As I embarked on my third novel–Counting on Him–I wanted to expand the diversity of my characters. But I’m a total heterosexual snowflake–so what’s a girl to do?
Then I remembered…I grew up in North Jersey, where I had more Jewish friends than Christian. I know more Yiddish than Spanish, French and German combined. I may be a goy, but I’ve shlepped, I’ve schmeared, I’ve moaned oy vey, and I’ve even attended a few Bat Mitzvahs.
Then I looked at the demographics. Do you know how few Jewish romance novels there are? Goodreads has 48. That’s appalling. So, I decided to expand my horizons and feature a Jewish heroine. Plus, I figured Gabby Belofski would have a tad more conflict in her life if she hooked up with Sean Andrews, a cute but aimless goy ne’er-do-well.
It’s tricky–adding cultural touchstones with becoming mired in stereotypes. But I have actually heard most of the sentiments expressed in my novel. Hopefully I struck the right balance.
- Gabby and Sean hook up during Lindsay’s wedding reception. (Lindsay is Gabby’s best friend…and Sean’s sister)
- Gabby has dinner with her mother
Sean jerked away. The breeze from the air conditioning instantly cooled his skin. Good. Because this couldn’t happen.
He grabbed her biceps and held her at arms’ length. “What are we doing?”
She looked confused at first, all flushed and dewy-eyed. Then she smiled. “Surely that’s obvious.”
A strange clash of warring emotions took hold of him. Rocked by lust, confusion and fear. When she tried to lean into him, he locked elbows, creating a solid space between them. His eyes sealed on hers, he slowly moved his head from side to side.
She smiled tightly, like a teacher trying to convince a truculent student. “Sean, I want this. I want you.”
“No!” he squeaked. Cleared his throat and deepened his voice. “Absolutely not.”
Her eyes widened. “But I’m single, you’re single. Why not?”
Why not? Without a pause, he barked through the list. “One, because you’re my sister’s best friend. Two, because Lindsay will kill me. Three, because we’re both a little wasted and don’t know what we’re doing.”
Totally unswayed, Gabby removed her soft, little hands from his chest and reached for his fly. “Oh, I know what I’m doing, alright.”
He started to cave. Why should his sister have any bearing on his sex life? If Gabby wasn’t bothered by her reaction, why couldn’t they do this?
Then he remembered the one undeniable reason. Grabbing her hands, eagerly probing his throbbing groin, he groaned. “No, Gabs. Really. We can’t do this. I don’t have a condom.”
Fucking Natalie! She was so pissed he’d broken up with her, she’d snuck back into his apartment and cut up every last condom. Every god damn one. Even the one in his wallet that he’d left on the kitchen counter. And now he finally had Gabby in his room, in his arms and…
Her mouth pinched with irritation, then curled up into a pleased grin. “’Sis all right. I’m on the pill.” And she tugged him back.
He shook his head. “I can’t do that. It’s not…”
She mumbled into his neck. “C’mon. It will be fine.” Lifting her head, her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to focus on his face. “Unless you’ve got something goin’ on down there, I don’t know about…” and she waved her hand at his junk.
“No! Jesus, no. I’m—” he tried to come up with an appropriate word that wouldn’t totally destroy the mood, and settled for “Fine. I’m fine. Clean as a whistle.” He puffed out a low note though pursed lips, smiled and joked, “You want to give it a blow?” Aw shit! Now why did I go and say that?
When she ground against him again, he knew he was a goner. He was locked and loaded and she’d ripped off the safety.
“I’m upstairs,” her mother called down. “I’ll be down in two shakes.”
Reaching into the refrigerator, Gabby pulled out a bottle of water and rested the cooling plastic against her forehead. Skirting the island, she dropped onto her stool and cracked open the bottle. Taking a deep gulp, she sighed. That felt marginally better.
She could hear her mother puttering around upstairs, banging doors open and shut. It was such a familiar sound. The woman was never at rest, always on the go. Surely she wouldn’t mind having a grandchild to fuss over, boss around, spoil.
Or maybe not. Gabby took another sip of water. Her mother had gotten her realtor’s license when Gabby was about ten years old and it was as though she’d developed a superpower. She’d never been the quiet Clark Kent type person, but suddenly she was flying around town, brokering deals, and making money. She was a natural. Gabby couldn’t picture her quitting her job to play babysitter all day.
She crossed her forearms and dropped her head. This was such a heavy weight. She felt guilty knowing she was in a much better position than many other women. It wasn’t like she was sixteen and broke. Or in an abusive relationship. As a teacher, she’d been exposed to those sorts of situations and they were heartbreaking. She had an education, a job and family and friends who would support her. It was just that she never expected to be in this situation. It wasn’t part of the plan. But, as her Bubbe would say, “Man strives and God laughs.”
Tap, tap, tap. Her mother’s heels clicked on the stairs, so Gabby jerked upright and put on a brave face.
“Gabrielle, dawling, I’m so glad you could make it this week. It feels like forever since you’ve been able to make our Tuesday dinner with your poor mother.” Striding into the kitchen, she squeezed Gabby’s shoulders and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
The scent of Dior J’adore, hairspray and undeserved guilt enveloped Gabby. Most women her age didn’t have to come home every week for dinner, but since she’d missed last week, tonight would a production.
“Sorry, ma. I told you, my teaching workshop ran late last week.” Only a partial lie…it was supposed to end at five o’clock, but didn’t end until five-thirty. Gabby had used it as an excuse, since she hadn’t been ready to face her mother with the news. Still wasn’t, for that matter.
“Yes, yes, I remember,” her mother waved her hand airily, her gold bangles clanking, as though it didn’t matter at all. Now, that was a total sham. “It’s just I’ve got so much news to share with you, and since it’s summertime and you are not working, I just assume you’ll have time for me.”
They’d talked on the phone yesterday.