Help A Bitch Out

Help a Bitch Out: Jewish Protagonists

Bitchery reader Katia has a taller order: she’s going on vacation and needs some beach reading, and is encountering some difficulty in finding romance novels featuring Jewish folks:

I’ve been looking for stuff with Jewish protagonists, though Romancelandia seems mostly pretty WASPy, with some Catholics thrown in for flavor.

You think? Romancelandia is homogenized and Christian? Please. Used to be having a French protagonist was the romance writing equivalent of slapping your grandmother. Jewish? Fuggedabahdit.

So – anyone got any recommendations?



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  1. 1
    Zeba says:

    Nita Abrams – she’s written a series of historical romances set in Napoleonic times based around Jewish banking families in Europe. Fabulous – really well researched, well written and interesting. Not just the tired old wallpaper spy stories.

    My favourite favourite Jewish romance is Elinor Lipman’s The Inn at Lake Devine. It’s not technically a romance, but there is a great romance in it. And I also like Jennifer Weiner’s books although I don’t think her characters are explicitly Jewish.

    Finally, not a romance, but a great book about life in an ultra-orthodox family, The romance Reader by Pearl Abraham.

  2. 2
    AmandaG says:

    You know, I have read one, but cannot remember the title or the author.  It was set in Renaissance Venice.  The heroine was a Jewish woman that became a Courtesan as a means of escaping the Ghetto.  The hero was a Jewish man that was a merchant or ship captain.  He was not Italian, but I can’t remember where he was from. Her patron gave her to Visiting Jewish Dude for a night as a gift, and she discovers he’s Jewish (he’s circumcised)and cries and tells him she can’t have sex with him, because it is a sin, so he finds out she’s jewish, and of course they fall in love and he steals her away from Venice.

    But I can’t remember the name of it. lol

  3. 3
    AmandaG says:

    Oh, I’ve also read The Books of Rachel, by Joel Gross.  Not a romance, but there is some romance in it.  It is a very good book, imo.

    Apparently there is a prequel to this book, as well.

  4. 4
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Well, I’d be happy to send her my unpubbed MS with my lead male Josh Levine, but I doubt she’d want to lug around MS pages.  :-P


  5. 5

    IN HER SHOES, which isn’t romance but has romantic elements. Delightful book.

  6. 6
    flea says:

    Carola Dunn, Miss Jacobson’s Journey (Walker 1992).  I read this last year, from the library; it has a Jewish heroine traveling in Napoleonic France.

  7. 7
    veinglory says:

    The Rashi’s Daughters books by Maggie Anton.  Not 100% romance genre but certainly love stories and very good.

  8. 8
    leanne says:

    ‘The Queen’s Fool’ by Philippa Gregory is a must!

  9. 9
    snarkypants says:

    The one that comes immediately to mind for me is “A Bed of Spices” by Barbara Samuels.  The hero is Jewish and he develops a case of “shiksa madness.”

  10. 10
    Meredydd says:

    “The Witch of Cologne” by Tobsha Lerner.  It’s not romance in the traditional sense—it’s heavily historical, very graphic in torture scenes and written, oddly, in the present tense which threw me for a loop the first time I read it.  But there is a strong thread of romance in it.  It’s set in the last days of the Inquisition in Europe and the protagonist is a Jewish midwife.

  11. 11

    Funny you should ask… I just read HOSTILE MAKEOVER by Wendy Wax. It should fit the bill—great beach read with Jewish protagonists.

  12. 12
    JaniceG says:

    It’s a bit hard to find, but Lady Barbara’s Dilemma by Marjorie Farrell is a traditional Regency with a sub-plot involving a rich Sephardi guy and a girl in the Jewish ghetto.

    I highly recommend two contemporary Austen riffs with a Jewish theme by Paula Marantz Cohen: Jane Austen in Boca—a young main character but a really insightful view of people in a retirement community too, and an interesting take on P&P; Jane Austen in Scarsdale about a high school counselor; plus another by the same author and the most interesting: Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan, about a woman with a daughter who’s getting bat mitzvah and who has a widowed mother who has started to remember her former life as Shakespeare’s lover.

    Unfortunately, most of the books featuring Jewish heroines play into the Jewish American Princess stereotype so I find them hard to read.

    Finally, a little off of romance, I highly recommend a series of mysteries by Rochelle Krich featuring a contemporary Orthodox Jewish woman who writes true crime novels (first is Blues in the Night). It’s the only book I’ve found where the main character’s Orthodoxy is just one of a number of things about her and the author gets all the small details about that lifestyle correct. (There is some romance around the main character, too :-> ) I like them much better than the more well-known books by Faye Kellerman.

  13. 13

    Jephte’s Daughter and Sotah by Naomi Ragen aren’t traditional romances, but feature a strong romantic element.

    And Captain Sinister’s Lady by Darlene Marshall has a romance between two secondary characters who are Jewish, one of whom is also a pirate.

  14. 14
    hollygee says:

    Judith Arnold’s Love in Bloom’s and Blooming All Over

    (Mysteries, but some romance involved) Selma Eicher’ Desiree Shapiro mysteries. Murder Can Spoil Your Appetite, is one.

  15. 15

    Oh, and if you get a chance to rent the DVD Ushpizim, it has a delightful love story.  It’s the tale of a Haredi (ultra-orthodox) couple who end up hosting some escaped prisoners over the holiday of Sukkot.

    Interestingly, the actors in the role are husband and wife.  The husband was a professional actor who became religious, the wife had never acted before.  But when the husband was approached about playing this role, he refused to act with any woman other than his own wife. 

    The film is from Israel, in Hebrew with subtitles.

