Jean Meltzer’s sophomore romance novel, Mr. Perfect on Paper, is a witty story about one woman’s search for her perfect man. Dara Rabinowitz, the descendant of matchmaking matriarchs, is a successful CEO of a Jewish dating app. Propelled by her bubbe’s insistence that she find love, Dara ends up searching for a soulmate on national television with host Chris Steadfast — in whom she will soon take more than a little interest.
Meltzer, who withdrew from rabbinical school due to chronic illness, does a lot of things well. First and foremost, Mr. Perfect on Paper is unapologetically Jewish. It educates the reader on Jewish High Holidays without coming across as preachy. Dara’s Jewishness is one of the main focuses of the book, driving her search for a person who practices Judaism in a similar way — someone who keeps kosher, celebrates the holidays, and simply loves being Jewish. However, with Chris not being Jewish, tension bubbles up. Meltzer showcases the very real pressures that many interfaith couples face. Dara can continue to pursue her Mr. Perfect on Paper, or she can learn how to build a life with someone not Jewish.
The novel tackles heavier subjects, such as generalized anxiety disorder and grief. Dara’s anxiety shapes much of who she is and influences her TV search for love. Similarly, Chris’s grief as a widower-cum-father features prominently. While he appears confident and put-together, he is really on a journey to stop running from his pain. What’s most remarkable is the fact that Meltzer incorporates humor in a way that brings levity without diminishing the gravity of the circumstances.
Mr. Perfect on Paper is a romance that prioritizes character development. With impeccable pacing and dual points of view, the novel definitely falls into the category of page-turner. And while Judaism sits at the forefront, such themes as finding love and self-acceptance will appeal to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.
Elizabeth Slotnick works in the technology space but has a growing presence on bookstagram, where she reviews books spanning across all genres. She graduated from the University of Virginia and lives in Seattle, WA.