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Matzah Ball Surprise #1

Matzah Ball Surprise

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This Passover is starting to feel like the ten plagues might be coming back to haunt them before the weekend is over...one hilarious misstep after the next.

Gaby Fineberg just wants to get through Passover Seder without her “well meaning” family playing matchmaker. She needs a date, just for one simple meal - that includes singing, the history of her forefathers, and not one bit of yeast. The hot guy at her gym would be perfect. He probably hates bread, anyway, with a body like that. But when she finally works up the nerve to ask him...he doesn’t hear a word she said.

Levi Miller is deaf and happily single. Initially, he doesn’t know why this beautiful woman is talking to him, but it’s clear she needs help - and suddenly so does he. In a very complicated situation, Levi finds a simple solution. Gaby will pretend to be his new girlfriend to bail him out, and he’ll return the favor. But he didn’t bargain for a family dinner quite like this one...

249 pages, Paperback

First published March 16, 2020

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About the author

Laura Brown

9 books321 followers
Laura Brown lives in Massachusetts with her quirky family. Her husband’s put up with her since high school, her young kid keeps her on her toes, and her three cats think they deserve more scratches. Hearing loss is a big part of who she is, from her own Hard of Hearing ears, to the characters she creates.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 120 reviews
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,830 reviews5,504 followers
March 24, 2020
*2.5 stars*

When I requested this book to review, I was pumped to find a Passover romance, and one with a deaf main character at that. It was both exciting and refreshing, and I couldn't wait to dive in. Of course, this year, my big at-home Passover seder with my extended family is completely cancelled (if you are reading this from the future, Covid- 19 sucks and ruins everything), so this book gave me big twangs of nostalgia and regret. While I was wistful reading some scenes and happy about how the author crafted parts of the story, other aspects of the book made me want to bang my head against the wall.

First of all, I love how the author handled the MC being deaf (as the author is hard of hearing herself, it's no wonder she did such a great job with it). I love romance books with interesting main characters, and I loved the challenge of an MC with communication barriers. I also loved the level of "Jewishness" of the story. As someone who is Jewish but, uh, a lazy practitioner, I enjoyed the culturally Jewish aspects of the story. I liked how both MCs were Jewish and related to the rituals, but weren't fanatical about the details of the holiday. Personally, that's how I practice, and so it was fun to read about as well. I also loved how the author didn't make the story out to be a Hebrew School lesson. It was mildly didactic, but mostly just something that both Jews and non-Jews could relate to and understand.

However, though the author did those aspects of the story very well, the romance was sorely lacking. I hate the "silly misunderstanding" plot device, and the author used it here and used it hard. So much could have been resolved with some simple texting. It wasn't necessary to have characters storming out on one another and not explaining things when everything was SO simple to explain. It was frustrating to no end how these two didn't communicate. You'd think that the language barrier would be the biggest issue but it was their own stupidity that did them in!

I also just didn't see why these guys liked each other all that much. I didn't get the whole "I like to fix women with issues" thing the male MC kept saying, and I didn't see how one weekend together with lots of awkwardness could possibly lead to love. Really missed the chemistry and the romance. I wish I had felt the love, since I loved that this was a Passover romance with a character with a disability, but it just wasn't there.

A decent read in many ways, but missed the mark as a romance for me. I look forward to more of these types of books from this author in the future.

*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*

Profile Image for Lynn Spencer.
1,183 reviews77 followers
December 15, 2020
Oh, my heart. I loved this book. I see the Christian side of my family reflected very often in romance, and in fiction in general. However, very rarely do I see stories where I recognize the Jewish side of the family. Matzah Ball Surprise is just such a book. It’s sweet, hilarious, uplifting, and made me nostalgic for things I hadn’t even realized I was missing. If you enjoy romantic comedy, you’re in for a treat.

Even though Gaby Fineberg thinks that her breakup with her ex-boyfriend was the right decision, her family has bemoaned her single state enough that she feels the need to acquire a fake date for the family Passover Seder. She drums up her courage to approach the cute guy she’s been admiring at the gym. Her initial invitation flounders as it turns out that Levi Miller is Deaf and completely missed Gaby’s awkward overture. However, the two figure out how to communicate via cellphones and not only do they set up their fake date for Passover, but their chemistry definitely starts to build.

