Secret Jews of Romance Novels

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A82 novel
Written by Alina Adams. Alina is an experienced Jewrotica writer. Read more about the start of Alina’s unique career with The Birth of a Romance Author.

Rated R

In February of 2011, I was interviewed for an article entitled “The Secret Jews of Romance Novels.”

I talked about how in my then-latest book, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the hero and heroine were Jewish. But, it was never flat-out stated. You had to pick up on the subtle clues to figure it out. And no, the fact that they were both doctors wasn’t one of the clues.

The reason for these Muranos of Romance, as it were, was that I wasn’t writing stand-alone historical titles like Anita Diamant, or women’s fiction like Belva Plain, or even chick-lit mysteries like my good friend, Kyra Davis. I was writing category romances. And whenever I would pitch a category romance that featured anything other than straightforward, white bread, all-American characters to my various publishers, I would get shot down. The belief was that anything outside of the norm, anything “exotic” wouldn’t sell in that particular genre like it did in others. (For the record, I have nothing against Americana. As an immigrant, I just don’t know much about it.)

So I faked it. And, when it came to “When a Man Loves a Woman,” I made the characters Jewish anyway – if only in my head. (Actually, I was able to sneak Jews into my very first romance novel, “The Fictitious Marquis.” And if you think hiding Jews in the 20th century is tough, try Regency England!)

Now, however, the truth can be told to the world – not just regionally. Consider this Jewrotica excerpt from “When a Man Loves a Woman” – the official Tribal coming out party for Deborah Brody and James Elliot, two friends who met in med school and would have probably hooked up – if Deb weren’t already married. For twenty years, Elliot kept his feelings to himself (well, he liked to believe he did). But, then, Deb’s husband, Max, unexpectedly dies. And, the night of his funeral, Elliot stays behind to comfort the new widow…

“Thank you,” she said simply. Still on her knees, Deborah leaned forward, balancing on her elbows, her face now only inches from his. “Thank God for you, Elliot. You’re saving my life.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that. “Thank you” seemed somehow lacking. Besides, she’d already said it. He didn’t want to be redundant. What he wanted to be was helpful. Hell, who was he kidding? What he wanted to be was goddamn heroic. He wanted to utter just the perfect thought, phrase, thing, and make all of Deborah’s troubles disappear.

She’d claimed he was saving her life, but Elliot suspected Deb was only being kind. Because he knew he hadn’t done everything he could to comfort her. Sure, he’d rambled and babbled and joked. But as a doctor, Elliot knew that the best salve came not from words, but from human contact. Since the night he saw her on the front porch, looking so young and small and lost, wrapped in Max’s oversize shirt, Elliot had suppressed the urge to pull her into his arms and hold her until even she could believe that Elliot would give his life to protect her from the world.

But despite all his poetic – albeit silent – proclamations, Elliot refrained. Except for his catching her around the waist at the cemetery – a spur-of-the moment impulse… emotional triage – every single time Deborah had reached out to him, when she rested her hand along his knee, when she took both his hands in hers, he’d done everything he could think of to politely, but awfully quickly, untangle himself. Because it was awkward.

No, scratch that. Because, it was awkward for Elliot.

Deb needed him – and he was too busy stressing about his own issues, while, at the same time, fancying himself her rescuer – to give her what she really craved. Rather than only what he felt comfortable providing.

So, instead of replying to Deb’s as-yet-unwarranted gratitude, Elliot decided to earn it. Ignoring his own uneasiness, he reached forward his right arm and, with utmost tenderness, stroked his palm along her cheek.

The serene smile that lit her face the moment he did once and for all confirmed the rightness of Elliot’s gesture. She’d been starving for someone – no, not someone, for a friend – to stop treating her like she was made of glass, and to reach out to her.

Closing her eyes, Deb tilted her head a fraction of an inch, resting her cheek against his hand – all but falling into it, and finally allowing some of the tension in her bones to drain out. He felt the agitated energy vibrating off her skin like physical heat, felt the trembling he suspected lurked right beneath the tranquil mask she donned for the public subside somewhat. Her pulse hammered directly below his thumb, and, after a time, even that appeared to settle into an upper-range normalcy.

Her relief was palpable, and, for the first time since this tragedy began, Elliot actually allowed himself to think that while he might not be absolutely healing the problem, at least he was not causing any more harm. At this point, just fulfilling part of the Hippocratic oath felt good enough for him.

Eyes still closed, Deborah sleepily rubbed her cheek against Elliot’s hand, drawing strength from it. Then, once again turning her head a barely perceptible distance, she brushed her lips along his palm.

And softly kissed it.

The electric current that shot down his arm and directly into his heart spurred it into immediate double time. Inside his head, Elliot all but jumped out of his skin. In reality, he realized he couldn’t move. Because that same electric shock proved anything but unpleasant.

He pulled her closer, until they were face-to-face, breathing the same air. She didn’t open her eyes. But she also didn’t draw back when Elliot, no longer able to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, need from want, allowed himself the indulgence of consummating what she started.

He grazed Deb’s mouth with his own. So briefly, it could hardly be judged a taste. Except that it was more than that. It was a piece of music building, a floodgate opening, a confirmation of why specifically Elliot had been so reluctant to take her in his arms in the first place. Because he knew without a shadow of a doubt that once he did so, he would never be able to let her go.

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Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, romance novels and figure skating murder mysteries. She was born in the former USSR, grew up in San Francisco, and now lives in New York City with her husband and three children.
  • http://www.facebook.com/AmyBethO Ayo Oppenheimer

    This was fun to read. I haven’t picked up a romance novel since a ~6-month phase during my junior year of high school, but I totally get the appeal.

    Deborah, James, welcome to the mishpacha! :-)