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.
House Rules caught me by surprise. It was a pleasant read, which I honestly had not expected it to be.
I had definitely not expected to like the set-up of how the exes would come to live together. Because, a premise like that is hard to sell. But the author does a stellar job of making the set-up convincing. And she does that in a very effective way of the characters voicing the doubts that the readers might have with the whole arrangement. Of course, the state of the New York real estate helped make it more convincing too.
I had not expected the story to play out the way it did. There were no awkward encounters. That is to say, there was plenty of awkwardness in their interactions, but no silly or used tropes that we usually find in cohabiting romances. I also enjoyed the refreshing absence of any plot-device like jealousy or a third person’s involvement.
The lack of denial was also unexpected. Both Lana and Simon are very conscious of their lingering feelings and attraction towards each other. Simon more than Lana. Both in their forties, they are mature enough to make conscious efforts to not make the arrangement uncomfortable. There is no bitterness or efforts to one-up each other.
I could relate to Lana very much. She quit a career mid-way because she realized her happiness lied elsewhere. She is pragmatic and grounded. Simon, on the other hand, is more ambitious and stubborn. The author does a good job showing us their contrasting personalities through their actions, rather than just telling it to us.
There was no drawn-out angst. The main conflict was also resolved very quickly. A little too quickly if you ask me. It only takes a conversation with an elderly for Simon to realize his mistakes. It felt almost like a cop-out. And while I like that there was not too much focus on their past, I still would have liked a more layered look into their relationship and what led to its derailment in the first place.
Overall, it’s a short and sweet read. The writing is engaging, and the story is believable, aside from the want of a little more depth. I think I’ll definitely read more of this author in the future.