Levi has a few secrets of his own, including a recently ended engagement. However, his background comes out much more slowly in the story than does Gaby’s, but perhaps because they spend most of the book at Gaby’s childhood home, this works. At times I found Levi a little overly mysterious, but his interactions with Gaby worked so well that my mind easily brushed off questions – as did Gaby, as it turns out.

Much of this book takes place at Gaby’s childhood home, so while we get plenty of interaction between the leads, we also get a lot of family time. The author balances this incredibly well, and the familial interactions enhance rather than swamp the romantic plot. Some of my own family are Jewish and the mixture of tradition and good-natured family jokes felt very familiar to me as I read. The blend of tradition and family togetherness makes this a warmly emotional story.

This is a partial review. You can find the complete text here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-revi...
Profile Image for Mara.
1,460 reviews3,541 followers
February 21, 2020
3.5 stars -- I was totally charmed by the character and story of this one. Yes, it has it's faults (the writing is quite choppy in a few places, and the ending is rushed), but overall, I really appreciated 2 things: a) that the two key parts of the characters' identity (for both of them, that they are Jewish, and for the hero, that he is deaf) are integral parts of the story in a way that I thought was handled gracefully, and b) the heroine's emotions around her father's passing. The latter I am sure hits me where I live more so than it would for others, but I felt the emotions behind this part of the heroine's story deeply. All in all, not a perfect book, but one I enjoyed and appreciated for different "variables" that it brought to a fake relationship over the holidays story.
Profile Image for beachbum bookworm.
329 reviews308 followers
March 25, 2020
To begin with I will always give a separate rating on my romances for their level of steaminess...that way if this is something that makes or breaks your potential to read a book, you are not wasting your time.
💖very mild. Either no sex at all or just eluded to.
💖💖 sex scenes are described in this book
💖💖💖little left to the imagination. The author is really painting you a picture
💖💖💖💖 wowzers! this could be the amount of sex, detail, dirty talk, etc.
I gave this book 4 stars and 💖💖. There are only a couple of scenes, and although described they are not erotic. They definitely are not the focal part of the book.
Matzah ball surprise...was well just that filled with lots of great surprises.
For a single Jewish girl Passover with your overbearing family can be a nightmare. Gaby decides to combat the “single blues and the endless matchmaking sessions” by concocting a “fake boyfriend”, and the hot guy at the gym will do just fine. Gaby gets up the courage to approach “mr free-weights”, and asks him to be part of her scheme...and nothing, nada. He didn’t even react...she soon realizes the hot guy isn’t rude...he’s deaf.
Levi has issues of his own. He’s already involved in one fake relationship. Yep. He is already fake taken. Only it’s a little more serious then “fake-dating”...try fake engaged. Him and Monica really were involved at one time. Thrown together because of family friendships, and both are hearing impaired. They realized soon enough...they were only friends, but not wanting to disappoint their families and other complications kept them from revealing their breakup to the family.
Levi being a “fixer” agrees to help Gaby out, and do a little avoidance of his own problems.

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed learning all the customs of a Passover weekend. Although traditions might be different one thing remains the same...family gatherings. I really felt like I was at my own family dinner.
The author does a great job, and what felt like a realistic portrayal of the barriers that someone in the deaf community faces.
Now to the real reason I read the book. The romance. I loved the chemistry between Gaby and Levi. This book did a good job of showing that no matter what the barrier chemistry is chemistry, and they have it. It really was a fun read!

The only reason this book isn’t getting a five from me is…. it was too “insta-love” for my tastes, I mean...I think the whole book takes place over a weeks time lol.

check out my website at: http://beachbumbookworm.com/

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Netgalley, the author Laura Brown, and the publisher for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Felicia Grossman.
Author 4 books112 followers
February 29, 2020
I absolutely LOVED this book. It was so cute and so fun and just so sweet and lovely. Gaby and Levi have the absolute hottest chemistry, which is not easy to achieve in a book that is so, well loving. I adored both of their arcs and the way they worked through their issues with their families (I really appreciated that they both loved their families and their families loved them, but didn't always know how to communicate right or wanted to push things that were well-meaning but not needed, i.e., that their families weren't the "bad guys," they were imperfect but caring, and not caricatures).

The Jewish representation was spot-on and comforting, at least for me. And there were so many feels. This was a couple you WANTED to be together so badly which made their HEA so absolutely special. I am so, so, so, happy I got to read this!

