I’m going to out on a limb and guess that Lang’s brief for herself with the “Uptown” series was to write using core romance tropes, but consciously alter some standard pillars of each. So the first portrayed a not-quite fake relationship and the second featured not-really-enemies-to-lovers, and here we have a nonstandard second chance (They were married! They got divorced! Whoa, high stakes!) with a side-order of one-bed (but not really one-bed, just one sharply constrained living environment).
This one seemed tonally different to me – more gravitas. I read the others in a single day each, but lingered over this, partly because work-week, but also partly because I was dreading the inevitable “pit of dispair” leading into the final act. And that was because this one really got its hooks into me – I found the delicacy with which Lang depicted Lana and Simon re-learning about each other very moving.
Looking back, I realize I haven’t mentioned how effectively Lang uses food in these linked novellas, to reflect the characters’ culture, to demonstrate the characters’ passion and craft, and also to give the characters a non-sexual but still very sensual dimension in which to interact. And also, apparently, to inspire me to support some local restaurants as best and safely as I can in the middle of a pandemic. Food is very important to this novella in particular, since Lana is actually a chef.
I mentioned that the wrap-ups of the previous novellas felt a little compressed to me. I didn’t have that sense at all with “House Rules.” The pivotal moments of the story didn’t divide themselves evenly by chapters, but this time the characters’ emotional journeys felt complete and not rushed.
I will definitely be looking out for more from Ruby Lang!