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Uptown #3

House Rules

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Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband's path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well...it's not the worst idea he's ever heard.

A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he's currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana's a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.

Three months. With strict boundaries. Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple's lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window. Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon's career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they'll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.

152 pages, ebook

First published February 10, 2020

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About the author

Ruby Lang

22 books186 followers
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.

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5 stars
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236 (38%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 187 reviews
Profile Image for Jasmine Guillory.
Author 18 books20.7k followers
February 21, 2020
I love how Ruby Lang’s books always feel like the characters are so real I could call them a few weeks after I finished the book and check in on how they’re doing now. This one has noodles and piano playing and gorgeous architecture and a long divorced couple finding their way back to one another, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Profile Image for Talia Hibbert.
Author 30 books28.4k followers
February 17, 2020
I've loved this entire series for its realism and intensity and relatable characters, and also the fact that it's all built around property in NYC. That feels like such a fun and original and grounded concept, one Lang plays with brilliantly. And she worked her usual magic with House Rules, which was a down-to-earth and deliciously domestic story of ex-spouses living as roommates and coming to terms with who they are, what they need, and how they can be together without the mistakes of the past.

Lang has such a knack for adult, emotionally mature development that hits me hard and leaves me thinking for at least a week afterwards. But because they're also fun and sweet, these books work as comfort reads too. And this one was as sexy as ever. Basically, it's ticking every box.

I love how it explored the universal things that make navigating a relationship so hard, like personal unhappiness, location, jobs, money, and dreams. I am not a huge fan of second chance romance, but this one hit the right note with me because there was so much emphasis on growth, change, and the now. It was really evident why they needed to be apart in the past, and why they will absolutely work in the future. The ending in particular was just super romantic and fabulous and perfect.

Also, Muffin was absolutely the star of the show. Chaotic Cats 4 Lyfe.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,124 followers
February 12, 2020
Third in this series about people finding love and affordable housing in New York, the latter slightly more difficult than the former. The MCs in this are both 40somethings, which is fantastic, especially the acknowledgement that your body starts to go to shit in your 40s even if you do all the good things like exercise, and you're always tired, and bits hurt that didn't before, especially your back, and you *do not have time for this shit* and why can people not just sod off?


Anyway, this highly relatable book is about a divorced couple who become roommates and find their way back together. It does an excellent job of showing how many of their problems arose through internalised cultural stuff--his cis male privilege, her learned habit of being agreeable and not disappointing people or asking for too much. The heroine has consciously discarded that indoctrination, or at least is aware now when she puts herself second; the hero has to confront his own learned habit of centring himself and thinking he's right because, although he is basically a good person, he simply doesn't notice his own behaviour until the new living situation makes him reassess it. This is not the most endearing trait, but the evolution of the relationship is well done, takes its time over a several-month span, and shows us the hero doing his own work, all of which ground the HEA solidly. A very strong series.
Profile Image for Nursebookie.
2,049 reviews316 followers
March 21, 2020
Lana Kuo and Simon Mizrahi were once a married couple who had different dreams that tore their marriage apart. Fast forward seventeen years later and now while apartment hunting, they run into each other back in Manhattan. With the skyrocketing rent, Lana has a brilliant idea of being roommates. What is the worst that could happen? How about a trial with strict boundaries? Sure that would work, until their attraction for each other resurfaces. Ooops.

I loved this series and enjoy the NYC couples and how Ruby Lang approaches these amazing romance stories. They are so creative and quite swoon worthy. I really enjoy reading about very ordinary people whose unusual circumstances bring them together for a nice HEA that I love reading about. I highly enjoyed this book and recommend for an amazing heart fluttering and sexy read.
Profile Image for aarya.
1,248 reviews
August 20, 2020
It took me weeks to read HOUSE RULES. Not because it was bad, but because it was so desperately sad and heartwrenching in parts that I had to set it down and take a break. So, so beautiful throughout and I was fighting back tears constantly.

“Do you? Do you really? Because I don’t know how to feel myself. Because for the last seventeen years, it hasn’t been perfect, but my existence was mostly fine. I have work that fulfills me, and I have a place to sleep, and I got over you. I—I had a life. A routine. And then you come along again—and you show me this thing, this other possibility that seems brighter and sunnier, but you have to be in it. I know it probably hurts you for me to say I don’t want you in my life again, even in a different, limited way. This hurts me, too.”