Thank you NetGalley for the advanced copy in exchanged for this honest, albeit, a little gushy-review.
Profile Image for Heather❀Kiss The Pages❀.
704 reviews268 followers
March 31, 2020
This was a cute fake dating story. I loved learning about Jewish tradditions and the challenges the hero faced as a deaf person was insightful.

The romance was enjoyable starting with great flirtatious banter that slowly built with growing attraction. This book had some great steamy moments and while this couple obviously had certain challenges, the sexual tension was always lingering.

Gaby takes Levi home during Passover as her fake boyfriend to appease her meddling mother who always wants to set her up on a date. Of course the lines between pretense and truth start to blur as they both realize they have feelings for each other. The author played out the whole fake dating trope so well. Levi was such a charismatic character and being deaf didn't interfere with his charm and his ability to win over Gaby and her family.

I did have some issues with the fact that Levi did not tell Gaby that he was Jewish. This seemed like such a simple thing for him to communicate with her. When she finds out it sparks the beginning of a big fight and the whole drama just seemed so unnecesary to me. There is also the fact that Levi has just ended a relationship with someone else but his ex-girlfriend is forcing him not to reveal the truth to their family or friends. Some may say he was just aptient and understanding (some expalnation is given as the story progresses) but I found it a bit frustrating.

Overall this story had some hiccoughs along the way but it was an enjoyable sweet romance that was unique in exploring both the Jewish and deaf culture.

3 Stars
Contemporary Romance
POV: Dual
Heat Level: Mild to Moderate
HEA: Yes


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Profile Image for Jill S (Love Affair With Fiction).
645 reviews64 followers
March 17, 2020
I was beyond excited when I saw that there was a romance coming out that incorporated Passover as a main theme in the book. In fact, I may have squealed and shot off a rambling email saying that I NEEDED the book right now! LOL.
Passover is my favorite holiday ever. It incorporates all my loves: tradition, history, memory, community, family, story, and song. And now I finally get to read a book that takes place at the Passover seder in my favorite genre — romance! Thank you so much, Laura Brown, for this gem of a romcom. I truly hope to see more books like this from you in the future!
Matzah Ball Surprise is a fun and flirty read. This romcom hits all those great spots… wit, laugh out loud moments, and believable characters that you could see sitting down and sharing a meal with.
Gaby needs a date to her family's seder (ceremonial meal to celebrate the start of Passover) in order to get them off her back. So she decides to ask the hunk that she has been ogling while she works out. She gathers up the courage to ask him to be her fake date (what a fun trope!), but… he doesn't hear her. Levi, it turns out, is deaf. Let the fun and shenanigans ensue as this unlikely pair try to fool Gaby's family for the holiday.
I loved how Laura Brown seamlessly integrated both Levi being deaf and the Jewish holiday into the story. Neither seemed like just a prop or setting... both were integral to the story itself. I could just imagine how easy it would be to feel like an outsider at a seder when conversation and songs flow around the table the entire time. I appreciated how this experience with his fake date's family made him appreciate his own family that much more. I think it is so natural for us as humans to focus on what isn't right, what could be better, that we sometimes don't appreciate how good we have it.
The characters in this book were great. I loved how their imperfections made them so much more realistic. From our main couple to the family and friends they were surrounded by. These were characters you could imagine bumping into in your own life. And can we talk chemistry? Gaby and Levi had it in spades! I couldn't wait for them to rip off each other's clothes and realize how good they truly were together.
I found Matzah Ball Surprise to be a delightful read. One that I can see myself re-reading next year just in time for Passover! I am hoping (begging) that we can see some of the side characters get their own story (I would love to see books with Meyer, Monica & Izzy!)
Profile Image for Maria.
1,638 reviews29 followers
March 1, 2020
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A yummy Deaf hero falls head over heels for a hearing woman in "Matzah Ball Surprise", by Laura Brown (Entangled Lovestruck). No angst, no unrealistic lip reading, just two people with a strong chemistry.

A cute and quick read where a yummy Deaf hero falls head over heels for a hearing woman. There’s no unneeded angst, no unbelievable lip reading, just two people with an instant, strong chemistry, trying to work through their different languages, experiences and issues.
I loved how Laura Brown wrote the charming, blue-eyed hero’s POV, how Levi really turns into a vivid and complex wounded hero; watching him communicate using ASL or his phone seemed so natural. Levi is an intelligent, very well-adjusted Deaf person, but nevertheless experiences the obstacles, the social isolation that not even the most advanced technology can avert.
Levi and Gaby are great together and complement each other. I loved how they met, the chemistry and sensuality between them. I also liked the author’s writing style and even the convoluted mess Levi finds himself in is fun to watch.
It was wonderful that the hearing characters tried to adapt to a new reality by learning a different language.
Most of all, I found the Deaf protagonist to be so realistic and I really loved the positive vibes he gives off.

