One anti-consumerist Jewish bisexual + one Golem = a love story?
“Dave Cunningham hates the rampant consumerism that’s come to dominate his family’s Hanukkah celebrations. But a chance to bring a bit of a holiday happiness to his long-time crush, Amit Cohen, helps put him in a more festive mood. In the quest to craft the perfect gift, Dave tries to urge a few personal details out of stoic Amit. Unintentionally, he learns the Cohen family’s secret: Amit is a golem. But Amit has a problem that runs deeper than his magical origin, and a Hanukkah miracle might be the only thing that will keep the budding flame between him and Dave from going out.” – Publisher’s description
Hearts Alight tells the story of Dave, an anti-consumerist, slightly anti-social bisexual Jewish man who tries to befriend his crush who is also his best friends’ uncle. While I liked this book fine enough, and I am happy it exists in the world for those who would relate to it more, I had some issues with the romance aspect of it.
When Dave finds out Amit, his crush, is a golem after he nearly collapses at a bar, I expected some sort of supernatural or paranormal element to start infiltrating the story. We don’t really get that aside from a few mentions of learning magic. I liked that Dave and Amit were a “normal” couple and didn’t let the golem aspect of it matter to their lives, but at the same time it just seemed that everyone involved accepted that magic existed and this was real without batting an eyelash.
I also was a bit confused as to why the golem bit even existed in the story? Perhaps it was related to something Hebrew that went over my head, but honestly you could have the same story without the fact that Amit was a golem and it would read in the same way. There are a lot of things in the book that are brought up but dismissed with no resolution, like the fact that Amit is immortal. The author seems to spend more time describing a game of D&D than it does on any of the real supernatural elements. The fact that Amit was dying until Dave came into his life romantically happens about halfway through the book, and the story feels like it loses something at that point. There’s nothing to build up to really after that point.
I love that this book has a M/M romance as well as Jewish characters, which is often hard to find and even harder to order in a physical format (as many are ebook only). It also had a holiday theme which was great. I initially found this while searching for romances that involved holidays other than Christmas, so I’m glad our library now has this as an option. I also loved the LGBT elements of this, especially the fact that a prominent character in this is a trans man and it is treated without pomp and circumstance. Jake was just a best friend who tried to help Dave in his life and his gender didn’t define him as a character.
Overall this is a cute, short romance that would be great for any holiday romance display. Someone not knowledgeable about Hanukkah or Judaism may struggle to understand some of the things referenced, but learning is fun and this is a good way to get an intro.
Title: Hearts Alight
Author: Elliot Cooper
Three Descriptors: Holiday, supernatural, fast-paced