I wish Simon had verbally acknowledged his judgmental/steamrolling tendencies to the people who were upset by it. It was mostly an internal realization, and I wish we had seen a make-up/reconciliation scene with the sister (their phone call ended with unresolved frustrations). Same complaint re: Lana. He apologizes and mentions the streamrolling, but I wanted a more explicit acknowledgment of his mistakes during the grovel and how he would do better (the apology was mostly about agreeing to a housing/commuting situation that would fit Lana’s needs better). Minor nitpick in the grand scheme things, but we all know I love a good grovel!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,417 reviews384 followers
April 13, 2020
2.5 stars

I loved the premise for this, a 40 something couple previously divorced from one another going into a flatshare. Although the idea of a flatshare in these circumstances was a stretch in reality, I went with it. The idea was better than the execution and I felt let down by the story and character development. The endometriosis storyline started well but seemed to get forgotten somewhat. I think it had so much potential and diverse characters but it fell flat for me.
Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,178 followers
January 31, 2022
Ruby Lang knows what I want: romances about people in their 40s who are just fine about not having kids. This was such a fantastic second chance romance! Simon and Lana divorced 17 years ago and haven’t seen each other since, until they run into each other while viewing an apartment. One thing leads to another and they wind up becoming roommates, despite Simon’s reservations. They’ve both changed and grown during their time apart so now they have a chance to reconnect and discover these new sides to each other. I loved the way Simon took care of Lana when her endometriosis was especially bad (I’m relieved mine doesn’t get this bad) and all of Muffin the cat’s antics. It was cool to see Lana work her craft of hand-pulled noodles. It’s holiday-adjacent, following Simon and Lana through Christmas and Lunar New Year. This is a grown up romance about grown-ups, lovely and quiet but still chemistry aplenty. This whole series has been a delight.

Characters: Simon is a 44 year old white music teacher, pianist, and choir director. (Corey read Simon as Jewish and autistic—I was wondering about the former but did not consider the latter. It does make sense retrospectively.) Lana is a 42 year old Taiwanese American chef. She adopts a cat named Muffin. This is set in NYC.

Content notes: endometriosis (including chronic severe pain), discussion of infertility, lost pet (found), MCs divorced 17 years ago, on page sex, ableist language, references to past death of parents
Profile Image for Emma.
912 reviews870 followers
December 27, 2019
The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the third story in the Uptown companion series, so you can totally read this as a standalone and totally get what is going on.
This book tells the story of Lana and Simon, two people who were previously married and who find themselves being roommates due to the high rent prices in NYC. This gives them the perfect chance to rekindle their romance and to have a second opportunity at love.
What I like about Ruby Lang's books is the fact that there's really no unnecessary drama in the story, it all flows pretty organically and realistically and this is so nice to read.
If you're looking for a quick and cute romance, you might want to check this out!
Profile Image for Sissy's Romance Book Review .
7,852 reviews16 followers
February 2, 2020
HOUSE RULES by Ruby Lang is book Three in the Uptown Series. This is the story of Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo. I have not yet read the previous books so for me this was a standalone book.
Simon and Lana had been married but divorced due to each other having different dreams and aspirations. There was not cheating and they still have lingering feelings but Lana moved away. Now back in their present day Simon is still in his little apartment that he can no longer stand, but plans to look for something else. Lana has moved back to Manhattan for a job and needs to find a roommate to help her with the high rented apartment. Simon and Lana end up going into an agreement to be roommates but with strict rules and to reevaluate their agreement in 3 months. This was a sweet no extra drama book about a older couple getting their second changes. Really enjoyed it as a older women.
Profile Image for Yna from Books and Boybands.
747 reviews345 followers
February 10, 2020
I’m happy to share that I am included in Harlequin Carina Press Blog Tour Team! For our first partnership, I am sharing my thoughts on House Rules by Ruby Lang. This is actually my second Ruby Lang book and my first read was a part of this series as well. You can check out my review of Open House, the second book of the uptown series by clicking this link. I actually an arc of the first book as well, but I haven’t got the chance to pick it up yet.

Knowing how much I loved the writing style of Ruby Lang, she was the Carina Press author I know that I’m interested to read more works from. I love that she also features Asian and diverse characters in her novellas. Surely is a plus point for me!

House Rules is an exes-to-lovers second chance story that also features one of my favorite tropes, which is exes having to live together under one roof. This book really knew how to tickle my fancy and I have to admit felt like it was designed for me.