    Another good Jewish love story on film is I Love You, Rosa.  It’s based on the Sephardi filmmaker’s grandmother, who was bound by Jewish law to marry her young brother-in-law when her husband died, or have him “free” her to marry someone else.  I don’t know if it’s on DVD.  Also in Hebrew, with subtitles.

  16. 16

    I second “In Her Shoes”. Great book.

  17. 17
    KarenF says:

    I was just about to recommend Judith Arnold’s Bloom books … also her latest one, “The Fixer Upper” (and I think her hero is Jewish in “Love on the Line”).

    (Second the Nita Abrams rec too).

    Maeve Binchy’s “Nights of Rain and Stars” is a multi-protagonist novel, and one of the main characters is Jewish.

  18. 18
    Julie Leto says:

    LOVE IN BLOOM’S and BLOOMING ALL OVER by Judith Arnold?  I have not read the books, but I’m pretty sure the families are all Jewish.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.  Anyone read these?

  19. 19
    Jo Leigh says:

    Well, my Blaze LICK AND A PROMISE has a Jewish heroine. :)

  20. 20
    Elizabeth says:

    There is a Jewish heroine “The Alchemical Marriage” by Mary Jo Putney.  This is one of six stories in IRRESISTIBLE FORCES, the anthology that also contains the last “Miles” story by Lois McMaster Bujold.

  21. 21
    stacey agdern says:

    aaah yes:) 

    -A Candle for Nick, Lorna Michaels.  Silhouette SE from last year…a Chanukah romance :D Total tearjerker about a widow, the man she left behind and the son who’s dying(Nick).  Miracles and Menorahs abound.  I loved this book for many reasons, including how it was the very first Chanukah series romance that I’d ever seen.  None this year *sigh* 

    -Never Decieve a Duke, Liz Carlyle.  I’ve always been a fan of her writing, but this book and her portrayal of Jewish life during the regency period was unbelievable.  It’s the hero’s ancestry in question here, and Carlyle paints the perfect picture.  Wonderful.

    -‘Chasing Stanley’ Deirdre Martin.  Heroine is a Jewish Dog Trainer with parents who drive her nuts and a chance at love with an adorable midwestern hockey player:)  Great story, and I adore how Martin deals with the realities of anti-semitism in the midst of this fabulously funny book.(This was my good luck charm, and later my feel better book amidst the Rangers playoff run last year.)

    ‘Dirty Girls Social Club’, Alisa Valdes Rodriguez.  One of the reasons I love Alisa Valdes Rodriguez so much is the fact that one of her Suicias is a Sephardi :D Yep.  Her honest portrayal of Sara made me a fan for life.  She’s one of the group of college friends that form the core of this book, and it’s their story, ups and downs.

    Enjoy the books; I know I did:)


  22. 22
    cjk1701 says:

    There’s a cute chick lit book with several female protagonists, one of them Jewish – and her being Jewish becomes an important plot point: “Little Earthquakes” by Jennifer Weiner.

  23. 23
    Wry Hag says:

    Man, I hate doing this (truly, I do!), but…the hero of my Ellora’s Cave novel, Plagued, is Jewish and speaks quite openly about religious persecution in 14th-century Europe, particularly in relation to Jews becoming scapegoats for the Black Plague.

    This novel might not be to your liking, however.  It is paranormal erotic romance, after all.  As such, it had to follow a particular path (if you know what I mean).

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised EC even published it.  At one point, the hero recalls that the last time he wept was during and after the Holocaust.  Rather religio-political stuff for an erotic romance publisher…but I, for one, heartily approve of injection of historical accuracy, particularly if it has contemporary resonance.  Just wish there were more of it!

  24. 24
    Wry Hag says:

    Forgot to add that the hero is a vampire, and he does have a snarky little thought-moment about the ineffectuality of crosses in repelling him.

    (If you’re getting the impression I’m not fond of adhering to genre norms, you’re right.)

    But, screw this, there are football games to be watched!

  25. 25
    MaryKate says:

    Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone features a Jewish heroine. Fantastic, unusual book too!

  26. 26
    Sandra D says:

    I can’t remember the title or the author but hopefully one of the bitches will. This book took place in Venice during the Inquisition, the heroine was a Jewess but hiding that fact. She wears a mask to hide I think a birthmark whenever she goes out in public or does her work as (I think) a healer of some sort. She meets the hero when he comes to her for help. There’s also something about her life being in danger because her father left her a torah that she can get killed for having.

    Man that was helpful wasn’t it? Good book though.

  27. 27
    Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    Sandra D – It looks like your book is One Knight in Venice by Tori Phillips.

    I found the description while looking for the Renaissance Jewish courtesan one mentioned by AmandaG. Anyone else know that one? Sounded good.

  28. 28
    ViennaMars says:

    I really enjoyed Patricia Gaffney’s “Crooked Hearts,” and I seem to remember that one of the main characters was Jewish.

  29. 29
    Elle says:

    Alisa Kwitney writes romance with Jewish protagonists.  “The Dominant Blonde” features a Jewish heroine and is set on a Caribbean island, so it may be just the ticket for vacation reading.

  30. 30
    Susan/DC says:

    There are so few books with Jewish heroes or heroines, and most have already been mentioned.  But a recent mystery by Arianna Franklin, “City of Shadows”, contains a very nice romance and is a fascinating portrayal of Berlin between the wars.

    While I very much liked Tobsha Lerner’s “Witch of Cologne”, be warned that it most definitely is not a Romance.  It has a lovely romance in it, but if you’re looking for a comfort read with a guaranteed HEA, this is not it.

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