Tyson Yang never imagined that one day he’d be the de facto spokesperson for an illegal community garden. But when the once-rat-infested-but-now-thriving Harlem lot goes up for sale, Ty can’t just let all their hard work get plowed under.
Even if he is irresistibly drawn to the lovely but infuriatingly stubborn real estate associate.
Magda Ferrer’s family is already convinced this new job will be yet another flop in her small but growing list of career path failures. But her student debt isn’t going anywhere, and selling her uncle’s historic town house and the lot nearby means a chance to get some breathing room.
Ty is her charming rival, her incorrigible nemesis, the handsome roadblock to her success.
Until one hot Harlem night blurs the hard line drawn between them, and the seeds of possibility in this rocky garden blossom into love…
Ruby Lang is pint-sized, prim, and bespectacled. Her alter ego, essayist Mindy Hung, has written for The New York Times, The Toast, and Salon, among others. She enjoys running (slowly), reading (quickly), and ice cream (at any speed). She lives in New York with a small child and a medium-sized husband.
Open House is everything that’s great about contemporary romance. Cute but sexy, fluffy but weighty, it features fully-realized characters with relatable issues stumbling angrily into love against the hot, atmospheric backdrop of summer in NYC. Ty is the adorable gardening hero whose friends are all old ladies; Magda is the struggling but ambitious heroine whose family baggage can’t drag her down. Watching these two circumstantial enemies — she has to sell the community garden he can’t let go — fight their deep connection was the most fun I’ve had in a while. And the dizzying passion between them didn’t hurt, either.
This is the 2nd book in the Uptown series but it can easily be read as a standalone novel. This is a cute romance with the story revolving around a community garden. I definitely enjoyed the book but it's not the type of story that is memorable. Basically if you are the type of reader who is always reading a romance novel, this is a safe choice. However, if you only occasionally read something in the genre, I think there are better ones out there for you to pick from.
Space is a valuable commodity in New York City and Magda Ferrer has been tasked with selling her uncle's home and a lot nearby. Magda is eager to prove herself in her new career field which unfortunately means upsetting the people who have been using the lot as a community garden. Tyson Yang finds himself in the middle of all this and wants to help his friends keep the garden. Looks like Magda and Tyson will be going toe to toe. (among other things, wink wink)
So Magda and Tyson had good chemistry which is such a necessity in a romance novel. Their romantic scenes are a bit hot and steamy, so if that's not your thing, maybe take a pass on this book. I liked how the author chose to use a community garden as part of the plot because it added something different to the story. This was a really quick read which might be part of the reason it just doesn't feel like there's substance to the story. It's one of those books in which I don't really any complaints but I'm not going to say it's a must read either.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
📚 Series: Yes, but it can be read as a standalone. 📚 Genre: Contemporary romance. 📚 POV: Alternating third person. 📚 Cliffhanger: No. ⚠ Content Warnings: Death of a loved one due to cancer. ⚠ Read if: you are looking for a quick read with touches of gentrification and renovation themes
Here’s another quick reading contemporary romance! Magda is struggling with being independent, making better life choices, and paying off her student loans. Magda tries to sell a vacant lot but she encounters Ty, who is working with the local residents in turning the said lot to a neighborhood garden. These two start out as ‘slight’ enemies because technically, they are friendly with each other, they are just on opposite sides. There are a lot of steamy sexy times ahead, even one on the rooftop! Romance aside, this book touches on different topics like handling family pressures, dealing with a death in the family, the values of community, and some yummy dumplings. All in all, something I surely enjoyed. I will pick up the first book of this series, Playing House, and will read the next one, too! ￼
My Book Rating Breakdown
🌼 Blurb:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 🌼 Main Character:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Significant Other: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Support Characters:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Writing Style:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Character Development:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Romance: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Pacing: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Ending: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Unputdownability: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ 🌼 Book Cover:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ ￼
A very warm, loving community-based romance, which is something I find endlessly comforting. Tyson is doing the classic romance hero 'I have lost too much and cannot bear to lose again' only unlike 90% of those heroes he isn't a dick about it. He's bereaved, scared and traumatised, and is in fact finding companionship and solace in helping out with the old ladies of the community garden, he just doesn't want to admit it. Magda is broke and focused on dealing with her debts after a series of expensive career changes. They're on opposite sides but there isn't a great deal of conflict between them: it's much more about finding a way together over their internal issues and family troubles. A lovely comfort read.