This book definitely delivers the steam with all the hot scenes in this book. But, my only qualm with this book was that I was looking for a little more angst and conflict. Admittedly, Ruby does not often provide that and she goes with very realistically plotted stories.

I loved that House Rules, specifically, featured a couple in their 40s, who were previously married, and did not cheat on each other. It has witty banter, incorporating food, and classical music, too. Another plus point is the discussion of endometriosis, which is one of the most painful problems women go through.

Overall, House Rules was a quick fun contemporary read. I liked it very much and I am very excited to read more books written by Ruby Lang. (Maybe I should really go and read the first book now.)

🌼 Blurb:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Main Character:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Significant Other: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Support Characters:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Writing Style:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌼 Character Development:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Romance: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🌼 Pacing: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Ending: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Unputdownability: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Book Cover:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

☁ FINAL VERDICT: 4.18 /5 ☁
Profile Image for Maria Rose.
2,471 reviews242 followers
April 5, 2020
House Rules is the third story in the Uptown series by Ruby Lang. Set in some of New York’s original neighbourhoods, the houses and apartments the characters live in are as much a part of the stories as the characters themselves. I loved the first in the series, Playing House, especially the fact that the characters are city planners (my dad’s profession). It’s the first time I’ve seen that career choice in a romance novel. This time the author sets up a second-chance romance for a divorced couple who become roommates and friends again as they navigate their memories, good and bad, and think about the possibilities for the future.

When Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo separated and divorced seventeen years earlier, there were hurt feelings and sadness but no bitter recriminations or anger. Lana had felt suffocated in a marriage where Simon had been so sure of everything while she’d been flailing, and leaving him was the only way she knew of to regain her sense of self. Having travelled all over the world and taken some specialty cooking courses, she’s returned to New York City and gotten a temporary position at a local restaurant specializing in Asian cooking as a noodle puller, making homemade noodles in an open kitchen where restaurant diners can admire her skills.

While Lana has been remaking herself, Simon has been content in his career as a music teacher. Truth be told, he’s resisted making any changes, still living in the same rent-controlled apartment they once lived in together even though it’s falling apart and the landlord has been encouraging him to move out (not so subtly, by letting a new neighbour renovate noisily next door). When Lana and Simon run into each other, it’s the first time they’ve had any contact since she moved away. While they’ve thought of each other periodically, they haven’t been pining for each other, having accepted the end of the marriage and moved on, though not finding any permanent partners since. Lana is looking for somewhere to live, tired of couch surfing at her niece’s apartment but unable to afford somewhere on her own. When she comes across the perfect place, a sunny two bedroom apartment, the only person she knows of who might be interested in becoming roommates, and whom she trusts, is Simon. With strict rules, an agreed upon trial period and promises to stay out of each other’s way, Simon can’t refuse. While he’s not looking to rekindle a romantic relationship with Lana, he can’t help wanting to find a way back to being friends. But in close quarters, things inevitably lead to more. While physical intimacy was never their problem, can it lead to a real second chance?

It’s probably unrealistic to think that a couple who divorced and never kept in touch would contemplate living together to save on rent but if I wanted realism I’d stick to women’s fiction. I read romance for the guarantee of an HEA, and if it means giving a couple who loved each other and divorced because they were in different places in their lives a chance to try again, I’m willing to put aside any disbelief and root for their reunion.

I love that the leads are in their forties who are now past the age of having children together and accept that fact without bitterness or regret, and how the author doesn’t gloss over the changes that age has wrought. They get tired, they have body aches and pains, and they accept that they’ve both changed. It’s refreshing to have a couple be truly honest with each other, for them to acknowledge that living together will take an adjustment and that it will be awkward. And it is awkward as they learn to cohabit again. Yet, I never felt uncomfortable reading it. If anything it made me root for them not to give up but to get past those initial stages of discomfort and learn to communicate again.

Simon is in awe of what Lana has accomplished on her own. While they’d both been in music together when they’d been married, Lana can admit now that she was jealous of Simon’s success and always felt that she was in his shadow. Having her own career independent of his gives her the strength to meet him now on equal footing. I love that he tries to show her in her love language of food how he respects her and still cares for her by making her meals, yet doesn’t quite manage to pull off his grand plans successfully. Lana understands what he’s trying to do though, and it goes a long way towards softening her heart towards him.

