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REVIEW: Hands-On Hanukkah – Penelope Peters

Hands-On Hanukkah - Penelope Peters

Genre: Holiday Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: HL

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About The Book

David Nachem doesn’t actually hate Hanukkah.

David Nachem is living his best life. He loves his work, he loves his cat, he loves his family. Who cares if he doesn’t put up holiday decorations? He’s not actually a Grinch – it just feels that way, especially when his boyfriend up and dumped him four months ago with no explanation.

But when Tim reappears in David’s life asking for David’s help as a massage therapist, David can’t say no. Not when David still misses Tim – and Tim’s joyful exuberance about everything holiday-related.

Not when David still wants to know why Tim dumped him in the first place.

Tim Mason doesn’t actually hate his ex.

Tim Mason is living his dream. He’s dancing for a national company in the big city, on the brink of ballet stardom. So what if his ex-boyfriend lied to him? Tim dropped that funsponge like a bad pair of pointe shoes and he’s dancing into the sunset.

But when Tim’s ballet career is almost side-lined right before the biggest performance of his life, David’s therapeutic know-how might be the only way Tim can get to center stage. Tim knows David isn’t as much of a Grinch as everyone says – but even he’s surprised at the turn David’s taken since their breakup.

Can he save David – and save his heart from breaking a second time?

This Hanukkah, all it takes to heal a heart is a pair of willing hands…

Hands-On Hanukkah is a m/m romance. It features sweaty dancers, dubious Hanukkah decorations, and lots of super *ahem* sensuous massages.

The Review

Massage therapist David Nachem used to love Hanukkah, but ever since his boyfriend, Tim Mason, unexpectedly broke up with him several months prior with no explanation, he now has no desire to even hang up some token decorations.

Tim is a member of the National Capital Ballet Ensemble and has the leading role in the upcoming performance of The Nutcracker, but since breaking up with David he’s lost his frequent access to sensual massages and needs some physical therapy before the opening night – and David is the only massage therapist he trusts to go to on short notice.

It’s a struggle for both David and Tim to keep things professional. Their breakup has left them both out of depth and vulnerable, with neither fully understanding why or how things ended between them – especially since they’re both still incredibly attracted and drawn to each other. (It certainly doesn’t help that David’s cousin Kelsey, who is also Tim’s co-star, is playing matchmaker.) But the lines between ex-boyfriend/lover and doctor/patient quickly start to blur, making everything more complicated as things heat up between them, which in turn is starting to rekindle David’s love for Hanukkah.

Normally I find myself easily frustrated with miscommunication and misunderstandings as the basis for conflict, but in Hands-On Hanukkah, I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I became in David and Tim sorting out their nonsense and just making up! They are well-matched as a couple (and extremely hot together). Every conversation they have is rife with misunderstandings – I was ready to reach through the pages to shake Tim for his constant assumptions and unwillingness to listen. The entire conflict between David and Tim could have been solved with a single, honest conversation where they just allowed each other to explain things… but if it was that easy, there wouldn’t be such a deliciously hot and well-written Hanukkah romance to enjoy.

On a personal level, I absolutely loved the authenticity of this portrayal of Hanukkah in the hands of a Jewish author – the comments about Hanukkah actually not being a major Jewish holiday, David’s faux-outrage at his cousin’s dubious Hanukkah-themed Christmas elf, lighting the shamash (the ninth candle of the Hanukkah menorah) to light each of the other candles while murmuring the prayers under his breath… even for non-American and non-practicing Jews, reading this novella felt a little bit like coming home. 

If you enjoy sensual massages, low-stakes drama and a steamy m/m romance, Hands-On Hanukkah by Penelope Peters is a perfect short read for the upcoming holiday season. Hanukkah Sameach! (Happy Hanukkah!)

The Reviewer

H. L. is a Jewish Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.

She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.

She has had two speculative short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.

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