Women’s fiction writer Brenda Janowitz, author of the Brooke Miller series, is back with The Dinner Party (out April 26), and we have an exclusive first look inside the novel. The story follows two families coming together for a Passover Seder and all the drama that’s served along with the meal. Here’s a little more about the novel:
This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.
The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold’s daughter is dating one of them.
When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she’s giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who’ll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won’t stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.
In the excerpt below, Sarah attempts to seduce her guy, Joe, so that in the aftermath of sex, he’ll be forced to change into something more respectable for her family’s Seder. Ah, the power of seduction. Read it now!
Chapter 14 Excerpt
“Why aren’t you ready?” Sarah trilled as Joe walked in the door. He hadn’t expected her to be home so early. In fact, he hadn’t expected her to be home at all. He thought she would meet him at the Seder, straight from the train. He’d hoped for a few minutes to relax after work, a quick beer (always a quick beer before dealing with Sarah’s mother), and a hot shower to wash off the day.
“How do you know I’m not ready?” he asked.
Sarah responded with a look.
“What?” Joe asked, edging up to Sarah. “These jeans aren’t appropriate for dinner at your family’s house?”
Joe approached Sarah slowly. He had no intention of actually touching her (he knew that if he sullied her dress he would never hear the end of it), but he was getting a kick out of her reaction. Sarah had once casually mentioned to him that he “knew how to wear a pair of jeans,” and that was something that Joe never forgot. Jeans became his official uniform from that day forward.
“Don’t touch me!” Sarah cried. “You’re covered in grease!”
“You don’t like my shirt?” he asked, taking it off. He stood in front of Sarah bare-chested, in a pair of jeans that he knew how to wear. They had over an hour until the Seder began. It only took Joe seven minutes to get showered and throw clothes on. The drive to Sarah’s parents’ house was only ten minutes, so if he played his cards right . . .
“You need to take a shower!” she said.
A shower sounded like an excellent idea. Joe arched his eyebrows, and tilted his head toward the shower. Shower for two?
“Are you insane?!” Sarah half whispered, half yelled. “Go get ready!
Joe took less than ten minutes to shower, shave, and dress. In fact, he was coming out of the bedroom just as Sarah was giving him her twenty-minute warning.
“We’re leaving in twen-” She stopped short. “What is that?” she asked.
“What’s what?” he repeated, innocently, as if he didn’t know what she was talking about. Sarah was waiting in the living room. Had she been standing here this entire time, waiting for him to get showered, shaved, and dressed?
“I thought I told you to wear the tie I got you for the wedding?”
“This is a tie substitute,” Joe explained. He thought that someone who worked in fashion would know something like this.
“A what?” Sarah asked, a look of horror slowly registering on her face.
“A tie substitute,” Joe said, positioning himself in front of the mirror so he could admire the strange piece of string dangling around his neck
“Well, you can’t wear it.”
“Well, I am wearing it.” He turned to her and smiled.
Whenever Joe thinks he’s losing an argument, he always flashes her a big smile.
He’s always had a perfect smile. These are the types of things you know about a person you’ve known since you were thirteen years old. Just as Joe knows that Sarah’s teeth are only perfect because of four very painful years of braces. And that the kids in middle school used to call her Bugs, since her gigantic overbite and two very large front teeth made her look like Bugs Bunny. Her teeth have been perfect for over ten years, but Sarah still doesn’t ever show them to anybody.
“I really don’t want you to wear that thing-“
“It’s a lariat,” he said.
“I don’t care what you call it,” she said, “you can’t wear it to my parents’ house.”
“So, this is what this is all about,” he said, as if he’d just figured it out now, for the very first time. “Your mother.”
“This is not about my mother,” Sarah said, her words clipped. “It’s the first Passover Seder. You need to wear a tie.”
“There’s nothing in the Book of Exodus that said you need to wear a tie.”
“Don’t get cute with me.”
“I can’t help it,” he said, and shrugged his shoulders. “I am cute.”
Sarah knew there was only one solution. Just one way out. The only way to rectify this situation was to seduce him. To get him undressed and into bed. Then, in the afterglow, when they hurried to get re-dressed, she could casually suggest that he wear an actual tie. There would be no way for him to deny her.
In the sexiest way possible, she said: “You are cute,” and then proceeded to unzip her dress and let it fall to the ground. She took the clip out of her hair and let it fall to her shoulders in a way that she thought would be considered beguiling, and gave Joe her best come hither look.
And he did. Come hither, that is. They kissed. She unbuttoned his shirt, his pants, quickly. Then Joe started laughing and pulled away.
“You know,” he whispered into Sarah’s ear, “we can have sex now, but I’m still going to wear the lariat.”
She pushed him away and put her dress back on.