Monday, December 21, 2015

*Review* Cinderella Borscht Belt by Jeannette Ronson

Genre: Historical Romance
Published: August 24, 2015
Pages: 86
Ages: 16+


Eighteen-year-old Samantha dreams of more than waiting on tables, but with an alcoholic father and no money, her prospects are dim. Landing a clerical job at a Jewish resort in the Catskills in 1976 seems like a step in the right direction, but soon she bungles her way through the foreign world of kosher meals and no meat with dairy. In her free time, Samantha fends off amorous rabbis and lusty pool boys. Rising to protect her, Larry the maintenance man, a Vietnam War veteran with an affinity for whiskey, shows up when he’s needed most. Mrs. Rosenblatt, a vociferous and opinionated Manhattanite who dominates the resort pool, appoints herself as Samantha’s Jewish fairy godmother in charge of her future. Josh, a Jewish college student from the Bronx who works the summer as a pool boy, tries to befriend Samantha. 

Based on actual events at Grossinger’s Resort during the 1970s, Cinderella Borscht Belt is about a young woman determined to change her fate and her cultural and class struggles at this now non-existent orthodox Jewish mountain mecca. Opposed to the film Dirty Dancing, the heroine, Samantha, is a staff member of the resort who wants to break from her working-class confinement and dreams of attending college. Sprinkled throughout the story are historic details of the Borscht Belt, such as Jewish customs and entertainers, as well as a description of a magical place where millions of New Yorkers visited every summer.


I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program in the hopes that I would leave an honest review.

This book is sort of like reading Dirty Dancingbut from the perspective of the summer help rather than the spoiled rich girl who just wants to help. I would honestly probably not have made this connection if Dirty Dancing hadn't been referenced in the synopsis. 

In the beginning, I felt sorry for the main character, but that feeling was quickly replaced by annoyance. She came off as untrusthworthy (she quit more jobs in 85 pages than I've ever had), fickle, and self-important. Ultimately, I couldn't relate to her at all and really just wanted to smack some sense into her.

The annoying main character was the least of my issues with this book though. It's billed as a historical romance novella, but there was zero romance. I have another point of contention on that track, but it's a huge spoiler so I can't say more about it right now.

Beyond that, there were several grammatical errors, far more than I find acceptable in a book this size, although they would likely not be an issue for the average reader.

Overall I give this book 2 out of 5 stars because I like the general premise of the story, but felt that it failed to deliver on several key points. - Katie 

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About the Author

A late bloomer in every sense, Jeannette Ronson has worked in corporate America, raised two kids, taught college English for seven years, started playing golf recently, and is now taking on writing novels based on her kooky life. She holds a MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University as well as a MA in American Studies from Fairfield University and a MS in Education from the University of Bridgeport.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband of thirty-two years and her love-of-her-life, eight-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. Her debut novella, Cinderella Borscht Belt, is based on her experiences as a naive, working class girl trying to understand Jewish culture during a summer in the Catskills.

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