Tender, funny, and full of heart. That's how I'd describe this novel with little words. I came into this expecting something light and fluffy to read and while it did come with that, it also hit some serious topics like gentrification, debt, family relationships, and grief. There's this beautiful exploration of the act of letting go and welcoming the new after a time of constant sadness and disappointment alongside the main romantic storyline that I loved to bits. Magda and Ty have to be one of the cutest couples I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. But what really made this story pop was the just as engaging side-story happening with their family members and friends; their community. There's just a lot of love going around in this book; love for gardening, for your culture and past, for your family and friends. And in a romance novel, what more can you ask for but for love?
This is the second story in the Uptown companion series, so you can totally read this as a standalone and totally get what is going on. I appreciate the fact that Ruby Lang tried to give readers something new, a community garden and real estate business are not what you usually find in romance books, it was a nice change. The chemistry between Ty and Magda worked and it was well developed even though this book is actually a novella. If you're looking for a quick and cute romance, you might want to check this out!
This is such a wonderful contemporary romance with a great HEA that you will crave for.
Magda Ferrer’s career path has been one failure after another with a surmounting school loans. Now, Magda is focused on becoming a realtor and determined to succeed. Her goal is to sell the properties her broker trusted her with, and an uncle giving her a chance. Magda learns quickly that selling a property involves much more than just getting an offer from a buyer - it involves some complications like attachments to the property, memories made in the home, and sometimes an illegal community garden.
Tyson Yang an accountant helps with the community garden in Harlem. Along with the ladies in the neighborhood, they fix up a dirty trash ridden lot and transformed it into a beautiful garden the neighborhood is proud of. Ty represents the group into making an arrangement to buy and save the community garden.
Ty and Magda clearly on opposite sides develop a strong attraction for each other that is absolutely undeniable.
Ruby Lang creates wonderful depth in these cast of characters. I enjoyed their back stories, the funny scenarios, and dialogue. Ty and Magda are charming and their attraction heartwarming. It is a wonderful contemporary romance that is flirty, sexy and heart fluttering. I was absorbed into their lives and happy to be a part of their summer romance in Harlem!
I've been in a weird reading mood and that's not the fault of this book, but it did influence my reading experience. I really expected to love this based on opinions I saw online and I did like it, but I never quite got to more than that. Hopefully I can read the next one with a clearer mind.
2.5 stars Magda is a realtor in charge of finding a buyer for her (not by blood) Uncle's townhouse. In the midst of it, she's also tasked with finding a buyer for an empty lot. Except it isn't empty. The community has turned it into a garden. She butts heads with Tyson almost immediately and has to deal with him and the other gardeners. This book is cute and I liked the story overall but I honestly didn't feel a particular connection with any of the characters. It felt sort of paint by the numbers and a safe romance with nothing jumping out at me as being unique. Magda and Tyson may butt heads in the beginning but the passion behind the hate at first sight is missing. There's also not enough build-up from them hating each other to tolerating each other to getting together. It felt out of place for me. The love scenes (multiple) are fine but could use more finessing and sensuality. I felt like I was just reading to just finish the book at one point. The whole story wraps up in a perfect bow and the readers gets their HEA so it works out in the end. It's a quick read that you can get through in one sitting so I'll give it that. I don't think I liked the book enough to give Ruby Lang another chance.
Sadly, this story fell a bit flat for me. I was looking for a cute, funny, and sweet romance; however, what I got was more like a women's fiction novella. Magda is drowning in debt, floundering with the direction of her life, and currently trying to sale her uncle's "historical" brownstone. While dealing with the push back from her uncle to sale; Magda's employer assigns her another lot to sell in the area. Magda visits this lot to find that the community has cleaned up the lot and started a community garden. Ty is a CPA that is bored with his life but enjoys helping the community garden and has become the face of the garden. When Magda and Ty meet the ladies of the garden they attempt to play matchmakers with these two. Although there is a romance between Magda and Ty I never really felt the chemistry and I also think that Magda and Ty's personal issues overshadowed the romance. I did like all the "walk-through" feel of a New York City's historic residential area that was provided.
