Marley Kamal is just weeks away from a life-saving elective double mastectomy and breast reconstruction when the opportunity of a lifetime comes her way in the form of her high school prom date—and soon-to-be mega action movie star—Nikhil Shamdasani. Desperate to make the situation a win for everyone involved, Nik volunteers to stay at Marley’s home and take care of her while she recovers, but the two are about to figure out that life’s not quite as easy as just playing house.

This story took me on an absolute roller coaster of emotions and I loved every minute of it. Heron manages to find the perfect balance between the seriousness of Marley’s BRCA1 identification and subsequent plan of action and the absolute comedy that comes when you put two people that know each other well in a room together. I found myself crying my eyes out and laughing uncontrollably within minutes of each other and it never once felt strange to have those things right on top of each other.

Marley’s initial hesitation upon seeing Nik again as well as what felt like her quick forgiveness and acceptance of the situation felt a bit inauthentic to me—at first. But reflecting back on it, it’s really a testament to Heron’s understanding of not only human nature but of the nature of life and understanding what’s important in it. Though what happened between Marley and Nik in the past was a Really Big Deal, it is just that—a part of their past and of people that they no longer are. It’s a reminder to readers (read: myself) that you don’t have to define yourself or your relationships by history that comes from a time when you were still trying to figure out who you really were. And, quite frankly, that’s probably a reminder that I need every now and then—and I’m probably not alone in that.

The relationship between Marley and Nik evolves in such an organic and natural way that the pair don’t really see coming and even though the readers know it’s coming, it still kind of sneaks up on us as well. The caretaking in this story (on both sides) is inspirational and aspirational and is exactly what you want to see in strong relationships. And not only in romantic relationships! Marley and Nik’s respective friends are huge supports for them both as well and really allow them to both find their way to the vulnerability that is needed for them to find their way back to each other.

JUST PLAYING HOUSE by Farah Heron hits shelves on July 2, 2024 and you can grab a copy for yourself here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2024 Book Recommendations."