Today’s review is about KISSING KOSHER by Jean Meltzer. It’s a rivals-to-lovers romance that pits the members of two rival Jewish baker families against each other. What starts as Avital seeking help at work amidst a flare up of her chronic illness could make or break her family’s business.
Author: Jean Meltzer
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Mira Books
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Print Length: 432
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From the author of THE MATZAH BALL and MR. PERFECT ON PAPER comes this hilarious and emotional rivals-to-lovers romance.
Step 1: Get the secret recipe. Step 2: Don’t fall in love…
Avital Cohen isn’t wearing underpants–woefully, for unsexy reasons. Chronic pelvic pain has forced her to sideline her photography dreams and her love life. It’s all she can do to manage her family’s kosher bakery, Best Babka in Brooklyn, without collapsing.
She needs hired help.
And distractingly handsome Ethan Lippmann seems the perfect fit.
Except Ethan isn’t there to work–he’s undercover, at the behest of his ironfisted grandfather. Though Lippmann’s is a household name when it comes to mass-produced kosher baked goods, they don’t have the charm of Avital’s bakery. Or her grandfather’s world-famous pumpkin spice babka recipe.
As they bake side by side, Ethan soon finds himself more interested in Avital than in stealing family secrets, especially as he helps her find the chronic pain relief–and pleasure–she’s been missing.
But perfecting the recipe for romance calls for leaving out the lies…even if coming clean means risking everything.
KISSING KOSHER by Jean Meltzer is a realistic contemporary romance between members of two rival Jewish families that bake kosher goods. Avital Cohen, who returned home to deal with her chronic pelvic pain, now runs her family’s bakery, Best Babka in Brooklyn, as the general manager. But her chronic illness is in the front seat and she really needs an assistant to help her manage the business. Cue Ethan Lippmann whose grandfather forces him to apply for the position to steal the Cohens’ pumpkin babka recipe. Desperate to please his grandfather, Ethan sets out on this quest despite his misgivings. However, he didn’t expect to start falling for his rival while on this covert mission.
When I describe KISSING KOSHER as “realistic” I mean that with the utmost praise. There are many trope-filled, contemporary romances whose premises require some suspension of disbelief. Those are fun to read. But it was refreshing to read one such romance where the premise is not only believable, but the two leading characters behave like adults. It was also delightful to see the miscommunication trope take a hike for once.
I also really loved that the author, who is Jewish, didn’t shy away from Jewish religious practices or Hebrew words. It is called KISSING KOSHER after all! As someone who doesn’t know much about Judaism or Jewish culture, I found this quite interesting. Some terms are explained within the text while context provides the definition for others.
Additionally, the inclusion and representation of chronic illness was great. I was a little surprised how forthwith Avital was with sharing this information with Ethan. But it opens up some dialogue about how those who suffer from chronic illness shouldn’t have to do so quietly just to make others comfortable. As the relationship between Avital and Ethan progresses, they each realize how important it is to be vulnerable and let others in. There are a lot of other messages such as advocating for oneself, the business-ification of the medical system, and trying non-traditional approaches to pain management. I think my only quibble with this major aspect of the story is that a few scenes felt a bit like a lecture. Perhaps this was just the best way to share information between characters as well as to the reader.
Overall, though, I enjoyed KISSING KOSHER. It was an easy read with plenty of Jewish and chronic illness representation. You might also get a bit jealous that you don’t have your own challah or babka to munch on while reading this book. If you’re looking to diversify your reading, definitely pick up this rivals-to-lovers contemporary romance.
Content warnings: chronic illness, parental death (historical), emotional abuse, suicidal ideation (minor)
Reading format: Library paperback