Video review available in Week 46 Nov 10 – 16 weekly book reviews.
For other video book reviews check out my YouTube Channel: Steph's Romance Book Talk
What with the cutesy cover and what I knew from Book 1, I didn't expect this book to be so...angsty. I really love Ty and Magda together, although Magda's family really did give me high blood pressure (I felt like strangling the lot of them). Love the whole community garden led by old ladies.
E-ARC is received thanks to the publisher via Netgalley.
I absolutely love this series by Ruby Lang. Her novellas are pitch perfect, so satisfying yet in such a compact package. House Rules is still my favorite of the three, but Open House absolutely charmed my socks off. Ty helps run an illegal community garden on a vacant lot in Harlem, and Magda is the real estate agent charged with selling the lot. Not a lot of room there for sparks to fly, but somehow Lang makes the magic happen (and it’s magic indeed (rooftop sex!)).
I really don't want to rate this, but I feel like as a reader who identifies racially as one of the characters, I just want to be honest and hope this doesn't happen again with readers and writers who don't know.
I love this author, which is why I was excited about this book. I always enjoy Asian male leading men, and with a brown chick on the cover, I was a little scared but ultimately discovered my fears were valid.
The book itself is cute. Pacing felt right, chemistry wasn't golden, but I liked the hero and heroine together.
What didn't it hit? The author seemed to be following the trend of making Afro-Latinx heroines without researching what that identity actually is.
It's become a buzzword now, but it used to mean a Black person who is visibly undeniably Black, but hails from a Latin American country based on our history with the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Now people use it as freely as saying I'm Latino. Latino isn't a race, which is why the term used to allow Black people from the diaspora to have a term that acknowledged their Blackness and history to Western African but also having branches in a country you now see as your culture.
A line read "My family's Afro-Latina, not African-American". That felt like saying "I'm not Asian, I'm Chinese." Maybe she meant to say a certain culture, but Afro-Latina is not a culture. It's like stating you're Black. What would've been better was if she'd said I'm Afro-Colombian or an actual country that followed Afro.
This isn't her fault. I honestly don't blame the author for not knowing, because the term has gotten so mainstream, the meaning has changed. She didn't have any culture notifiers on the page. She could have just been a raceless face and it wouldn't have mattered.
I wish authors wouldn't use this marginalization lightly. I feel like as soon as I started seeing myself, the meaning got lost into the abyss, and now we're in this place where everyone can claim access to Blackness, and it honestly felt better to be invisible. Because then people weren't effing up the term you created for yourself.
I will read this author again, but if she has BLACK characters, I might pass...
Why I am choosing so many disappointing romances lately? This story first off was so boring. I read a good romance over the course of about 2 days. This one was short and still a struggle. Magda mostly whined about her student loan debt. I didn't even get that because people live with student loan debt all the time and just go on. It's usually not crippling to anyone. If doesn't prevent you from living your best life. Just make your monthly payment and keep it trucking!
The sex scene was so dry! The flowery dialogue reminded me of fanfic! After that the story continued on it's boring journey so I ended up mostly skimming until the end. I thought the NY setting would give the book some personality but I didn't even get a good feel of how the neighborhood was despite this being a story about this small community. Where was the culture or personality?
And Madga was Afro-latina solely because being Afro-latina is trendy. I think we got one mention of her family being Puerto-Rican and a small mention about her Spanish not being great. But she didn't feel Puerto Rican and neither did her family when we met them. I live in a neighborhood full of Puerto Ricans and they have great pride. I didn't see any cultural touches during the family dinner scene early in the story. It wasn't until towards the end when they finally had Puerto Rican food and that from a restaurant. I hate when writers make characters black for diversity brownie points!
