I liked that “Playing House,” the first short novel in this series didn’t slot too neatly into the “fake relationship” trope, and “Open House,” similarly, isn’t quite “enemies to lovers” – the protagonists have and acknowledge an immediate attraction, but their roles place them in conflict: Tyson is helping out with a community garden, and Magda is the real estate agent who needs to sell the property. (Magda is one of the real estate agents that Fay and Oliver toured houses with in the first book, and we get to see one of their open house visits from her perspective in this one, in a way that dovetails like expert cabinet joinery.)
As with “Playing House,” a lot of the plot conflict also derives from tension between the protagonists’ families and friends, and this one also features not only Tyson’s struggle to save the garden but also Magda’s quest for a buyer for an over-improved and over-priced property.
I don’t usually mention sex scenes specifically, but having just read two of Lang’s books back-to-back, I think it’s really noteworthy how extraordinarily well she models consent (especially in a couple’s first time together) without sacrificing heat. I sometimes cringe at “alpha” protags who (arguably) assault first and establish consent after the fact. I think a lot of dudes, frankly, could really benefit from reading and internalizing Lang’s depiction of people negotiating what they want to do, and then having a really good time as a result.
I did think the series of epiphanies that led the protagonists to an emotional place where they could be able to commit was a bit too on-the-nose. (One scene in particular between siblings felt more like things you might say to a therapist than to the person you talk to the therapist about.) I probably would opt for 4 1/2 stars if I did star ratings here.
And I also thought the wrap-of this one felt a little truncated. I usually think the “6-months later” or “a year later” epilogue is a bit cheesy, but I kinda wanted one here (even more than in “Playing House,” which also had a fairly brisk finale).
I will settle for hoping for a glimpse of Magda and Ty and/or Fay and Oliver in the third volume. Which I have already started!