One of the first books I reviewed when I joined Bookstagram was The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer. I was so excited she had a new book coming out in 2022, and when the chance arose to read and review it, I jumped on it immediately.
While Mr. Perfect on Paper was quite different from its predecessor, it was still incredibly charming with likable characters, respectful discussions regarding mental health, and a fascinating look into Jewish traditions. And I appreciated the nod to The Matzah Ball.
Our leading lady, Dara Rabinowitz, is the creator of a successful dating app called J-Date. While Dara has flawlessly matched more than 10,000 couples, she is unlucky in love. Dara and her loving bubbe, Miriam, are presented the opportunity to promote J-Date on the local news channel. Unbeknownst to Dara, whose anxiety makes it difficult for her to do things off-script, her bubbe decides live television is the perfect place to unveil Dara’s “Mr. Perfect Jewish Husband” checklist.
The segment is a disaster for Dara, but ratings gold for the network and for recently widowed father and news anchor, Chris. In an attempt to keep his show from getting canceled, and subsequently losing his job, Chris proposes to Dara that he’ll set her up with men who potentially check off all her requirements, and they’ll film all the dates for the show. Initially Dara refuses, mostly due to her anxiety, but tired of being a bystander to all the matches she’s made, and hoping she’ll be able to have her dying bubbe at her future wedding, Dara eventually agrees.
What follows are a host of comically bad failed dates. Along the way, Chris and Dara’s work relationship shifts into something more, though both fight to deny their attraction to one another. Dara fills the holes left by the death of Chris’ wife, and Chris provides comforting, understanding companionship that quiets Dara’s anxiety. Unfortunately, Chris isn’t Jewish, but is that enough to ultimately keep them apart?
Mr. Perfect on Paper
Genre: Jewish Fiction/ Romance
Mr. Perfect on Paper centers around Dara Rabinowitz who may be able to find love for others, but can’t do the same for herself. Chris Steadfast does not meet any of her check list requirements. However, these two find more and more in common.
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Like Meltzer’s previous book, Mr. Perfect on Paper is an enjoyable read with great characters. Aside from Chris and Dara, there’s Dara’s grandmother who is a guiding light full of wisdom and important life lessons. Bubbe’s best friends–the Challahback Girls–are a feisty group of elderly women who are essentially additional grandmas to Dara. The circle of friends both Dara and Chris have are all supportive and no one came across as toxic or disingenuous.
One of the things that I love about both The Matzah Ball and Mr. Perfect on Paper is learning about Jewish cultures and traditions. Meltzer does a beautiful job folding this information in without it feeling like it’s coming from a textbook.
As a reader, I am always a little iffy when characters decide to change themselves to appease their love interest. While this did happen a little in this book, without giving anything away, I didn’t mind it, mainly because it’s done after careful consideration.
The one thing that I didn’t like in this novel was the limited amount of time readers get to spend with Dara and Chris as a romantic couple. Most of the book is leading up to them crossing over from friendship to something more, but since this happens so close to the end, I felt a little cheated. This is what knocked a star off for me. I really liked them as a duo. I thought they were great for each other in a variety of areas, so not being able to experience them as more than friends was disappointing.
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Mr. Perfect on Paper has my heart. I related so well to Dara and her battle with anxiety while most around her failed to grasp her struggles. I love that Chris, as the male main character, had his own pain as a widower and struggling single father. The way he comforted Dara through her anxiety was one of the kindest and sweetest things I’ve read in a romance novel.
Also, not that I enjoyed reading about Chris’s struggles per se, but it was a nice change to see a single dad having to balance work, fatherhood, school, personal life, and childcare. These are roles so frequently relegated to women, that I was invested in seeing how a man handled it.
Bubbe, Dara’s grandmother who has episodes of dementia, also steals the show with her flashy shoes and devil-may-care attitude, along with her posse of old Jewish ladies. I love that she’s always in Dara’s corner, except when she knows that Dara needs a shove out of her comfort zone.
And all the mishaps on the staged dates were horrifying and hilarious.
I learned a lot about Jewish culture and holidays reading this book. It opened my eyes to the insecurities Jewish people still face today, and the pressure to keep the Jewish faith and customs alive and well.
I adored this heart-felt book, and loved that even in the hard moments, it still warmed my heart to its core.
