Ruby Lang is one of my favorite new (to me) authors. I have been waiting impatiently for her new book, Playing House, and was delighted to find that it was on NetGalley. I was even more delighted when it showed up in my in box. This is an honest review.
Oliver Huang and Fay Liu have known each other for years, their friends know each other, and they are in the same profession – urban planning. Their acquaintance never turned romantic because Fay was in a long term relationship. They run into each other on a house tour and, for reasons, pretend to be a couple. Fay is fairly recently divorced and Oliver considers himself unemployed. Pretending to be a couple, Ollie and Darling, in order to look at real estate becomes their excuse for spending time together. Eventually, they have to decide whether to be Oliver and Fay and try to build a real, serious relationship.
I love real estate porn. It’s my second favorite porn after food porn. I enjoyed the time that Fay and Oliver spent looking at houses and appreciating architectural details and neighborhood development. It was a comfortable place to be, but it wasn’t entirely real. Oliver and Fay have real difficulties in their lives that they need to address. Lang’s characters are so sympathetic that the way they fumble the conversations they need to have feels relatable. They (particularly Oliver) make mistakes, but no one is an asshole.
I love Ruby Lang’s writing, her characters, and her stories. She captures those moments where a character’s thoughts and feelings coalesce. She adds up those moments where Oliver and Fay recognize what they like about the other, what they like about themselves when they are together, and what they need to do to move from fantasy to reality. I love how much they like and appreciate each other exactly as they are. They take responsibility for any fixing they need to do in their own lives. When they do come to agreement on their relationship, I felt like they belonged in that moment and would be happy together forever after.
I was sad when Playing House came to an end, and I desperately want to be able to dive into the next book. I hope we get more Oliver and Fay in the future, or maybe Lang will write a mystery series where Ollie and Darling solve mysteries and plan neighborhood revitalizations. I would read that.