Since sex was never a problem for them before, it isn’t now either. From keeping separate hours and separate bedrooms to becoming sexual partners and bedmates again, they remember how to please each other, and both put in the effort to make that aspect of their new relationship worthwhile. But they are still wary and cognizant of the end of their trial period approaching.

Fans of pets in their romances will be happy to see the part played by a cat that Lana adopts, one that helps bring Lana and Simon closer together when a rescue is required. And both their families and friends have opinions on the rekindled relationship, having been through the breakup on the periphery and understanding the stakes. Some want to see them reunited, some want them to avoid more heartbreak, but all of their positions are understandably well meaning. In the end it’s up to Lana and Simon to be willing to compromise in the name of a happy ending and the epilogue is sweet and satisfying. Loving someone again comes with risk but can lead to great rewards and Ruby Lang has convinced me with this entertaining and enjoyable romance that it’s worth the effort.

This review also appears at All About Romance: https://allaboutromance.com/book-revi...

A copy of this story was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Cc.
1,015 reviews125 followers
February 12, 2020
I like Ruby Langs writing, I like her subtle but sharply drawn conflicts and I really like the realistic portrayal of a marriage that might not have worked when you were 26, but a relationship at 42 is perfect. I like writers that take the little things that break up a marriage, pull them out and examine it. Then resolve it realistically.

The one thing I will whine about? The price, my ipad says it had 152 pages but there was a lot of advertisements at the end.
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,206 reviews188 followers
February 26, 2020
If you want to read a romance about grown-ass people, I have just the thing. House Rules was a five-star read for me. Simon and Lana got divorced 15 years ago and haven’t stayed in touch, but NYC rent is so pricey they decide to move in together to save money. They set ground rules to keep everything proper, but the feelings from before might not be totally gone. I loved how grounded in real life this book is—Lana has endometriosis, and the way Simon takes care of her is so sweet and tentative. They’ve been apart a long time and Lana is definitely capable of taking care of herself, but it was so nice that she didn’t have to for once. I also loved how Lang emphasized that even though they have positive memories of each other, they are falling in love like new, as the people they are now, and not just lapsing into past habits. Anyway, I loved this, and would love to read more books about people in their 30s and 40s falling in love.
Profile Image for Felicia Grossman.
Author 4 books114 followers
January 11, 2020
I adored this book. This is a second chance love story between two people who were married and divorced (not due to cheating, due to life things and not understanding themselves and their relationship, which felt so super real) who become roommates because NYC is expensive and it was just so GOOD. I loved watching Simon and Lana figure out who they each were now and that their feelings weren't just nostalgia, that they were real and true and they were good together like they were now, who they'd become not who they expected they'd be. I adored the very realistic family concerns and the way the figured out how to negotiate their new dreams and build a life together felt so good and so right. I just really, really, enjoyed it and is a perfect addition to the series.
Profile Image for Adele Buck.
Author 10 books106 followers
December 11, 2019
HOUSE RULES is the third in Ruby Lang’s series of novellas about finding love in the New York City real estate market (possibly a less hospitable terrain than the surface of the moon). Every one I read is my new favorite and this one is no exception. An over-40 couple, previously married and living together to be able to afford the city, it’s got the same heart, humor, and insight that Ruby’s work always has. Incorporating both music and food? Hello, two things that make for a powerful Adele-magnet. The way these two cautious, careful people navigate their history and their future is so, so good. Highly recommended.

I was given an Advance Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rochelle.
1,556 reviews
February 25, 2020
This is the first book that I have read by this author and it was a good read. Second chance romance for Simon and Lana. The attraction was still there even after being divorced for so long. Loved watching them find their way back to each other again.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
Profile Image for TARA.
570 reviews
March 14, 2020
So the great thing about House Rules was that it's a second chance, and our leads are ex husband and wife. BUT they are (now) in their 40's and are seeing each other for the first time in over fifteen years. I just adored tapping into some slightly older characters - where it went wrong and how they still had it.

This had some lovely moments and sexy writing from Lang. I've come to enjoy her work. Lana and Simon fell pray to the forced proximity trope and I'm not sure this was used to its full capacity considering this was a short book / novella. I found the last 20% a bit boring and would have liked some more build up scenes, saving the rekindling for the end.

I didn't read book one but I preferred book two to this, but not a bad little read.

(ARC Kindly provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)
Profile Image for b.andherbooks.
2,092 reviews924 followers
February 12, 2020
Forty-somethings Lana and Simon, divorced for over 15 years, agree to rent an apartment together after Lana returns to NYC. They have rules, especially no falling back in love, but rules are meant to be broken.