I absolutely loved reading Mr. Perfect on Paper. Dara was so relatable with her struggles with anxiety and her perfectionism. Her constant lists and needing to stick to the schedule felt like I was looking in a mirror. I feel like there are so many people that understand this and would feel “seen” reading this book. Once I started this book, I could not put it down.
One of my favorite parts of this book was the relationship between Dara and her sweet grandma, Bubbe Miriam. Having been extremely close with my grandma who also experienced a bit of dementia, this relationship made my heart so happy. Bubbe lived in a retirement community with her “Challah Back Girls” who were other older ladies living their best life. They prove that age is just a number, and you can thrive no matter where you are in life.
Another thing I loved about this book was learning about Jewish Culture. Judaism has so many customs and traditions that I did not know about. Those who practice Judaism are truly dedicated to their religion.
Last but not least, I loved how light-hearted this book felt. The main male character, Chris, was such a sweet guy. I loved watching the chemistry continue to spark between him and Dara through the book, even though she was going on dates with other men. All of the dates going off-script and wild just added to the humor of this book.
Mr. Perfect on Paper was such a fun, light and easy read. I look forward to reading more by Jean Meltzer!
It’s not often I find a book in which I connect to the main character immediately. Dara struggles with fears and anxieties that I deal with as well. In the first couple of chapters, Dara has internal thoughts that I find myself having daily. It was a great comfort to relate in this way. I adore Jean Meltzer for bringing awareness in a beautiful way to this topic.
Dara lives a proud Jewish life and is looking for a husband with those same values. I was hesitant at first to read due to not sharing this religion. But I enjoyed learning about the Jewish culture and holidays and feel like this is the perfect time of year to read this novel. Dara, Bubbe, and the Challah Back girls were a heartfelt addition. They added a much-needed family bond with good humor mixed in.
I loved the connection Chris and Dara shared. He may not have been what she wanted on paper, but I enjoyed reading as she slowly realized her list may be flawed. I am starting to notice I am a sucker for single dads. Chris felt charming and was easy to root for. He was trying to do what was best for his daughter and that worked well for his rich character development.
The plot follows Dara trying to find her man on national television. I was not expecting how disastrous some of the dates would go! It was so funny and exactly what I am looking for in a rom-com. With its ability to touch on religion and mental health with grace, Mr. Perfect on Paper will be a frequent recommendation from me!
Mr. Perfect on Paper is a feel-good, charming, funny love story wrapped with a bow of kindness and understanding. I had so many laugh-out-loud moments reading this book, especially after the disasters that kept happening during Dara’s dates. Miriam’s Challah-Back girls are the sweetest, craziest, and most hilarious bunch.
I also enjoyed the budding romance between Dara and Chris. At one point I got annoyed with Dara for choosing to stick to her Perfect Husband list and giving up happiness. I understand there were so many factors to be considered, especially with Dara’s passion and love for her religion, but love does not need to be 100% perfect.
Dara’s grandmother was amazing. Despite all the matches she made, she saw love when it was in front of her and she wasn’t a hindrance as Dara creates her love story. I appreciated learning about the Jewish religion. I love reading about their traditions, practices, and holidays. It’s not every day you get to read a book that opens up your knowledge about a different religion. The book also discussed fears, anxieties, grief, and courage. The scenes between Chris and his daughter, Lacey, and Dara with Miriam brought tears to my eyes. As a reader, I felt all the emotion in the scenes where they talked about letting go and being brave.
I rated this book four stars. I just felt the ending was rushed. There was so much build-up about Dara and Chris’s feelings for each other throughout the book, but we were left with a tiny glimpse of their romance. The rest of the story was left to our imagination from what happened after they crossed Brooklyn Bridge. Overall, this book is a celebration of all different types of love out there.
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The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
Genre: Jewish Fiction/Romance
Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is hiding a secret from her Jewish family: She LOVES Christmas. In fact, she’s secretly a best-selling author of Christmas-themed novels. When her publishing company asks her to write a Hanukkah novel, Rachel struggles to find inspiration. Enter the Matzah Ball-a celebration on the last night of Hanukkah–and Jacob Goldstein, Rachel’s long-time arch-nemesis. Read more reviews on the book index.