I recieved this arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I thought Ruby Lang’s Uptown series first, novella Playing House, pleasant, but slight. Nevertheless, I love Lang’s elegantly irreverent voice and looked forward to a more substantial treatment in Uptown #2, Open House, and got exactly what I was looking for: a layered, sophisticated romance, with likeable, realistic, engaging characters, and depths of feelings like a sinker going at the end of a fishing line. You never know where this light, humourous ethos will take you, but it’ll plump interesting depths along the way. Open House is the story of debt-ridden real-estate associate Magda Ferrer and accountant Tyson Yang. Magda and Tyson find themselves on opposites sides of the garden-fence when he becomes the defender of a geriatrically-occupied, spontaneous (ahem, not exactly legally-sanctioned) Harlem-set community garden as Magda is the agent set to sell it to the highest bidder, or as she puts it “She was going to have to kick a bunch of aunties out of their fucking fairy-tale meadow.”
Spade-in-hand knight-in-chinos-and-t-shirt of grannies and gardens Tyson will go head to head with Magda, except he finds her mesmerizingly beautiful at first sight: “Ty felt himself go very still inside. Maybe he’d stay kneeling and gaze at her forever. That would be nice. The garden needed a statue.” With a sampling of these two pithy quotations, you can see why I think Lang’s writing is the cat’s ass (though I’ll have to wait till #3, Playing House, for a bonafide cat-character).
Lang is a meandering kind of writer: her narrative doesn’t take romance’s straight-and-narrow (meet, conflict, come together, darkest pit of conflict, avowal/clarity/reconciliation, HEA) and that can be both engaging and disappointing if the S-&-N is what you’re looking for. But I like it, though I like the straight-and-narrow too. One of the compellingly original aspects to Lang’s ethos is that every romance is worked out within the context of the hero and heroine’s families.
Oh, the conflicts aren’t huge and dramatic, but they’re painful, real, and long-standing; they stand as authentic, organic impediments to love. In Magda’s case, her status as the baby in her successful, stiflingly overprotective family (two older sisters and a doctor-mother) makes her hyper-conscious of her less-than-successful life at 29: grad-school-dropp-out, culinary academy dropout, shored up debt in the process, now trying desperately to prove herself by selling a) the lot-cum-community-garden b) her widowed uncle’s town-house on Strivers Row. Madga is frazzled, run off her feet, and puts up one of the bravest of fronts. In Tyson’s case, his mother’s death has left him running scared of loss, of attachment because of the loss that might ensue. And yet, Tyson is no alpha-HP-hero, but a soft-hearted, affectionate, caring person. He’s drawn to caring for the aunties; he’s drawn to caring for Magda. He can’t resist taking care of others, shoring them up, empowering them. He’s really really lovely.
Open House may take the enemies-to-lovers trope as its starting-point, but it doesn’t let it define the journey. Magda and Tyson run into each other, but neither fools the other for a moment that he/she isn’t attracted to the other, or that there isn’t genuine respect and liking there. It was refreshing and welcome as a romance ethos. Not all romance can be devil’s food cake, we need a good dose of one of my faves, carrot cake, and frankly, Lang’s writing is the cream-cheese frosting. She sure can set and execute a scene: one typical summer NYC blackout, one chance encounter, one bed … ’nuff said. Tyson and Magda’s revelations are as attractively gentle and yet quietly important as they are: a resolution to be stronger, to stand her ground, to confess her love, to see herself as worthy; a resolution to allow himself to love, to risk his heart, to stay and take a chance on loss. Oh, it’s also sexy as heck and Tyson and Magda are sexy and tender. In this age of lockdown, romance has stood as a good friend and companion to me and Miss Austen. I am very glad we spent a few hours in Lang’s Open House‘s company because therein is “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Ruby Lang’s Open House is published by Carina Press. It was released in November 2019 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I am grateful to Carina Press for an e-galley, via Netgalley.
