Review: Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell

Sarah Wendell is the main brain behind Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Her blog and podcast provide a myriad of fun to romance readers of all kinds. I mentioned in this post that Penny Reid was one of the reasons I got back into romance books. Sarah Wendell and her brand is the other. Her humor and unabashed love for the genre is infectious.

Besides Smart Bitches, Sarah has written a number of different books about the genre. She has also thrown her hat in the ring and written her own romance book. And I’m so very glad she did.

After complaining one too many times, and being relentlessly annoyed about the lack of romance stories for the OTHER holidays in December, Wendell decided to fix that. Because as she points out, not everyone is a Christian. Which brings us to today’s post. If you want to know more about the book and why she wrote it, listen here and read here.

The Book

Lighting the Flames is a Hanukkah romance weaving Jewish traditions with a contemporary romance. It follows two childhood best friends, Jeremy and Genevieve, as they reconnect. Every year they would meet back up at camp, getting into all sorts of shenanigans. That is, until one year Jeremy leaves unexpectedly in the middle of summer. And then Gen leaves to study abroad. They missed a year in each other’s company. Now it’s winter, they’re back at camp, and need to relearn where their friendship falls.

This book was wonderful. I loved the relationship between Jeremy and Gen. It was such an honest and good friendship that it had me rooting for them from the beginning. Not only that but I loved how Wendell wove in the different traditions surrounding Hanukkah. It wasn’t an overwhelming info-dump, but rather a subtle explanation about why these traditions are so important to people.

It was different than the previous two Christmas romances I’ve reviewed so far. In those, Christmas serves as a backdrop to the tales. In Lighting The Flames, the traditions of the holiday very much play a role in what makes this season important. It’s not just the magical Christmas feels from Shalvis or the reminder of family love from Balogh. It’s…well, it’s a reminder of why traditions are important, why they’re practiced, and how they can be shared between people.

This book spans eight days, which makes sense given that it’s a Hanukkah story and Hanukkah also lasts for eight days. During this time, Jeremy and Gen learn to grow together. I loved how Wendell wove together aspects of the holiday to their own-shared experiences. It was a great way to make the story both a romance and a holiday story.

If you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved this part of the book. Loved it! I want more books like this.

The Romance

Anyway, time to back track to the lovers. I actually tend not to read too many childhood-sweethearts-turned-to-lovers stories. There are a lot of stories where the guy tends to leave or seriously mess up for, what seems to me, a rather stupid reason. It causes heartbreak and unnecessary drama. I don’t like unnecessary drama.

So even though there was a period of time in which these two were apart, it wasn’t for some unnecessary reason. It was actually for a very necessary reason for both of them. However, now that they’re back together at camp, they realize they need to get to know each other again. They need to figure who they are together as adults while at camp and while back at home.

I loved that these two remained best friends even with the year apart. It felt real. It felt like so many experiences I’ve had growing up and moving into adulthood. Maintaining friendships takes work and I think that is something Wendell explored well.

In addition to all that, this was, over all, a very sweet romance. Theirs wasn’t a story of full-blown passion and lusty stares. It was caring and nurturing. Supportive and tender. This is also a very safe for mom book, which made the kisses and touches even sweeter.

Grab this book for a great post Hanukkah read. It’ll give you all the wonderful warm fuzzies!

Swoon Worthy Quotes

He wanted to wake up with Gen beside him – maybe not on the ground outside, but with her next to him at the start of every day.

Was his voice saying her name always going to make her feel like fireflies had collected in the middle of her chest?

“The best times in my life have been with you.”


Genevieve and Jeremy have known each other since they were seven, and have been summertime best friends at Camp Meira, a Jewish overnight camp in the mountains. As campers, and then as staff, their friendship was a constant, something neither wanted to change, no matter how tempting those changes might be.

Then, last year, with little warning, Jeremy left camp early. After that summer, Gen left the country on a graduate fellowship.

Now, a little over a year since they were last at Meira, Gen and Jeremy are back together to help run a special Winter Camp during Hanukkah. Any water under the bridge is frozen this time of year, and with so much left unspoken and unexplained, this week may be their chance to rekindle their friendship, or turn it into something new.

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