When I was putting together my Best/Worst list for 2020 I added a note that my reading year was predominantly saved by Romance Twitter and then proceeded to name drop a bunch of books that are sexy, feminist, and inclusive but didn’t quite clear the very high bar to be Top 3. Hot Rabbi is one of those books.
I had my eye on Hot Rabbi while it was still in the writing/revising phase – the mood board alone caught my attention in a big way. The plot description certainly didn’t hurt. For fifteen years Shoshana Goldman avoided her childhood synagogue – it brings bad memories, not peace. Nothing short of a minor miracle will change her mind. It might just be the new “hot Rabbi” that her friends convince her she must come see. Shoshana agrees to attend a service, after all it’s only one evening wasted if it’s all a bust. But meeting the new Rabbi changes everything. David Freedman is settling into a new town and new job easily and as a single dad, his priorities are his daughter and his congregation. He isn’t looking for romance, but sexy pink-haired Shoshana whose tendency to say whatever she’s thinking is catches his attention immediately. He knows a romance with a congregant is a bad idea. So it’s a very good thing Shoshana isn’t a member.
The book does great things around consent, power dynamics, and various approaches to one’s faith. David is a Rabbi, his faith looks and acts in a way you might expect, and Sho is culturally Jewish while not truly believing in God but believing in community and faith. Its nuanced and brilliant, and the discussions surrounding the topic in the book rang absolutely true to my ear. The characters are multi-dimensional, David is a divorced single dad and Sho is bisexual and also relatively recently out of a long-term relationship. Sho is also dealing with anxiety and some emotional trauma from her past which end up playing roles in how she interacts with David and the progression of their relationship.
Also – and this is important – the book is steamy.
Reading this also brought the point home to me how little truly Jewish writing is in my reading diet. Which, not cool, me. I’m pretty conversant in cultural Judaism, my godmother, stepfather, and partner are all Jewish (while I’m not) but there were a few times where I made a point to Google something to make sure I was understanding exactly what the author intended. It was a good thing.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I would have pulled the inevitable third act break up a little earlier in the narrative (it hits at about 80%) to help with pacing and also probably would have wanted the reader clued in to Sho’s specific reasons for avoiding the synagogue before David was, but these are minor quibbles on the whole. I can easily and happily suggest this book to everyone.