Loved this second chance romance that is low-angst, super sexy, and has an uppity cat.

I also appreciated how both characters were in their forties and had no qualms about not wanting children, ever. Lana's need to explore her life while Simon settled in to the career he was born to do was also lovingly discussed without ever villainizing either character. It is so hard to write a second-chance romance, let alone one about divorcees, but Lang did it with aplomb!

I received a free ARC for review from the publisher. Thank you.
Profile Image for Ethel.
3 reviews
January 5, 2021
i have concerns

i throughly believe lana is smarter than to fall for a man

have you considered writing a book mc whose name is ethel
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emmalita.
527 reviews34 followers
December 14, 2019
Ruby Lang is one of the authors I started reading and fell in love with in 2019. I have enjoyed every one of her books, but I think House Rules is my favorite. It is a second chance at love romance between a long divorced middle aged couple who become roommates because real estate costs in New York City are awful. I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Many years ago, Lana Kau and Simon Mizrahi were married. They were in the same music education program and living in the tiny rent stabilized apartment in Manhattan that Simon had inherited from his father. They were in love, but Simon was happy with how his life was going and Lana was not. They couldn’t figure out how to stay married and happy, so they divorced. In the present, Lana has returned to New York City for a job and is looking for a place to live. Simon is still in the same tiny rent controlled apartment and looking at other apartments half-heartedly. He doesn’t want to change, though staying where he is has become uncomfortable. Simon, in particular reminded me of the Anais Nin quote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

I don’t need or expect to identify with the protagonists in a book in order to empathize with them. I love reading about characters very different from me. But sometimes I read a book with characters that articulates a part of myself that I rarely see reflected and I just fall in love. In House Rules, Lang has set her protagonists, Lana and Simon, in their early to mid 40’s with that combination of regret, confidence, and awareness of the limits of the future that comes with middle age. It’s not so much a sense of getting old as it is feeling the weight of the consequences (good and bad) of your past choices and understanding that your future choices are not limitless. Simon’s life has gone on mostly as planned with financial and professional stability. Lana has traveled, studied and left being a musician for being a chef. She has acquired specialized skills, but lacks financial and professional stability. I love so much that Lang shows that there are virtues and drawbacks to the choices they have each made and both are worthy of respect.

For me, the star of this book is Lana. She is a middle aged woman with a dark sarcastic heart. She is both sure of who she is and uncertain of how she will be received. More than Simon, she is aware of the weight and damage of other people’s expectations and has developed the courage to disappoint people and to ask for what she wants, when she knows she may be rejected.

Then Lana said, “I told myself after—after we separated I would always ask for what I needed, no matter how hard it was, no matter how long it took to work up to it, no matter how afraid I was of the answer. I’m still trying to do that.”

I partly love Simon because he loves Lana. I recognize that I judge him a little more harshly because my first response to change is also a resounding no. Simon has the biggest growth arc in the book, but he needs it the most. He has been comfortable and comfort doesn’t always encourage growth.

I always knew you were amazing,” he continued softly. “I think young, arrogant me congratulated myself a lot for seeing so much in you. But I feel foolish now, because I realize I didn’t see half of it. I didn’t see how much you work, how dedicated you can be. How, given half the chance, you can make something ordinary—flour, salt, water—make it move for you, transform it into something else entirely. I didn’t see half of anything in you. It came out of left field. And I guess the thing I feel now is strange, because I feel like I don’t know this whole part of you. I’m ashamed for how little I realized about you.”

Simon and Lana rediscover each other and eventually start sleeping together again, including some steamy couch sex. Lang allows her characters to be complicated. She allows the realities of the world we live in to shape her character’s lives. Apartments in New York City are expensive, restaurant jobs are physically demanding, change is hard and scary, and it’s ok not to get it right the first time.

I hope Ruby Lang has a long romance writing career ahead of her because I love her books. I feel like this is her most confident book. You don’t have to have read the first two Uptown books, Playing House and Open House to appreciate House Rules, but you should anyway.

House Rules is out February 10th and you should definitely pre-order it.
Profile Image for Xan.
619 reviews274 followers
January 27, 2020
Content Warnings

I was excited to read a second chance romance with MCs in their forties, especially as it was also roommates to lovers; these are three favorite things of mine, all wrapped into one book. My expectations were high, as I generally love Ruby Lang's romances, and especially have been enjoying this series. I adored book two so much, and this one gave it a run for it's money. 