A quote (from ARC):
“Lip reading was a crapshoot and speech therapy never amounted to anything, not that he really tried. As a kid he was more interested in running around outside than watching some old lady’s lips, trying to match that to words. Language was visual, not verbal.”
December 9, 2021
I read this book in one sitting. It was very well written and I enjoyed that it involved a Deaf man and the Jewish culture. There were several problems with the story that caused me to lower my rating from 4 to a 3 stars.

Note: "Use Deaf with a capital D to refer to people who have been deaf all their lives, or since before they started to learn to talk. They are pre-lingually deaf. It is an important distinction, because Deaf people tend to communicate in sign language as their first language. For most Deaf people English [any language spoken] is a second language, and understanding complicated messages in English can be a problem." ~ https://signhealth.org.uk/resources/l...

Deaf (with a capitalized D) - Identifies as culturally deaf. People who have a hearing loss, communicate using a sign language, and are involved in the Deaf community.

deaf (with a lower cased d) - Medical term for hearing loss

Deaf culture (with a capitalized D) - a culture connected by multiple traits such as sign language, deaf, traditions, shared values, etc. ~ https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-g...

examples of Deaf compared to deaf: Four men (a Russian, a Cuban, and a Deaf American, and an interpreter) are on a train. The Deaf have their own culture. S/He became deaf when s/he was a year old because of an infection. S/He learned about his/her Deaf community at the school for the Deaf while learning ASL.
Profile Image for Wendy'sThoughts.
2,632 reviews3,209 followers
April 21, 2020
4 Worth It Stars
* * * * Spoiler Free A Quick Review
It was with such pleasure to see something like this. It covered the holidays for a group of people usually ignored and gave a significant story with heart and care.

A gifted copy was provided by author/publisher for an honest review.

For more Reviews, Free E-books and Giveaways
Profile Image for Katie T.
905 reviews62 followers
April 8, 2022
All the usual tropes. Cute but contrived.
Profile Image for Simply Love Book Reviews.
6,893 reviews818 followers
March 16, 2020
3.5 stars

Having grown up experiencing the Jewish culture firsthand and attending my fair share of Passover seders, I was interested in reading a story that reflected some of the traditions of my childhood. And in that respect I was not disappointed. The well meaning yet tactless questions, the loud and dramatic family interactions, the gossip, the Yiddish sprinkled in like seasoning to give everything a distinct flavor, this was all familiar to me.

Coupled with the unfamiliar life of a deaf man who lives in a hearing world, I was looking forward to reading this unique romance.

While I found the premise to be a novel one, I couldn’t put my finger on just one thing, but this story just didn’t hold my interest the way I had hoped it would.

As the heroine, I found Gaby’s utter lack of self-confidence to be frustrating. On the other hand, as the imperfect hero, Levi was a bright spot in the story. The nice, hot guy from the gym, patiently teaching Gaby to sign while he is thrust into the fake role of boyfriend to keep her family from asking her uncomfortable questions about her love life. He’s calming, sweet, and I really enjoyed him.

Unfortunately, I found him carrying a story that was otherwise rife with a plot that was just too contrived. For a whole host of reasons, who asks a stranger to attend a family dinner, much less travel out of town with them overnight to do so? I’m not talking about someone you don’t know well…I’m talking about the first conversation you have with this person being an invitation?? Isn’t it easier to deflect questions on dating status than to go through the charade of bringing a total stranger home to mom? And the storyline of Levi and his fake fiancé who was still pretending to his family that they were engaged? When combined, the improbability of it all was just too much for me.

The idea for this book was certainly cute and the writing sweet. However, much like Passover bagels, I just found the premises underlying this story a bit too hard to swallow.

