Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt has a few secrets. She has a chronic disease that no one knows about except her parents, her best friend, and her long-time crush, Jacob, a boy from summer camp who broke her heart years before. Rachel still bears an active grudge against Jacob, which does little more than keep him an ongoing part of her life.
But Rachel’s biggest secret of all is partly professional, partly personal, and altogether huge; she is a Jewish woman (the daughter of a rabbi, no less) who makes her living writing best-selling romantic novels, and they are all about Christmas. She has a large collection of Christmas items – decorations, novelties, anything she can find. She revels in her forbidden collection and obsesses over the joys of her contraband world. Rachel’s books are so successful that they have been turned into Hallmark movies, and her pen name is well-known among Christmas romance aficionados everywhere.
In spite of her astounding commercial success and her giant, beloved collection, Rachel’s secret life as a Christmas-lover has never been exposed. She is convinced that she will be able to maintain her prominent position in the publishing world and that the people in her personal life will never connect her to any of it. Then, to her surprise, her publisher informs her that her Christmas books are no longer needed; diversity is called for so, instead, they want her to write a romance novel with a Hanukkah theme.
Hanukkah? In spite of Rachel’s background, Hanukkah has never excited her. Can she fulfill the publishers’ request and write that book? Where’s the sparkle, the excitement, the romance? But if she wants her career to remain on track, she knows she needs to find some Hanukkah inspiration.
Enter Jacob Greenberg, the boy who broke her heart at Camp Ahava so long ago. He is now in the process of throwing an immense, glistening, exclusive Hanukkah party that he has named the Matzah Ball. Rachel feels that attending the Matzah Ball might – just might – provide her with the creative spark she needs in order to begin to write her promised new novel.
Getting a ticket for the Matzah Ball is a challenge, and it means that Rachel must let Jacob back into her life. It means revisiting parts of her past she has been unwilling to encounter. It may also mean exposing her vulnerabilities and the closely-held secrets she has taken such pains to keep hidden for so long. Then again, Hanukkah is the Festival of Light; shining some light into her secret places might be just what Rachel needs to turn her life around.
Meltzer’s writing is both accessible and fun. The reader follows Rachel’s journey and shares her fears, her embarrassments, her discoveries, and her joys. Jewish life is clearly portrayed, and there are some beautiful scenes centered around religious and cultural Jewish life-cycle events. The book also presents interesting and compelling representation of those who suffer from chronic illnesses.
This story about a romantic novel with a Hanukkah theme is itself a lovely romantic novel with a Hanukkah theme. This lively addition to the genre enhances the holiday romance shelf.