Read my full review on my blog.
Profile Image for Kay.
565 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2020
I’ve enjoyed Ruby Lang’s Uptown series and this, the last and third, may be my favourite. The hero and heroine, in keeping with Lang’s urban setting (another kudo for the series), have been around the block. They’re in their forties, were married over fifteen years ago; it ended badly. Now, reunited after a chance meeting, they’re cohabiting thanks to the New Yorker’s ever-present search for a great apartment and reasonable rent. They’re roommates in the Harlem-set building featured in the first two series novellas. Lang has cleverly made setting constant and introduced a new couple into each narrative. By novella three, you’re loving the place, feeling cozy and comfortable with its familiarity, and intrigued by the new couple who becomes its denizen. At 44, Simon Mizrahi has settled into life as a music teacher and choral conductor. He’s achieved professional success. At 42, after travelling the world to learn a unique craft, Lana Kuo returns to NYC as noodle-maker at a Pan-Asian restaurant, hoping, finally, to have a job with health insurance and benefits. She’s content with where she’s brought herself, having learned to ask for what she needs and made her peace with her past: leaving Simon, quitting school.

What I loved most about Simon and Lana was their melancholia. They weren’t angsty, or depressed. They were subdued, NOT ebullient (too much ebullience in romance, as far as I’m concerned). In the relationship department, it’s obvious they’ve both dated, but nobody has stuck. Sharing an apartment, they easily fall into a relationship and it’s a likeable one. They take care of each other, share a temperamental cat, and fall asleep, too often, on the couch. Their jobs are exhausting and they support each other in them. They also fall into a hot, intense intimacy, always with a streak of sadness. Will this last? Do they love one another? What happens when the sublet is up? How vulnerable can they make themselves? The speculations meant Simon and Lana spent a lot of time in their heads and, as a result, so do we. Though this usually bothers me in a romance narrative, I was okay with it. It made sense: after seventeen years apart, hurt, doubt, vulnerability, how can they not factor in this reunited former husband-and-wife?

Mostly, I love how Lang writes: it’s spare, elegant, and tender. Here is Lana, thinking about Simon:

Curled up underneath his arm, she was aware at that moment she felt more secure right here, right now than she ever had before. And with that realization, she knew she loved him. She didn’t still love him. She simply loved him, and it was like a new wound on top of the old, a fresh surge of love where there’d been a scar.

In a few sentences, Lang captures the healing, realization, and rightness of Simon and Lana. Oh, there are impediments, hurts to heal, honesty to come through with, but the new love on the old in this reunited, melancholic pair, they belong together. The pesky cat, Muffin, aloof, indulged, too often grouchy, withholding of affection, she belongs with them too. A lovely epilogue ensues. Lang’s House Rules is slight, but no less powerful as a romance narrative than many a padded longer treatment on offer from the genre. With Miss Austen, “House Rules” is indicative of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.

Ruby Lang’s House Rules is published by Carina Press. It was released in February and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Carina Press, via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Lily Herman.
543 reviews571 followers
February 2, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed Ruby Lang's House Rules. I love a good second chance romance, and I particularly adored that this was a romance between two people in their forties who were just at a different stage of their lives than a lot of the biggest romance releases.

Overall, I left wanting more and would've 100% read a full-length novel of these two. Simon and Lana's major conflict towards the end of the book felt a tad contrived and manufactured (they were cool and they suddenly they were VERY! NOT! COOL!), and Simon's behavior left a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the story.

That said, House Rules was a quick read, not to mention thought-provoking in terms of how Lang unpacks what it means to fall in love with a person you once knew so well.

Content warning: Endometriosis
Profile Image for jenn *ੈ✩‧₊˚.
57 reviews45 followers
January 11, 2022
”And with that realization, she knew she loved him. She didn’t still love him. She simply loved him, and it was like a new wound on top of the old, a fresh surge of love where there’d been a scar.”

this. was. everything. a second chance romance between ex-spouses who end up as roommates again seventeen years since they last saw each other!!! with a cute cat and yummy descriptions of asian food!!! there were moments that were so heartbreaking and painful, and then there were moments that warmed my heart and left me tearing up from joy. everything about this was so raw and real

”Being with you, seeing what you’ve done, has taught me that I can have more of everything. It doesn’t have to be limited to what I have right now. You make me want to want more. You make me brave enough to ask for more, even if it means asking it of myself.”
Profile Image for Maureen Lubitz.
568 reviews5 followers
February 9, 2020
Simon is the director of a children’s chorus and Lana is a noodle master, which involves a lot of hard work and dedicated apprenticeships. If you think that this sounds like the premise for an episode of House Hunters, you’re not entirely incorrect. Simon and Lana do end up moving into a beautiful and spacious two-bedroom apartment that they would never be able to afford on their own, but it’s slightly more complicated than that.