Review copy provided for a voluntary review.
Profile Image for Zimmy W.
580 reviews7 followers
May 12, 2021
**DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from Entangled Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine, and this did not affect my review process.**

This book wrapped me up in swaddling clothes, fed me warm soup, and soothed my soul. I can't rave about this book more! Not only does it contain deaf AND Jewish #ownvoices rep in it, it also takes place almost entirely over Passover weekend! I am slightly familiar with Judaic customs, considering I grew up Catholic, but I know very little about what it is like for someone who is hard of hearing, so I really enjoyed reading half of the book from Levi Miller's perspective, as he explained in his own gentle way, through his actions, that hearing folks have privilege we aren't always aware of.
On top of that, I'm always a fan of fake dating, so this book reeled me in real quick with that one. And isn't the cover just breathtakingly gorgeous? So much love for this book!


The only reservation I have, which is why I mentally score it as 4.5/5, despite entering it here as 5/5, is the ending was a tad bit rushed. I think the way it ended was fine, but I wished to see a little bit more of Levi's character development. I feel his view that he needs to "fix" people was never fully resolved - he said at the end that they had much more time in store to "fix" her (which could have easily been switched out to say more time to teach her ASL). I jerked a little at that, but considering it occurred within the last few pages, I decided to not let it dampen my view of the book too much, considering I enjoyed 99.5% of the book, undoubtedly.
If you'd like to check out my quick "bite-sized" review, here's the link to my blog post about this book: https://lizzywritesreviews.art.blog/2...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for marieke.
16 reviews
March 18, 2020
This book seemed promising and original: Jewish holiday, sexy deaf guy, fake date...
But then it turned out that the conflict revolved around my most hated trope: 'the BIG secret'.

Here is how it went down:

Hero: has a messy situation he won't tell the heroine: . I don't really understand why he has to keep it secret, but he hardly knows her so I can understand he isn't going to tell her everything about his life.
Heroine: there is something he isn't telling me...
Sister of heroine: knows something and confronts the hero
Hero: should flat out deny the accusations of the sister but just tells her: "she has to give him the benefit of the doubt."
me: almost throw Kindle at the wall
Hero: finally wants to confess
Heroine: "no, not know, let's have sex"
me: almost throw Kindle at the wall again
Hero & Heroine: can't talk because they have to go for a second round of sex
Hero: can't confess because he let the battery of his mobile phone, his most important way of communication, die. He brought his laptop, but it is not mentioned anymore. Maybe deaf people don't like to communicate through computers?
Heroine: finds out and obviously they have a big fight where she yells "you shouldn't have lied!"
me: almost throw my Kindle at the wall yet again and scream: "you shouldn't have said you didn't want to talk!"

I try to stay away from books with 'BIG secrets' because they always make me mad. Unfortunatly this one didn't even mention anything about it in the blurb.

This definitely wasn't the book for me.

Profile Image for Kimberly.
2,164 reviews85 followers
March 17, 2020
Reviewed for Wit and Sin

Matzah Ball Surprise is a bright and fun romance that will make you smile. I admit I picked up this book simply because I’ve never read a romance set during Passover and I was thrilled to see one out there. I’m so glad I did, because Gaby and Levi are endearing characters and their love story is delightful.

I have been in Gaby’s place at Passover, so I totally sympathize with her wanting a fake boyfriend to play buffer against a well-meaning family. Gaby is a vibrant, colorful character who absolutely hates change (something I also sympathize with). She isn’t perfect, but she’s got a genuinely good heart and is on guard against being lied to because she’s been hurt before. Asking the hunky guy at her gym to be her fake date may have been a spontaneous act, but it was the best thing she could have done for herself. Levi is a sensitive, caring hero who will make you swoon. He’s a Deaf Studies teacher and is deaf himself, so he is patient and understanding while teaching Gaby how to communicate. Levi has his own family issues and an ex-fiancé who is making things complicated for him. Because he tries so hard to take care of everybody, Levi makes mistakes. But they’re mistakes that come from being too nice and giving a person, so you really can’t hold that against him. Gaby and Levi’s whirlwind romance is sweet and enjoyable, though there is some unwanted drama I could see coming due to the aforementioned ex-fiancé that I didn’t quite love. Still, they made Levi and Gaby made a wonderful couple and I liked their romance overall.

