Is it possible, in this day and age, to write a romantic novel without sex? Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, and when I sent a synopsis of the novel I wanted to write to several publishers, it was rejected for this reason.
“Esther”, sub-titled A Jerusalem Love Story, is initially set in the 1950’s when life was very different. The permissive age had not yet arrived, not much was known about contraception, and the widely-held belief was “Bad girls do, and good girls don’t.” My novel is based on my life in London during the years 1951 – 1954 , before moving on to Jerusalem. So although I was told no-one today would read a romantic novel without some graphic sex, I was determined it could be done.
In 1999 my novel was accepted, and published a year later in 2000, by H.C.I. in Florida, home of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” best-selling series, for their Simcha Press fiction imprint. I was thrilled although they appointed an editor who, of course, wanted me to heat up some of the love scenes. We fought quite bitterly at first, but in the end I won. I wanted it to be a tender story of love over three decades that remained unconsummated… that was the whole point. In the voice of the man, it expresses a yearning for a woman he could never possess due to various circumstances, although they each married other partners. There is a bit of “off camera” sex but not between the hero and heroine, Max and Esther. I didn’t want it to be the same as all the other romances and I knew that such a love, impossible as today’s youth might find it, is indeed a possibility.
In 2001 I did a successful book promotion tour to many cities in the U.S. with book-signings at Borders and Barnes & Noble stores. “Esther” had some wonderful reviews. Publishers’ Weekly wrote: “Readers with a taste for tragic romance should clear their calendars for an evening, grab a box of tissues and enjoy this haunting story of a love that could not be.” Another critic whom I shall love forever described it as: “A veritable ‘Bridges of Madison County’ with a Hebrew accent.
I broke the rules but achieved the novel that is my favorite of the 14 books I have so far published.