy. Eventually their common ideals and faith led them to understanding and hopeful for a life together.
All I Got, by KK Hendrin, follows the romantic life of nineteen year old Tamar as she spends a month visiting friends and sites in Israel. She soon meets a young chayal (which I inferred from the context meant soldier) whom she enjoys and instant connection with. As her time in Israel passes Tamar and Avi spend more time together, growing closer. These two characters follow strict religious practices so there is no physical touching or even overt flirting. I felt like I jumped into the middle of this story without any real frame of reference for Tamar’s life, dreams, aspirations. Her friends were mentioned and appeared without enough context for me to connect emotionally to the story. I felt the same disconnect with her love story with Avi, it felt more like a tale of how two people became friends not necessarily future mates. Part of the problem for me might have been my lack of knowledge of life in Israel and Hebrew; The mini-quotes at the beginning of various sections helped some. All in all, this is a sweet, chaste story about never knowing where love will find you – and the importance of finding a good sufganiya (jelly doughnut).
Despite some minor missteps, this anthology can be enjoyed by all: tales of love and faith are universal.
Chanukah Fun with author Megan Hart
Favorite Chanukah Memory or tradition
Definitely the latkes. I like mine with sour cream, although applesauce is more traditional.
Favorite Chanukah Dish/Dessert
Latkes, latkes latkes! However, I don’t have a recipe. I can list the ingredients and tell you what to do, but measurements vary from year to year!
Shred the potatoes and onions. Mix with the garlic, to taste. (You can also add salt and pepper) Heat the oil. Fry small patties of potato/onion mix! Enjoy!
Do you have any real life experience with finding love during Chanukah?
I was married before I started celebrating Chanukah, so every year has been full of love!
What was your favorite scene to write for MIRACLE?
I think the first meeting scene is my favorite. It made me giggle. So awkward!
One line that describes your holiday romance.
You’ll never know where the road will take you if you don’t start walking it!
About the Authors
Megan Hart is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than thirty novels, novellas and short stories. Her work has been published in almost every genre, including contemporary women’s fiction, historical romance, paranormal and erotica. Learn more at www.meganhart.com
Jennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two young sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and has fully embraced her lifelong passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance and romantic women’s fiction for readers who yearn for better days, authentic characters, and satisfying endings. When she isn’t taking care of her kids, doing freelance copy editing/proofreading, reading, or talking to friends on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She’s shocked her family hasn’t yet staged an intervention for her addiction to social media. But the concerts she gives in her car and the dance parties she has in her kitchen are rumored to be fabulous.
Stacey Agdern is an award winning former bookseller who has reviewed romance novels in multiple formats and given talks about various aspects of the romance genre. She also a romance writer. You can find her on twitter at @nystacey. She’s a proud member of both LIRW and RWA NYC. She lives in New York, not far from her favorite hockey team’s practice facility.
KK Hendin writes books where people flirt awkwardly, make out, dish out a whole lot of sass and ridiculousness, and live happily ever after. She’s the author of many books, including the TWELVE BEATS IN A BAR series and the upcoming UNDERCOVER series. She also writes books as K. Hendin, where people aren’t as nice and Happily Ever After isn’t a guarantee. KK is currently writing way too many books, and is still waiting for the subway to run on a regular schedule. When she’s not playing book Tetris in an attempt to fit everything onto the bookshelves in her tiny NYC apartment, she’s probably wandering her neighborhood with her camera or drinking yet another cup of coffee.