Today I am so pleased to welcome Jacob Cheyenne to Joyfully Jay. Jacob has come to talk to us about his latest release, Hanukkah Gifts. He has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Jacob a big welcome!
Writing “Hanukkah Gifts” began as a personal challenge I gave myself as an author. Could two very different men fall in love in the course of a week? Could they overcome the conflict of religious beliefs? And could I write a sweet romance with minimum heat—just kissing?
Believe it or not, there are gay Orthodox Jews out there (I know plenty) who are confronted with this almost impossible situation of accepting their sexuality and living their religion. My hope is that a closeted, gay, observant Orthodox Jew would be open to reading this story. Also, from my own research, I could not find a single M/M Romance with an Orthodox Jew as the object of affection, and I wanted to change that.
Enter Shai Goodhart, the handsome, unwittingly sensual basketball player who is devoted to his faith, family, and God, but who also knows that he is gay. Jared Greenfield is the young, hip, swinger who falls for him—it’s lust and intrigue at first sight—and the curiosity is mutual. A big part of sexual attraction is simple curiosity—who IS this person? What do they look like without clothes? What makes them happy or sad, and why do they act this way?
For me, the eight days of Hanukkah were a terrific way to structure the story, from Day 1, where Jared and Shai meet, to Day 8, when they reach a significant moment in their new relationship. Hanukkah is such a beautiful and symbolic holiday, with the menorah candles that stay lit night after night, growing in the strength of their light—in the same way that love grows between two people, brighter and brighter as they become closer.
Just like Christmas, there is no “right” way to celebrate Hanukkah—every Jewish family does it there own way. Comparing the holiday in two different households shows the huge diversity in the Jewish community, from ultra-liberal to ultra-conservative. You’ll find both types in my beloved New York City, which is one of the reasons the story is set there. Any two people can run into one another, and anything can happen!
I really enjoyed writing this book, imagining how these two men’s lives could converge. I am a total newbie to the romance genre, so I’m grateful to JMS Books for the opportunity, and I owe a big thanks to all of you for your amazing support! Of course, now I’m hooked, and I’m pleased to announce that I have another, full-length M/M Romance novel coming out next month.
I can’t say much about it yet, but I can tell you this: the story involves a lot of water and not so many clothes—what a sexy combination!
So thank you, Jay, for having me on your site, and thank you to all my readers who take the time to read this Hanukkah story! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a fabulous New Year’s, and may your lamps stay lit, night after night, sharing your own personal light with the rest of the world.
Shai emerged from the station like a spy, checking behind him and moving along the brick wall of the nearest building, clearly anxious. Jared admired him from across the street—Shai wore polished leather lace-up boots, pinstripe slacks, and a heather grey, herringbone wool coat, which Jared priced out to be at least $800, or far more if it came from some luxury brand. Around his neck, he wore a fine black cashmere scarf that hung nearly to his waist. God, he’s a good dresser, thought Jared.
“Shai! Over here.” Jared waved his arm.
Shai quickly slinked his way across the street, head down and shoulders folded inward. “Hey,” he said, shaking Jared’s hand at the same time Jared tried to hug him.
The result was an awkward physical moment in which Shai’s fist went into Jared’s abdomen while Jared’s arms wrapped around Shai’s back, and for half a second, their heads clunked together.
“Ouch,” said Shai, pulling away and rubbing his forehead with a black leather glove.
“Sorry.” Jared laughed, removing his hands from Shai’s shoulders.
“Not in public.” Shai stepped a full arm’s length away from
“Afraid to be seen with me?” asked Jared, realizing he was hurt by Shai rejecting his hug. Maybe this is what Barbara meant; maybe Jared had just signed up for a steady stream of awkward encounters.
“No, it’s not that,” began Shai, outwardly frustrated. “Look, you should just be happy I’m here at all.”
“I am glad,” began Jared, patiently, “but only if you want to be here. I told you I was not going to force you into anything. I’m just trying to be a friend, alright?”
“Okay, okay,” said Shai, trying to pacify him. “I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous. I feel like the whole city is watching us right now. Can we disappear somewhere?” Shai searched up and down the street as if seeking a low-key coffee shop or diner—anywhere they could be together without being seen.
“Follow me,” said Jared, leading the way three blocks west on 23rd Street. As they walked, they remained silent and serious, until Jared tried to break the ice. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” said Shai. “A lot of work.”
“Me, too.” Jared could tell that Shai was freaking out— even the notion of being outside with another man who knew the secret of his hidden sexuality was too much for him. Jared tried speaking in a calm and simple manner. “Today’s the third day of Hanukkah. Your family doing anything?”
“We light the candles and do the prayers. That’s about it tonight, I think. Except I gotta get home soon. I’m on my way home right now, technically, so I really shouldn’t take too much of a detour.”
You’re on a date with me, technically, thought Jared, but did not say it. “Huh? Your dad and mom are waiting by the door or something, timing how long it takes you to come home from work? They don’t seem like the controlling type at all.”
“They’re not,” said Shai, seemingly annoyed by Jared’s assumptions about his family. “But they expect me to be home.”
“You have quite a lot of things expected of you, it seems,” responded Jared poignantly. “Work, marriage, children, worship, your food, and even your clothes.”
“They’re not expectations, they’re laws. God’s laws,” said Shai. Although he was much taller than Jared, he still struggled to keep up with him on the sidewalk.
“So God wants you to go straight home from work?” asked Jared. God wants you to marry someone you do not really love?
Shai did not respond, and Jared realized this was not the time for logical debate. But he did not know how to help a man in this situation. Jared had come out to his mom when he was only seventeen, and she had responded by taking him shopping for a new wardrobe, followed by sushi at his favorite restaurant, and several subsequent lectures on safe sex. That’s it, thought Jared, taking a cue from his own mother. We just need to celebrate each day, one at a time.
Twenty-five year old TV producer Jared Greenfield loves his New York City life—his trendy neighborhood, high-profile job, and window-shopping for high fashion on Fifth Avenue—along with a whole city of available men. But even with all the fun of big city life, he feels a longing for something—or someone—more. Going through the motions takes him uptown on December night, where, on the first night of Hanukkah, he spots a handsome, sweaty, player on the basketball court of the Jewish Community Center.
Tall, dark, and Orthodox, the young and athletic Shai Goodhart strikes up an easy friendship with Jared, only to discover that Jared has very little appreciation for his own Jewish heritage and religion. Determined to enlighten this “Bad Jew”, Shai invites him over for a family Hanukkah celebration to remember. But Jared’s easy fascination ends when he discovers that Shai has a house full of tangled secrets that threatens their romance before it even begins. Both young men feel they can help one another, but over the eight days of Hanukkah, deeper emotions propel them closer and closer. Can they ever reach across the divide of their shared culture and fall in love?
Jacob Cheyenne is the author of M/M Romantic Fiction. His characters and stories are often inspired by archival photos, classical art, and historical events that celebrate romantic love between men. Some of his stories are even based on moments from his own life. He loves kitty cats, going to see plays and musicals, drinking red wine, reading paperbacks at the beach, and expensive chocolate. He lives and works in New York City.
Jacob has brought a copy of Hanukkah Gifts to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, January 1st at 11:59 pm EST.
- By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
- If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
- Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
- Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
- All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
- By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
- Readers may only enter once for each contest. Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
- Void where prohibited by law.