I enjoy Ruby Lang's writing style and in particular this series which has featured some interesting characters. In Open House, we have Magda Ferrer who is a real estate agent and Tyson Yang. Tyson's involved in a community garden (an illegal one) on a lot that Magda is trying to sell. Magda is also trying to sell her uncle's mansion which he is making quite difficult due his inability to commit to the sale (his personal memories make it hard to give up, even though he knows he should). So Magda and Tyson are on opposites sides of the proverbial fence and at first glance it's hard to see how they can come to any kind of happy resolution that will work for them both. But in the author's deft hands, there is a way and along that path, Magda and Tyson grow closer, leading to a happy ending for all involved. I really enjoyed the setting of this novel, as well as the authenticity of the characters, their friends and families, and the representation of their respective cultures.
A copy of this story was provided by NetGalley, but I also have a purchased print copy of the whole series :-)
This was such a lovely, delightful rivals to lovers romance that approached identity, grief, and gentrification in really interesting ways. It also made me very hungry.
Ty clings to his identity as someone who doesn’t get involved and is free to go, despite being so involved with the garden co-op. Magda, on the other hand, pushes back against the role her family has consigned her. They see each other so clearly and believe in each other, once they get past what’s dividing them, at least. Watching Ty take stock of his life and figure out where to take action and then Magda confronting her sisters was so wonderful. Plus, they have great chemistry.
I also really loved the exploration of grief and loss through Ty and Byron's characters, with the ways we can try to protect ourselves from caring again and thus not have anyone or anything to lose. The arcs for both men were great but especially seeing how choosing to grieve and, in one case, let go, changes their orientation to the neighborhood. It was such a deft touch.
CW: past death of mother (cancer), past death of aunt, microaggressions, brief reference to a pedophile architect
I requested Open House by Ruby Lang on a whim. I try to be aware of making sure my reading is diverse and to support books by BIPOCs, so when I came across this cover- I jumped on it!
Open House is a sweet story based on cultural diversity. It is the epitome of a chicklit. I love a well done enemies to lovers troupe; however, this book just didn't do it for me. I never got invested into the characters, but I enjoyed the different plot for a change. One of the biggest things I enjoyed about this novel is the representation of other cultures and ethnicities. I found it to be well-executed and ultimately, a heartwarming book.
While it is part of a series- it can definitely be read as a standalone, so if you are in need of a quick and light read, check this book out!
Thank you NetGalley and Harlequin for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
Open House By: Ruby Lang
REVIEW ☆☆☆ Open House is a cute novella with cultural diversity. It's got that tried and true romcom chicklit vibe about it, and nothing really stands out for me. It's a charming fast read, but it's not memorable. Not a bad story, but not my favorite either.
I can’t remember why I pre-ordered this. Now that I’ve read it, I suspect I was looking for recommendations for romances featuring open-hearted, generous, emotionally stable heros. Small ask that, right? Most romance heros are total dickwads. Sure, they are often redeemed through the love of some nearly-perfect spitfire, but that wish fulfillment fantasy got a bit stale. In my oldish young years, I want to fantasize about a dude I don’t have to fix. Okay? Okay.
In that respect, this little gem did a bang-up job presenting me, the consumer of this fantasy world, with two fragile yet strong souls who click in believably human ways, despite being on opposite sides of the garden fence.
Magda has been struggling to eke out a career for herself. She’s flunked out or quit a lot of things she’s tried, and her successful Latin family doesn’t take her seriously. But she’s trying to get serious about real estate. She’s trying her heart out. She’s trying to be good and respected and loved and... She has two difficult listings—one is her uncle’s townhouse in Harlem and the other is an empty lot down the street from it.
But the lot isn’t empty. A group of nearby residents hauled out the refuse and transformed it into a community garden. Ty, our hero, helps out at the garden, but tries never to commit all of himself to it. Magda’s listing puts the garden passion project in jeopardy as she courts various buyers, including developers, to buy the land. Magda isn’t much liked at the garden, as you can imagine, but Ty likes her juuuust fine despite himself.
This gentle, kind enemies to lovers story is a light but nuanced cocktail. Our characters are wonderful human beings and the cast of supporting characters and the Harlem setting are rich with detail. I enjoyed meeting Ty’s sister Jenny, a chef, who’s sure to be the main character in an upcoming book.
