Heat Factor: They have sex (a good bit of it), but it was more focused on the emotional connection and the kissing and touching than on the arousal and orgasms
Character Chemistry: Just because there’s an instant connection and attraction doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing from there!
Plot: Shoshana has a lot of emotional baggage associated with the synagogue. New hot rabbi single parent David would like to date her.
Overall: This story has a lot of good energy. Definitely a good one for people who like their protagonists to be checked in and thoughtful.
Hot Rabbi had been on my list since it came out last year, but I didn’t actually go for it and buy it until we decided to do our Men of God reads week. And I’m glad I did.
Shoshana hasn’t been to the synagogue in, like, fifteen years. Her two best friends try to talk her into attending about once a month, but she always avoids it. Until they tell her that there’s a new rabbi, and he’s super hot, and she should go just to see him. Lo and behold, he is super hot, and also he likes the look of Shoshana, too. So he asks for her number.
I’ve been thinking lately that there needs to be some forced proximity to make a romance work, but I am also in a place where I’m not going to be intrigued by contrived forced proximity. That said, there’s really no forced proximity at all in this book, and I really enjoyed it. Blakeman did well straddling the line between insta-love and “let’s not move too fast.” David and Shoshana are dating (though even that is somewhat fraught at the beginning), but they also just really like spending time together. Not having protagonists who start out antagonizing each other and have no reason to want to be together was charmingly refreshing. And it felt natural, David and Shoshana’s attraction and desire to explore that attraction.
But everything can’t be sunshine and roses, right? Not in the relationship, and I have some notes here, too.
Shoshana is described by some of her friends as a drama queen. I just finished reading a different book with a much more dramatic (frustratingly so) heroine, so I didn’t read Shoshana as being particularly dramatic. More like being sensitive and feeling her feelings in big ways, but it might not be for people who get frustrated by protagonists whose problems are weighing them down but who also practice avoidance in a big way. One aspect of Shoshana’s characterization that wiggled into my head weird was that there’s huge drama built around her relationship to her father and to the synagogue, and when that was explained it was (to me) a “that’s it?” moment, but it also supports why her friends might term her a drama queen, I guess. Not that it’s not emotionally difficult – it totally is – it just wasn’t shameful.
Another thing is that David’s outburst comes out of left field. This is more from a reader standpoint than a characterization issue, too, I would say, because if you think of people being people and sometimes behaving irrationally when typically they’re very thoughtful and put together, it’s not a surprise. Maybe? But contextually in the book…I get why Blakeman did what she did there, and it’s not totally absurd I guess. I was just pretty brow-furrowed when that black moment situation went down because I didn’t really buy it.
Finally, the book is titled Hot Rabbi. There should be some rabbi-related things going on, right? There are, but it’s not a focus of Shoshana and David’s relationship. It comes into play where it intersects with Shoshana’s tension because she avoids the Jewish community in town (see drama) and David’s at the center of it.
I thought it was interesting that Shoshana and David are so completely not in the same headspace – not only because Shoshana identifies as culturally Jewish and isn’t religious at all, but also because she ended her prior relationship because her ex wanted to get married and have kids and she wasn’t ready for that. David is a rabbi and has a young child. In terms of “love does not, in fact, conquer all” those differences are a winning combination for conflict in a relationship. These are not substantively addressed in this book…I read in the acknowledgements that Blakeman plans for a sequel, so maybe we’ll learn how they work through those conversations there. This was an HFN, but it wasn’t a cliffhanger, don’t worry.
Some other fun things:
🐭 Shoshana owns a custom furniture / upholstery business, which sounds totally cool and was definitely a great unique but totally real job for a protagonist.
🐭 David buys his daughter some of the taxidermied mice that Shoshana used to decorate her shop’s window displays. (Buy this for the taxidermied Victorian mice having tea on antique furniture in the shop window alone.)
🐭 Shoshana has pink hair, which makes David’s 4yo daughter want to dye her hair, and David and his ex permit this with a wash-out conditioning color. (I’m currently in a “let my kids express themselves” mood, so I was here for this.)
🐭 I really liked that David explicitly didn’t want to date a member of the synagogue because he felt it was a huge power dynamic conflict to be a potential partner’s spiritual advisor while trying to also date that person.
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