I’m 100% always in the market for good Jewish representation in contemporary fiction, especially romance. There’s not a ton of it, so when I find it, I get pretty excited. That’s how The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan (Berkley Books, 2021) ended up on my TBR. But sometimes books aren’t what we hoped for, and this was one of them. And that’s fine. Not every book is for every reader. Here’s the gist of it.
Naomi Grant is a former professional sex worker, star of many, many adult films, and now head of her own company whose aim is to teach people how to have good sex. Over the years, she’s developed the tough skin necessary for people who work in such a controversial industry. She wants to move into teaching in-person crowds, but no one wants to hire someone who’s known mainly for being in pornography.
Rabbi Ethan Cohen needs to get more people into his struggling synagogue with an aging congregation. What better than to invite a former adult actress to teach a series on modern intimacy? The board will LOVE that!
While Naomi’s series grows in popularity, she and Ethan grow closer, but a rabbi and a porn star becoming a couple? Naomi wouldn’t do that to Ethan’s life and career, and Ethan is wary of placing the demands of his career on anyone. And surprise, the synagogue board isn’t happy about having a porn star teaching classes…
This really didn’t work for me. Naomi’s entire personality is brash, angry, and unpleasant. She was rude even to her friends and co-workers, and while the whole point was that she was defensive and lashed out first before other people could attack her, it made her tiresome to read and I had a hard time believing anyone would enjoy spending any kind of time with her.
Ethan was fine as a character, but I didn’t quite buy his whole, ‘Being a rabbi is too difficult for anyone to marry me!’ shtick; so far, I’ve met one single rabbi, and all the rest have been married. I understand that being married to someone who is clergy isn’t always the easiest position; the hours are constant and it’s incredibly demanding. But for Ethan to act like it’s impossible? Especially as someone who is apparently super attractive and has women throwing themselves at him constantly? Nah. Not buying it.
I liked Ethan’s open-mindedness and his sex-positive attitude (Naomi’s as well, but as she seemed so damn angry about it, it was harder to enjoy anything about her). His gentle pushing of his congregation to be more modern was entirely believable. But overall? I kind of had to push myself in order to get through this, which is a clear sign for me that this book just wasn’t the one for me. It happens. : )