By Rosie Danan
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Series or Standalone: The Roommate #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble– Goodreads
I’ve been putting off this review for over a week now as it’s hard to find the right words to describe why I loved this book. The Intimacy Experiment felt unlike any other book I’ve read before. Something about it just left a mark on me. Not only is it a great romance, but it is a great story about finding yourself and your community.
The Intimacy Experiment is Danan’s follow-up to The Roommate. If you haven’t read The Roommate, you will still be able to read The Intimacy Experiment and enjoy it as it is a self-contained story. But reading The Roommate does add extra backstory. I personally really loved The Roommate – it was such a great sex-positive romance and you should check it out if you haven’t already.
In The Intimacy Experiment we get Naomi’s story and I was so excited to have her as the main character as she was such a strong, unabashed character in The Roommate. Naomi’s left her days as an adult film star behind her and is now in charge of Shameless, the website she started with Clara focused on healthy physical and emotional intimacy. She now wants to start educating others on sex, love and intimacy, but is having trouble getting anyone to hire her or take her seriously. Enter Ethan Cohen. Ethan is the new rabbi at a synagogue that is struggling to attract and retain new members. Ethan asks Naomi to teach a series on “Modern Intimacy” as an innovative new way to bring in a younger crowd and boost membership to prevent his synagogue from closing. Along the way, Ethan and Naomi fight a growing attraction to each other while confronting those who don’t like the content they’re promoting.
I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve read anything ever like this before. A hot rabbi getting together with a former adult film star? How will that work? But boy does it. I feel part of what makes this story work so well is Ethan and Naomi themselves. These characters are so well-written and so three dimensional. First off, I love Naomi. She may present this tough, nothing bothers me, exterior, but inside she’s filled with doubt about her qualifications and how she can reconcile who she was with who she is now. She feels undeserving and scared of love and it was so nice to see her slowly open up and accept Ethan into her life. Naomi’s also bi and I feel like we don’t get many main characters in a romance who identify that way.
And then we have Ethan. If you look up the definition of a cinnamon roll hero, I feel like you’ll find him there. I freaking loved him. For me, it was his way with words. He literally always seemed to know what to say and would say it in the most beautiful way. I have so many highlights in this book and most of them are quotes from Ethan. I think my favorite might be this one:
“What I’m trying to articulate, probably a little poorly, is that you’re precious, not in spite of, but because of all the ways you believe you’re broken.”
He has a way of seeing Naomi and knowing exactly what she’s feeling and worrying about, and has no problem accepting her for who she is. He challenges her to live up to her potential and accepts her despite her fears and flaws. He’s so patient and accepting and he just made my heart ache.
I felt the romance in this progressed perfectly and I loved watching Naomi and Ethan deny their feelings even though they both didn’t want to. When they get together, it just felt right. There were also some great steamy scenes – Danan does such a great job with those. There was obviously conflict that drew them apart, but it didn’t feel petty or unreasonable. The conflict was actually important to both Ethan and Naomi’s character development and I really love that. It felt real and authentic.
Another thing I loved about this book was how central Judaism was to the story. I will preface this by saying I’m not religious so if I say anything wrong or inaccurate please correct me. I loved learning more about the Jewish fate and the tenets behind it. Judaism seems to be so warm and welcoming, and I really enjoyed how big a role it played in the story. I feel like you see very few stories that celebrate the Jewish faith or have Jewish main characters outside of Holocaust novels, and it was great to have that in a romance novel. Community seems to play a big part in the Jewish faith, and I feel like finding your community was such an important theme in this novel. Ethan was trying to create a new community while Naomi felt she never had a community she fit into. In today’s day and age where there is still so much anti-semitism, it was great to see a novel celebrate the religion and also present Jewish main characters as romantic leads.
The Intimacy Experiment left me speechless after finishing it. It is unlike any book, romance or otherwise, I’ve ever read and is such a strong sophomore novel from Danan. She’s definitely now an automatic buy author for me. If you are on the fence about this one, I highly recommend you pick this one up. The story is beautiful, the writing is beautiful and these characters are perfect.
I’ll end this review with another favorite line from the wonderful Ethan Cohen as I think it sums up the key theme of this novel so well:
“One of the best things about love, real love, is that it doesn’t demand perfection. It simply invites us to live up to our potential.”