What makes Matzah Ball Surprise stand out are two things author Laura Brown weaves into the story incredibly well: (1) Passover and (2) two strangers – one hearing and one deaf – learning to communicate. It’s clear on both topics Ms. Brown knows what she’s talking about and the story is the richer for it. Both protagonists are Jewish, which I loved (it’s surprisingly rare to find this) and Ms. Brown does a fantastic job of showing Passover traditions, adding layers by portraying not only characters who keep Passover but those who are more lax. There are a number of things that felt incredibly real to me, but you absolutely do not have to be Jewish to enjoy this story. As for Levi and Gaby learning to communicate, this was incredibly well done. Gaby doesn’t pick up ASL overnight and it’s eye-opening for her how many things hearing people take for granted or do and are unaware that it excludes deaf people. Levi has grown up with a family who easily communicates with him and he has plenty of deaf friends. I appreciated his patience and instructiveness and found it added a lot to the story. There is a richness and a depth to this otherwise fluffy story that comes from injecting realness into the fantasy. All in all, Matzah Ball Surprise is a fun contemporary romance that – unlike matzah itself – is thoroughly enjoyable.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Bea .
1,950 reviews138 followers
March 24, 2020
3.5 stars

Both the cover and the blurb were cute, and bonus, the story featured a non-Christian holiday; how could I pass this up?

The book mostly lived up to it's blurb; it was cute, sweet, and lovely. I loved Gaby and Levi together; they made a great couple, though communication was a problem. Levi kept secrets from Gaby, lied to her, and made her feel foolish. One of Levi's secrets was that he was Jewish, the same as Gaby. But he wasn't clear about that and Gaby didn't realize he was Jewish. Why didn't he say something when he realized her mistake? It was stupid and could have been cleared simply. They had one other communication issue and that was Gaby's lack of ASL knowledge. Gaby and Levi communicate via cellphones while she learns ASL, which I thought was a clever technique. Levi, who teaches ASL at a college, also teaches Gaby, and she is an enthusiastic learner. She makes mistakes but accepts correction gracefully. Brown did a fantastic job showing Levi interacting with his hearing family and his deaf friends. Levi's deafness affects his life of course, but it wasn't his defining feature. It was a part of who he was just as Gaby's hearing was a part of her.

Another good feature was that while neither of their families is perfect, neither are they dreadful. They're decent families, trying their best, and making mistakes. The way they worked through their issues with their families was adult and realistic. Levi had some difficulties concerning his x-fiancée Monica and honesty with his family, but he eventually does the right thing. I will say, I thought Levi was spineless when it came to Monica. His behavior felt less like respect for her and total wimpiness on his part.

Brown did a good job showing us traditions and familial togetherness. Holidays can be stressful, it's why Gaby invited Levi to be her fake date, but we also see the joy and fun. Levi, attending Seder at Gaby's family home, sees differences in how they conduct the ceremony and Seder traditions from how his family does them. They're not wrong, just different, and he respects that. I also enjoyed seeing and learning more about Passover and Seders.

Some things I didn't enjoy - Levi had a savior complex, both Leo and Gaby needed to be more assertive, and the ending was rushed and a bit abrupt. Still, "Matzah Ball Surprise" was an easy, enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Lenore Kosinski.
2,253 reviews50 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 23, 2020

I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

DNF @ 14% — I really really wanted to love this book, what with its double whammy of diversity. I rarely find religious diversity books, so I was super excited!

But. *sigh* I had a hard time getting sucked into this one. The writing was okay, but I wasn’t connecting with Gaby (or her friend), or Levi, and seeing the obvious set up for miscommunication, I just didn’t have the heart to keep going when I knew it was likely going to annoy me. Plus, right now, I need some happy reads, so I think I’m giving up early.

I was also a bit incredulous that a deaf man wouldn’t be able to read lips AT ALL. Maybe I’m totally mistaken, but it just seems really unlikely in this day and age. I should ask a hearing impaired friend her opinion, but I’m already dibs out, so oh well.

Basically, it’s me, not the book. I mean, I doubt I would have flat out loved it, but I bet it would have been a solid 3 stars when all was said and done.
Profile Image for Megan.
262 reviews18 followers
March 2, 2020
Look, I've been waiting for a romance with a Jewish protagonist since I discovered the genre, and there's nothing more emblematic of Judaism than a good ol' Passover dinner. The main interest, Levi, is both devastatingly handsome and deaf, and I thought Laura Brown gave voice to the barriers he faces in every day life and in the very kosher and unorthodox situation he finds himself in, as a fake date for Gaby Fineberg. Even though the setting itself is explicitly Jewish, I thought that the relationships that both characters have with their family (siblings, parents, extended) was one of the most culturally Jewish components of the book. The relationships are far from perfect, but in both cases, they are central to the identities, dramas, and emotional support of the characters. I would love to follow Gaby's sister in a future (maybe Yom Kippur themed?) novel.