Simon and Lana used to be married, but they drifted apart. They bump into each other almost 20 years later, and Simon doesn’t think anything will come of it. But when Lana receives the opportunity to sublet that aforementioned spacious apartment, the first person she thinks of is Simon.

They agree to move in together: as friends and only because they both need to move out of their current situations. It seems like the perfect set-up, but then old feelings start to return.

So, this is a second chance romance, but most of the other second chance romances that I’ve read involve a redemptive arc. That isn’t the case with this book; there was no Big Reason that led to Lana and Simon’s divorce; they just drifted apart. There was no angsty pining for each other over the subsequent years, but neither of them remarried either. Nevertheless, Simon and Lana have been granted a second chance with each other, and their reconnecting is both familiar and new.

This dichotomy was part of the reason why Lana and Simon had such great chemistry. They spent years together, but it’s been awhile and their bodies are not entirely the same over the years, so this makes for some really hot scenes together.

I liked that the protagonists were “older” than the average. They are 42 and 44, but in the romance genre, that’s practically ancient. They’re closer to my age than the 20-somethings who pop up frequently as protagonists, so it was a refreshing change of pace.

Simon and Lana were great, but Muffin the cat absolutely stole the show. This furry little ball of trouble chewed the scenery (literally!) at every opportunity, and was the catalyst for bringing Simon and Lana back together.

I would absolutely recommend House Rules. I loved the NYC setting and the diverse cast. I loved how realistic their situation was: Manhattan apartments are expensive and splitting the costs of a spacious apartment is a necessity rather than a manufactured conceit. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this book. This is my first experience reading Lang, but I have already added her other books to my TBR queue.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Originally posted on You Have Your Hands Full
Profile Image for Simply Love Book Reviews.
6,949 reviews827 followers
February 11, 2020
This is the first book I’ve read by this author and the first book I’ve read in this series. House Rules was an underwhelming romance. I applaud the author for writing characters over 40 who were previously divorced and seeing each other again after 17 years apart. I am a huge reader of romance with characters over 35, so I was excited to see one offered from a publisher and also one that featured a diverse cast. My problem with this romance was it never really grabbed me and it felt a bit flat.

Lana Kuo left her husband Simon Mizrahi when she realized she needed something more in her life, something that made HER happy, not her husband and not her father. She admits she still loved Simon but she felt stifled and felt she needed to leave New York to find her passion. It was evident that her leaving still impacted Simon and even her somewhat, but now she is back in New York and when she finds an apartment to sublet and knows it is too big and too expensive for just her, she suggests that they lease it together with rules of course to protect themselves.

I liked the premise of this story and I enjoyed the fact that Lana came back to New York stronger in many ways than when she left and determined to always ask for what she wants and to not settle for less. Apparently Simon saw the changes in her both physical and emotional and was proud of her, but to be honest Simon was kind of a d*ck. It was obvious Simon had a career he enjoyed, loved even, but as a musician he had that broody artist’s soul; he was set in his ways, and always expected people to do what he wanted. I just never really felt the closeness, the emotional connection even though their physical connection was very heated. I almost felt they used sex to avoid talking and figuring out their lives together.

There was a depth and maturity to Ms. Lang’s writing that I appreciated greatly and that translated into the way the characters were portrayed and the issues they faced in their arrangement and eventual renewed relationship. I did enjoy House Rules but for me that romance aspect was lacking and while I appreciated their cohabitation and getting to know one another again if you take out their sexy times, they spent way too little time talking about what mattered in order to have a healthy relationship.

Review copy provided for a voluntary review.
Profile Image for Cande.
1,030 reviews181 followers
December 20, 2020
well, that was one of the most disappointing endings that I have read in a while
Profile Image for Leighane.
326 reviews13 followers
June 19, 2020
(3.5 stars)
I liked this. It was nothing groundbreaking plot wise but Ruby has a way of making her characters feel life like with raw, realistic and relatable emotion.
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