Saturday, October 17, 2020

Review: Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern

Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern
Series: Friendships and Festivals, Book 1
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Miracles and Menorahs Cover
ISBN: 9781952560026
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Tule Publishing

Sarah Goldman loves Hanukkah, and she’s thrilled to be appointed as vice chair of the Hollowville Hanukkah Festival. So when the festival is threatened with cancellation, she comes up with an idea: a new slogan and advertising campaign topped off with a metal menorah large enough to fill the center of town. But even though her heart and dreams are large, the committee’s budget constraints threaten to stop her grand plans right in their tracks.

Famous metal sculptor Isaac Lieberman also loves Hanukkah. But his vision of a perfect Hanukkah isn’t a commercial community event—it’s spending time with family, following age-old traditions. He’s not interested in the festival, no matter how many times his grandmother, his bubbe, asks him to contribute one of his sculptures.

Then Sarah comes tumbling into his life…can she change his mind about more than just the holidays?

Miracles and Menorahs is sweeter than the sufganiyot latte author Stacey Agdern has made me crave. It’s a story of hope, of not giving up, and of standing up and protecting traditions and inclusivity. Ms. Agdern excels at depicting both traditional and more modern Hanukkah traditions and the Jewish representation in this book is top-notch, which I just loved.

Sarah Goldman is Hollowville’s resident Hanukkah fairy. She’s the vice chair of the local Hanukkah festival, the kind of event I wish existed anywhere near where I lived. But the festival is in danger of being eliminated in favor of the ubiquitous red and green. Sarah has to lead the charge to fight for space for Jewish traditions to be celebrated and acknowledged. I loved her determination and strength, her positivity and her love for her community. To help save the festival she’s looking for a large metal menorah, but budget and time constraints mean most artists are turning down the commission. Enter Isaac Lieberman, Brooklyn sculptor and grandson of one of Hollowville’s beloved residents. Isaac doesn’t believe in the commercialization of Hanukkah, which means he doesn’t want to take the commission, even at the risk of disappointing his bubbe. His stance is made all the more difficult when he meets Sarah and is immediately attracted to her.

The romance is sweet but extremely understated and this is where I have to mention the snags I hit in reading Miracles and Menorahs. I wanted desperately to love this book because the message of the story is close to my heart and Ms. Agdern weaves in Jewish customs, traditions, and even kitschy fun stuff really well. However, for me this story dragged and felt like it could have been a novella. There’s really not a lot happening and the story is repetitive. There was no real tension or strong emotion to keep me invested, especially when it came to the romance. I craved a deeper emotional pull from the characters and I wish we had delved into their characters more. So this is where it becomes difficult for me to rate the story. The spirit of the book and the sentiments expressed grabbed my heart and spoke to me personally, but the actual plot stretched on for too long and didn’t really keep me engaged (there are only so many times I can be charmed reading about latkes and sufganiyot lattes). I did enjoy the residents of Hollowville and Isaac’s friends in Brooklyn; both groups added warmth and character. The result of this is I have mixed feelings about Miracles and Menorahs but the things I loved about it are rare finds in romance novels. As a result, I find myself drawn to the positive aspects more and I’m very much looking forward to the next Friendships and Festivals story.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.