The only place where the novel didn't work for me was the very convoluted side story of Levi's ex girlfriend, and his ongoing relationship with her. This was the setup for the central conflict of the book, but I think that there could easily have been enough conflict just in the inability for Gaby and Levi to effectively communicate at all times - and for Gaby, who had previously no relationships with a deaf person, to understand and not unintentionally create a difficult situation for Levi. As many folks have noted, the ending was rushed and introduces a host of characters that we only very peripherally knew prior to the last few pages. That being said, it didn't take away from the experience of reading and enjoying this book!

Thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Shirley Cuypers.
842 reviews193 followers
March 17, 2020
Original review

This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Entangled: Lovestruck!

Matzah Ball Surprise
is a standalone Romance book about Gaby and Levi.

Since I read Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, I’ve always been fascinated by deaf people and sign language. I’ve never really read or watched anything about the deaf community and that book was really eye-opening for me. When I saw that Entangled: Lovestruck is going to publish a book about someone falling in love with a deaf person, I just had to request an arc! Matzah Ball Surprise was such a good book and I enjoyed reading about Gaby and Levi!

Gaby just had a breakup but she needs a date for her family event… Levi doesn’t want to spend his weekend with his family… And then they meet each other… Gaby and Levi are just meant to be together. They’re just so cute together and I love that Gaby is trying to learn ASL specially for Levi. I just couldn’t get enough of them together!

Matzah Ball Surprise was such an enjoyable Romance read and I loved reading about Gaby and Levi. Although this is a good book, the ending was a bit abrupt. I would’ve liked one or two chapters after the last chapter. But besides that, the book was really good! I cannot wait to read more books by Laura Brown.
Profile Image for Rosie Danan.
Author 4 books1,940 followers
March 8, 2020
Reading an ARC of this book was such a treat. Curling up with Gaby and Levi provided all the coziness and charm of watching a Hallmark movie—except the major difference is Laura Brown gives us excellent portrayal of multiple marginalizations in her story (and a lot more sexual tension).

Levi was the first Deaf hero I've read and I really appreciated seeing the world through his perspective, through both challenging social situations and celebratory occasions. In addition, both protagonists are Jewish and reading this story made me feel so at home—like I was sitting around the Seder table with my own family. Seeing so many Passover traditions woven into the story was both refreshing and comforting.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a little matzah ball soup for the soul (sorry, I had to).
Profile Image for MsArdychan.
528 reviews21 followers
March 9, 2020
Please Note: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

If you've been looking for a fun, sexy rom-com, look no further than Matzah Ball Surprise, by Laura Brown. From the cover to the charming characters, this book was super fun to read. A bonus is that one of the main characters is from an under-represented group, and is represented realistically, which makes this a wonderful novel. This comes as no surprise, as the author is from this group. I love that we get a novel about an under-represented group from someone actually from that community. Diverse voices!!!

What I Liked:

I enjoy the "fake" relationship trope so much. There were strong reasons for both Gaby and Levi to want to present a fake partner. Both had to do with family expectations and pressures. This often become more intense during a holiday, and Passover was the perfect backdrop.


Gaby and Levi are both very charming characters. I love how the author delves into each character in a substantive way. We get to understand how they normally relate to romantic partners, and why this new relationship is different.

Portrayal of Deafness:

The author's presentation of deafness and the deaf community is well done and accessible to non-deaf readers. Laura Brown shows how gatherings might be a mixed bag when some people in your family can sign, and some cannot. She also illustrates some of the assumptions hearing people have ("I thought you could read lips", one of Gaby's relatives tells Levi), and how insensitive this is.


This was a fun story about a Passover weekend with family drama, humor, and sexy romance. I liked that the author went through the entire ritual meal of Passover, with all it's meaning and symbolism, As with any holiday, Gaby's family has a few of its own traditions and family dynamics that make their Passover dinner unique, but also universal.

What I was mixed about:

I thought that the romance of Gaby and Levi was a bit rushed. Even though I could see a strong attraction between the two, I wish the author didn't jump to saying they might love each other. I would have been just as happy for the characters to be excited to keep learning more about each other by the end of the book.

