Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story
Jonah Stern is determined that this holiday season he will lose his virginity to a good non-Jewish boy. But Jonah is awkward and not comfortable in the bar scene and not quite sure how to go about it. Jonah has distanced himself from his religious Jewish upbringing and is sure he doesn’t want to date a Jewish guy. But when he meets Aaron Blumberg, Jonah finds he likes the man despite himself. Aaron is a pretty religious guy, but he is also warm and friendly and good looking. And like Jonah, Aaron grew up in a religious Jewish family and had to come to terms with some conflicts between his faith and sexual orientation. As Jonah gets to know Aaron, he becomes more and more interested in the man, but Jonah has convinced himself that a relationship with a religious Jew is a bad idea. Jonah must decide if he can open his mind and his heart up to the man who is right in front of him, or whether he will let his past ruin his chance at happiness with Aaron.
I am always on the lookout for good stories featuring Jewish characters, especially during the holiday season when there are so many Christmas stories out there. So when I saw this one was part of the Dreamspinner Advent series this year, I grabbed it right up.
I did find the start of this one just a little rocky. Jonah is pretty awkward and self-pitying, looking to find a guy but sure he has no chance of success. He is also determined that his dream man be non-Jewish and has decided to embrace Christmas, right down to the ugly sweater. I found myself a little frustrated with his single mindedness, as I wasn’t sure why a rejection of his very religious upbringing needed to turn into a complete change of religion. Especially because it is not as if most ultra conservative Christians are any more embracing of homosexuality than many ultra religious Jews. So if he is going to be a secular Christian, why not a secular Jew?
But as we get further into the story, and learn more of Jonah’s history, things began to work better for me. Jonah grew up in a religious household and his parents were very clear that homosexuality and Judaism are incompatible in their eyes. Since Jonah knows he can’t change being gay, he assumes he must change being Jewish. So even if his logic doesn’t completely work for me, I could see where he is coming from, and how the pain of his family’s rejection influences his actions.
Once we learn more about Jonah and he meets Aaron, things really took off for me. I loved seeing their friendship develop and Jonah begin to recognize his feelings for Aaron. The two spend each night of Chanukah together, talking and sharing the holiday. Jonah realizes how alike they are, how much they have in common, and how attracted he is to Aaron. I loved that we see that despite being a religious man, Aaron is also strong, confident, and a hot, sexual guy. I am always a sucker for a virgin hero, so I also enjoyed seeing the progression of Jonah’s first sexual relationship.
I also really liked how slowly Jonah comes to see that these two sides of him, his faith and his sexuality, don’t have to be incompatible. He doesn’t completely get there by the end of the story, and despite the fact that Aaron has already made that journey for himself, he never pushes Jonah. But we do see that Jonah is now comfortable being with a religious man and that he is beginning to reconcile these two parts of himself. It is very hopeful, while not being an unrealistic turnaround in his attitudes in such a short time.
So despite a little bit of a rough start, I ended up really loving this story. I think its messages of self acceptance and finding people who love and embrace you is something everyone can enjoy, regardless of religion. And I loved Aaron and Jonah together and found them a wonderful couple. Bashert is a word that means “meant to be” and in this story we see that despite Jonah’s initial misgivings, that this relationship is definitely bashert.
Bashert will be released on December 1 as part of the Dreamspinner Press Advent series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.