Ben Weiss is not looking to meet anyone. After things ended with his awful, cheating ex, Ben is perfectly happy on his own for a while. But his family can’t seem to accept that Ben is doing just fine and so his brother decides to meddle. As a Chanukah “gift” to Ben, his brother has signed him for a series of blind dates, one for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Ben has no desire to do any of this, but his brother means well and Ben figures it can’t hurt to give it a shot.
Or can it? Because each date somehow seems to be worse than the last and Ben can scarcely believe his brother has not managed to find one decent guy in this mess. All is not totally lost, however, because as Ben comes to the same bar each night for his dates, it gives him a chance to spend time with bartender, Nova. Not only does Nova end up saving Ben from a few disastrous dates, Ben finds himself connecting with Nova in a way he doesn’t with any of these awful guys he is supposed to be meeting. As Chanukah winds down, Ben realizes the only reason he is even continuing this absurd blind dating situation is to spend more time with Nova at the bar. Ben started this whole endeavor hoping there might be a chance at love, and now he may have found it in a place he never expected.
Eight Dates is a warm, fun, and romantic holiday story by one of my favorite authors, E.M. Lindsey. Ben agrees to go along with his brother’s plans to set him up and we see poor Ben suffer through date after horrible date. The one bright spot for him is meeting Nova, and as the story develops, it becomes clear that the two men are drawn to one another and that the whole process of these dates is really just a chance for them to spend more time together. There is such great energy between these men, with a bit of a light, quirky fun (especially as Nova comes up with various ways to help Ben extricate himself from bad dates), plus a nice sense of warmth and heat. The guys are clearly into each other from the start, but they also are having Ben see through this blind date process, so there is nice sexual tension between them as they wait for it to all be over. Things do settle for the men early enough to give us some time with them together, as well as some heated interludes in between dates, so I think the pacing works well here. There is a nice contrast as we watch things develop between Nova and Ben compared to the awfulness that are his dates. It is so clear that these two men just work together and I found them an appealing couple.
As with many Chanukah stories, the book takes advantage of the eight nights of the holiday to structure the story. Sometimes that feels too contrived for me, but I think it works here, especially as the romance between Nova and Ben is happening alongside the series of dates. I think Lindsey does a nice job developing Ben’s character and his family background so that I could believe why Ben would go along with all of these blind date shenanigans when he had no interest in being set up. The fact that he continues, even after these dates are just horrific, was a little harder for me to believe, especially once he and Nova have shared their feelings with one another. It comes down to Nova needing the reassurance of knowing Ben had explored all his options, but even though we get a reason, it still feel too contrived for me. But, I was able to mostly just go with and the dates are disastrous but entertaining (at least until the last one). I was amused at all the ways Lindsey finds for these dates to go wrong — as well as all the amusing ways Nova finds to save Ben from the situation.
This story features Chanukah, and we see Ben celebrating by lighting candles, as well as sharing some food traditions with Nova. However, the holiday is more background to set the structure of the story, rather than the main focus. I really enjoyed this one and thought it was a lot of fun, with great warmth and sweetness between Ben and Nova, plus just the right amount of zip and humor to tie it all together.