Sex On The Page:

If you enjoy steamy sex, then you will love this book. I have to say that a play by play of everything happening between the sheets is not my cup of tea. But the scenes were well done, with several small moments that built up the sexual tension effectively.
Profile Image for Living My Best Book Life.
728 reviews70 followers
March 15, 2020
Matzah Ball Surprise is a sweet and charming novel about a fake relationship developing into something more. Gaby and Levi have amazing chemistry and engage in genuine conversations.

Gaby has just ended a relationship and needs to find a date for The Passover. Her family is always pressuring her to find 'the one' and if she shows up without a date she won't hear the end of it. When she works up the courage to talk to the hot guy at the gym, he doesn't say a word. Levi is actually deaf so he couldn't hear her. After Gaby gets her point across Levi agrees because he is single and thinks they can help each other.

No feelings involved just a fake relationship. It never goes as planned. lol. When they start getting to know each other, they begin to like each other for real.

I really liked the story and liked that the author gave us a hero who was deaf. It reminds most that just because you have an impairment doesn't mean you are less of as a person. Levi has amazing qualities that make him so easy to love.

I give Matzah Ball Surprise 4 stars. The chemistry, humor, and witty banter shined throughout the story. A good romance with a few surprises along the way. Makes for a good and quick read.
Profile Image for ⚜️XAR the Bookwyrm.
2,311 reviews17 followers
March 20, 2020

This was more of a 3.5 star read for me, but not good enough to be a 4 star rating. I really liked the premise of this story, being especially excited for a deaf hero, but unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

I had some issues with both characters to start off with. Levi drove me absolutely nuts because he was so spineless when it came to Monica the ex-fiancée. I hated that entire situation, and it really drug an otherwise great character down for me. However, on the other hand, I honestly could not believe that Gaby would automatically ask Levi out to her parent's house, without knowing a stitch about him! It just didn't work for me, and it really dragged the plot down for me, which I was already struggling to engage with.

All things considered, it was a quick read, and mildly interesting as well, but it just didn't work for this reader.
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
714 reviews8 followers
April 7, 2020
I wanted to like this meet cute / fake date story that takes place around Passover. The writing felt choppy at times and I found myself skimming it more than reading. Gaby noticed Levi at the gym. She didn't know he was deaf. She needs a date for Passover seder to bring to her mom's. She assumes Levi isn't Jewish, even though she likes him. While he kept his fake engagement from Gaby, at this point she only knew him a few days so I'm not sure he owed her the truth UNTIL they slept together. Gaby doesn't like that her mom got a dog without telling her. It's hard for me to like a character who isn't a dog person. There were some cute parts, but hard to believe they "love" each other after knowing each other for a week, something another character points out. There isn't really much ABOUT Passover, in the sense that it related to the characters growth. So they both overcame the bondage of their pasts to be together? Sorry but the writing didn't sell that ending to me.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,196 reviews3 followers
February 25, 2020
**I received a copy of Matzah Ball Surprise from Entangled Publishing and Net Galley in exchange for a voluntary and honest review. My opinion is my own and not solicited in any way.**

Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura Brown was definitely a pleasant surprise for me and I loved it. Ms. Brown is a new author to me and I love how she wrote the texts back and forth for both Gaby and Levi plus I'm going to be checking out her other books.

Gaby Fineberg needs a date for her mother's Passover dinner as her current boyfriend off just ending their relationship. So even a fake one will do because when her mom is in a match making mood watch out. So when she decides to ask the hot man at her gym little does she know he's deaf but so when Levi Miller suggests using a text messages on their phones she's all in. But Levi has a secret of his own and hopefully Gaby will never know his ex-girlfriend still has his ring. Can two people take a fake dinner weekend where the turkey is gobbled by the dog and somehow Levi and Gaby find out that this date could turn into something forever.

So be prepared to giggle and fall in love with the Fineberg and Miller families as they meet during Passover where you'll fall in love with everyone including Benji the dog.

Profile Image for Jane.
302 reviews
September 11, 2020
Very sweet. Definite low-key fluff, but enjoyable. The writer is HoH herself, so the details of communication - both Deaf or hearing characters chatting with each other, and the ways Deaf characters communicate (or don’t) with hearies. The way she expresses the nonverbal, non-ASL communication of Levi’s face and touches is beautiful. I would NOT mind having him around!
Profile Image for Alice.
33 reviews5 followers
December 18, 2022
This is a book that will go on my DNF shelf. I don’t feel that anything is happening. And I have reached 52% and it reads like I have had two pages stuck together. Very repetitive and I don’t feel invested in the character so realise I do t care what happens to them.
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