Magda, on unsure career footing is currently working in real estate. We find her selling two properties in Harlem, NY! One of these properties belongs to a widowed family member and the other is a vacant lot turned community garden. This garden is currently occupied by some oldies with their green thumbs... and the absolutely gorgeous, sweetheart, accountant Tyson. He moonlights at the garden in his free time, shovelling dirt, being eye candy. And.... Magda is supposed to sell the place out from under them.
The writing was undeniably good. It was entertaining, with a few laughs and real feels. The most surprising thing was the chemistry between leads. These two were supposed to be on opposing sides, fighting a battle on behalf of other people. So yeah, you have that underlying enemies to lovers thing going on. However, they were both such good people, that always shined brighter, they were kind to each other. Best of all, they had this raw attraction. The intimate scenes were quite explicit, normally not my thing but it was amazingly executed here! I don’t know if I just adored these characters, and them together or if I was experiencing some superior sexy writing. Maybe a bit of both.
This was a slightly long novella, a palette cleanser, perhaps? Open House was a unique experience because Lang did absolutely everything she needed to do, just in a lot less pages. I requested this because I adore this type of romance cover and it turns out, I was pretty happy with this gem.
(ARC kindly provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)
I requested Open House from #NetGalley on a whim. The cover was cute, and there were clearly diverse characters. Plus, the plot sounded fun. I had not read the previous book in the series, or anything else by Ruby Lang, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Little did I know that Open Season would end up being one of my favorite romances I've read this year.
I think what I love most about Open Season is how REAL it feels. Like I can almost smell the flowers in the garden. See the butterflies. Taste the heirloom tomatoes. Feel the sweat trickling down my back. I'm not a big fan of super descriptive "purple" prose, but this story didn't feel like that. It just felt real, like descriptions were integrated into the story telling and relevant to what was happening. Characters were attractive, without being described as the most beautiful beauty who ever beautied. No one was a billionaire or even millionaire. These were diverse, hard working people of color living mostly in Harlem (OK, Magda lived in Brooklyn, but she didn't get to spend much time there, and certainly not in story.) who used public transit and cooked with family on weekends. Magda is a real estate agent struggling to master her trade, while weighed down with massive student debt (who can't relate to that?) and lack of respect from her family (loving lack of respect, but still...). Tyson is a hard-working, quiet accountant who crunches numbers for work and shovels compost and runs at night for fun. Both have tight relationships with at least some of their families, but not a lot of time or energy for other close relationships/ friends, because reasons. And frankly I also found that relateable. It all just felt so incredibly possible, so much like people I could encounter, in NYC, or anywhere, facing situations normal people face all the time.
The diversity in this book is just beautiful too. Magda Ferrer and her family are Afro-Caribbean. They are described as attractive without being exoticized or othered. They're portrayed as working professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, who love good food and time with family on their weekends and evenings. Magda also has a widowed uncle who is an African-American born and raised in Harlem. Tyson Yang is a more solitary figure, an apparently first generation Taiwanese-American who mentions at one point in the story that English was not his first language, who works as an accountant by day and hangs out with his younger sister and helps his local community garden, while trying to hold the actual gardeners at bay emotionally, on weekends and evenings. He's a homeowner who loves his multi-cultural neighborhood in Harlem, and struggles with his attraction to Magda, not only because of the central conflict, but also because repeated loss has made him afraid of additional emotional attachments.
Even the conflict felt realistic. Possible. Messy. Complicated. Stressful. Community gardens often do pop up in urban areas on seemingly abandoned lots. There's that intrinsic conflict of actual ownership vs the neighbors that have rehabbed the property and turned it into something beautiful and valuable to their community. And the conflict of those neighbors' claims from their hard work, versus the realtors asked to do their jobs and sell the place for the absent owner. This situation could and absolutely does happen, and the tension it causes between a sympathetic Magda, who nevertheless needs to do her job, and a defensive Ty, who wants to protect the work of his neighbors he can't admit are also friends, serves to realistically hinder a relationship between two attractive single adults who are otherwise drawn to and interested in each other. Their respective psychological issues also serve as realistic hindrances to their relationship.
