Valentine’s Day may not be a Jewish holiday, but as a Jewish person who loves love, I refuse to not seize an opportunity to celebrate it. To me, there is no better gift than a book — and if you want to make Valentine’s a little more Jewish, then the best Valentine’s gift is probably a Jewish romance novel.
Back in 2021, I made an extensive list of wonderful Jewish romances (there were over 30 of them!) but I’m so happy to inform you that since then, even more great romances have been released into the world.
So, if you’re looking for a romantic gift for a special bookish someone — or if you’re looking for a comforting escape that will make you believe in love — these books are definitely for you.
1. “Eight Nights of Flirting” by Hannah Reynolds — Another delightful YA romcom from Hannah Reynolds, whose previous novel, “The Summer of Lost Letters,” tells the story of a teen discovering her Jewish grandmother’s old love letters. I definitely feel a lot of kinship with Shira, the protagonist of this enchanting holiday romcom, whose crush on handsome playboy next door, Tyler, ends up in an embarrassing rejected confession. When Shira and Tyler are stuck decorating her family home for Hanukkah together, he promises to teach her all about flirting, while she promises to help him with his future. But they both get more than they bargained for.
2. “How to Excavate a Heart” by Jake Maia Arlow — On a road holiday internship at the Smithsonian, Shani and May, two Jewish girls, have a fated encounter — one that involves Shani’s mom and her Subaru. It all comes to a head when the two get snowed in together on Christmas Eve — and honestly, is there a better time for Jewish romance than Christmas Eve (I met my spouse on Christmas Eve, just saying). It’s a book about fossils and queer Jewish love, and I’m so glad it exists.
3. “Planning Perfect” by Haley Neil — Felicity Becker, the protagonist of Haley Neil’s latest YA novel, loves planning events. And when she finds out her Jewish mother is about to get married to the love of her life, Becker is thrilled to have the opportunity to plan the perfect wedding — especially when her long distance friend, Nancy, volunteers her family’s orchard. What Becker didn’t plan for, especially as an anxious, asexual teen, is that this wedding could also be an opportunity for romance — for her.
4. “See You Yesterday” by Rachel Lynn Solomon — Barret and Miles are two teens stuck reliving their first day of college over, and over, and over again. It’s a romantic “Groundhog Day” from a master of Jewish romances.
5. “Mr. Perfect on Paper” by Jean Meltzer — From the author of “The Matzah Ball” comes a romance about a Jewish matchmaker who is looking for her perfect NJB — only to find out that he may not be so perfect (or so Jewish!) after all. Dara Rabinowitz is the CEO of the dating app J-Mate, and she has a very detailed list of what she wants in, well, a mate. But when her Jewish grandmother airs that list on national television, her search takes on a direction she never imagined.
6. “Meant to Be Mine” by Hannah Orenstein — How would you feel if you knew the exact day you were going to meet the love of your life? Well, thanks to her mah jongg and matchmaking-loving grandmother, Edie Meyer knows just that. And at age 29, on that fated day, she boards a plane only to be seated next to a very dreamy man. But the ideals we get sold about faith and love don’t always jive perfectly with reality.
7. “The Matchmaker’s Gift” by Lynda Cohen Loigman — Just like “Meant to Be Mine,” “The Matchmaker’’s Gift” is about a legacy of Jewish matchmaking. But this one isn’t really a romance novel. Rather, it’s about the love between a woman and her grandmother. Over eight decades, Loigman spins a tale of two women — Sara, a matchmaker, and her granddaughter Abby, a divorce attorney. It’s a journey well-worth embarking.
8. “Best Served Hot” by Amanda Elliot (comes out Feb 21) — After her mouth-watering “Sadie on a Plate,” Amanda Elliot is serving another appetizing food-themed romance, this time following two competing New York food critics who are forced to break bread (literally and metaphorically). More than anything, Elliot’s books are a love letter to food — and I would argue there’s no greater Jewish romance there.
9. “Fire Season” by KD Casey — If you love love and baseball, then KD Casey’s queer romances are for you. This one is about Charlie Braxton, a legendary pitcher whose life is falling apart, and his new roommate and teammate, Jewish relief pitcher Reid Giordano, who is struggling to keep sober and to keep his spot on the team.
10. “Season of Love” by Helena Greer — Jews may have written the best Christmas songs. But in this 2022 holiday novel from Helena Greer, Jewish artist Miriam Blum inherits a Christmas tree farm from her Jewish great-aunt. At Carrigan’s, Miri meets Noelle Northwood — the farm’s grumpy manager — and the two very different women have to work together to save the farm, because of course.
11. “The Holiday Trap” by Roan Parrish — A holiday swap romance! Featuring two queer main characters — Greta Russakoff, who comes from small town Maine and a very tight-knit (and meddling) Jewish family, and Truman Belvedere, who needs to leave Louisiana after making a shocking discovery about the man who he thought was the love of his life. The two swap houses for one month during the holidays and romance, quite obviously, ensues.
12. “The Un-Arranged Marriage” by Laura Brown — Childhood enemies Mark Goldman and Shaina Fogel are forced to spend a week of wedding festivities together. But when the two find out that they can get a free vacation out of that nightmare scenario, they decide, for the first time ever, to work together. And it turns out, they’re not such a bad match after all.
13. “As Seen on TV” by Meredith Schorr — Done with dating in New York, Jewish journalist Adina Gellar follows a story to the small town of Pleasant Hollow. While the Hallmark and “Gilmore Girls” disciple doesn’t find a Stars Hollow-esque place, she does find Finn Adams — is he her Dean? Her Jess? Her Logan? Only time will tell.