I could go on and on about this book. The food from their families and neighborhood sounded amazing. Now I desperately want every kind of Chinese dumplings and pastilillos and every other ethnic food mentioned in this story. Even perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes and half melted mint chocolate chip ice cream. If only I lived in a community where most of these were readily obtainable...
The sexual tension and the sex scenes were pretty terrific too. Not just sweet and hot, but different. Grounded in reality, without being the usual scenarios in romance novels. I don't want to offer spoilers, but each scene was something different from each other and different from rote sex scenes in many romance novels, hot despite the potential distractions that real life so often offers, from uncomfortably warm temperatures to unyielding furniture surfaces to potential interruptions, and more. Whether it was Ty appreciating Magda's unruly sweep of curly hair or Magda appreciating Tyson's tanned and muscles wrists, hands, and arms, thanks to his outdoor work in the garden, their physical attraction and connection felt as organic as Mrs. E's tomatoes, and their sexual encounters were as meaningful as satisfying.
Bottom line? This story was just utterly satisfying. Sweet and romantic and completely within the realm of possibility. Sexy and funny and creative. This is my idea of what a romance novel should be, reflecting American culture, in all its glorious diversity, as it is, and as good, and as a fitting place for love to bloom. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who appreciates a good romance novel, and cannot wait to go get my hands on more romances by Ruby Lang.
Thank you to #NetGally and Harlequin/ #CarinaPress for letting me read this delightful advanced reader's copy of #OpenHouse in exchange for my honest opinion.
OPEN HOUSE is an enemies-to-lovers romance between 29-year-old Magda Ferrer, a real estate agent tasked with selling an empty lot in Harlem, and 32-year old accountant Tyson Yang, who represents the group of local residents who have repurposed that same empty lot into a community garden. Since she's burdened by a boatload of student debt, Magda is keen to earn a commission from the lot's sale and prove herself to her high-achieving Afro-Latinx family. Tyson's dealing with the fallout of trauma from his mother's slow death from cancer 3 years previously and is horrified by the idea of losing yet another emotionally important part of his life, the community garden. The setting for this conflict, a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood in Harlem, further complicates this highly charged tug-of-war.
It's funny because when it comes to literary fiction, I can't get enough of novellas, but when I read romance novellas, I always feel a lingering sense of loss and disappointment that the love story isn't fuller. I was (mostly) satisfied by the length of Playing House, but OPEN HOUSE had more on it's plate, both in terms of the romance and the themes, and I felt like the story ultimately needed more. Enemies-to-lovers just seems like an incredibly hard trope to get right in a novella because that type of romance requires that the protagonists go through a greater number of emotional states and deal with more complex feelings than other types (marriage-of-convenience, friends-to-lovers, fake relationship). Ultimately, I didn't think that Magda and Tyson's relationship stages were as fully fleshed out as they needed to be for this trope to work.
I also struggled to connect with this couple. In Magda's case, I think it was more of a personal reaction on my part because I'm the oldest sibling in my family and I have two younger sisters. Since I'm the quintessential bossy, judgemental, and overly direct big sister, it was hard to relate to Magda's problems asserting herself within her family dynamic. I have absolutely no frame of reference for family members coddling me. I liked Tyson more, but I also felt his decision to leave the city felt like a knee-jerk reaction that was driven more by plot than character.
But, I'm slowly learning that Lang has an incredible way of writing stories that are firmly grounded in contemporary America. Her writing wonderfully captures what it's like to be alive today. Her characters grapple with familiar problems, her dialogue feels utterly genuine, and the conflicts reflect the challenges and rewards of urban life. I also appreciate how she's unafraid of including scenes of uncommonly portrayed erotic acts; in Playing House, the heroine masturbates and in OPEN HOUSE, the couple have phone sex. That's stuff real people do! But, it's also stuff that gets oddly left out of most contemporaries.
Gosh, I love Lang's style and I can't wait to read a full-length novel from her. I didn't love OPEN HOUSE, but I definitely liked it and can't wait to get to House Rules. Grade: B+.
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 this site did that, but I'm comfortable rounding up.
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!