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A Love Like the Sun

Author Riss M. Neilson On Tour
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Most Anticipated by The Root ∙ Boston Globe ∙ Rolling Out ∙ and more!

"Extraordinary... a raw, vulnerable, breath-stealing love you can feel as you read."
—Emily Henry

"Dazzling, tender, and romantic." —Carley Fortune

Lifelong best friends spend a fateful summer discovering what might happen if they were to be something more in this radiant, heart-clenching adult debut.


Laniah Thompson is a homebody who craves privacy. Issac Jordan is internet famous and spends his days followed by paparazzi. She runs a small business with her mom in her hometown. He runs an international brand.

And they’ve been best friends since childhood.

When Issac comes home to Providence for the first time in months and discovers Laniah’s dream is slipping out of reach as she and her mom struggle to pay the bills at Wildly Green, their natural hair store, she refuses to take a dime from him. And so, he does what any self-respecting best friend would do: tells the world they’re dating.

Suddenly business is booming, and Laniah agrees to his ridiculous plan to pretend to be lovers for the course of the summer. Just long enough to catch the eye of an investor and get her dream back on track, like she helped him do so many years ago, he reminds her.

Too soon, though, Laniah knows she’s playing with fire, because for as long as they’ve been friends there’s an undeniable pull they’ve never given in to. And as the lines between art and life—real and pretend—blur, it becomes harder and harder to see where friendship ends and something else begins....

Told over the course of three sizzling summer months, A Love Like the Sun is about shared history, those who make us our bravest selves, and love in its many forms.
1

The way it
shouldn't be done

If my calculations are correct, I'll be alone in the shop for at least ten minutes before my mom comes back from the bakery, which is plenty of time to take a sexy picture. I sit in a chair at the break table in the back room and slide my pants down. Not all the way, just enough to expose my soft belly and the black panties creased between my hips and thighs. I take a few shots and stare at them, positive that they're sexy enough to entice someone and leave them wanting for more. The someone is a guy I've been on five really good dates with but have only slipped some tongue before we said good night. His patience with me not wanting to rush sex is attractive, but this morning he asked if I'd send him a little something, and I've been distracted all day thinking of taking risks. I pick one, take a breath, hit Send.

Darius looks at the picture immediately but doesn't answer back with the same energy. My heart races in my chest while I wait. And wait.

Read. Read two minutes ago.

The bubbles finally pop up. Darius is typing. He stops. Starts again. And then . . .

"Laniah Leigh Thompson, why in the world are your pants at your knees?"

I startle, drop my phone onto the table, and scramble to my feet. I'm twenty-five years old and the tone of my mother's voice can still strike fear in my heart. "I . . . uh."

She takes a step forward, a paper bag and cup tray in her hands, dark penciled-in eyebrows low on her face. "Were you taking a . . . a nude photograph?"

The back of my neck burns while I pull up my pants and button them. A heartbeat. Two. "I was . . . checking for swelling, actually," I say.

"Swelling?" she repeats.

"Mm-hmm. Yeah. Just thinking of my doctor's appointment in a couple of days."

I've been having headaches, and I think it's from elevated blood pressure, so this seems like a believable lie. Still, we stare at each other for the longest thirty seconds of my life-her top lip curling a little, suspicion in her eyes, a small smile on my face, convincing enough I hope. So much for Seven Stars Bakery being lunchtime-rush busy. She finally sighs and places the cups on the table. I hurry to snatch my phone and pocket it, even though she's not wearing her bifocals to see anything that might be waiting on my screen.

"You swear I was born yesterday," she says. "I just hope you're not being stupid, but whatever."

Whatever has been her general mood lately, and I briefly wonder how she would have reacted to me sending dirty texts if things were different. My mom and dad were always openly flirtatious, which was awarded with many eyerolls from me as a kid. But my dad died nine years ago, and I sometimes wonder if her playfulness died with him.

She takes a cookie out of the bag, her coffee from the tray, then leaves me. I know better than to stay in the back, she'll think I'm looking at my phone, and though I'm tempted to do just that, I grab my cup of tea and follow her. As soon as I'm in the front of the shop with its half-empty shelves, I feel the same whatever mood my mom does. We opened Wildly Green three years ago, giddy to have a storefront for the natural body butters and hair oils Mom had been mixing in our kitchen since I was a little girl. We'd had big plans, but reality struck, and instead of building our dream, we've pulled in serious debt.

Only a week ago this place was teeming with the smell of coconut and fresh flowers, there was art on the walls and a neon sign that blinked hello, gorgeous in bright green letters. But we've been packing for a few days to close its doors-plants in boxes and all the cardboard at our feet-and we haven't even played music over the Bluetooth speaker to do it. The once colorful space has been leached of life. Most days, I prefer coming after working my second job at the hotel, when my mom's not here, so we don't have to pack in misery together.

My phone dings in my pocket and I bite back a smile, anticipating sweet words that Darius seems to have a knack for, but I begin clearing off the conditioner shelf as a distraction.

"You can check your messages, you know," Mom says from behind me. She's sitting on the floor, looking through old paperwork to see what we should keep, and I can hear the curiosity hiding in her voice. This is a trick. If I look at my phone now, she'll know I'm anxious because a response to a nude is on it. But if I don't look at my phone, she'll know I was avoiding it because she's here. It's a lose-lose. So I do what any reasonable, anxious, and sweaty person would do: put the products in my hands down and pull out my phone.

Except it's not a message. It's a thumbs-down reaction on my picture.

My stomach sinks slowly while my brain rushes to make sense of what I'm seeing. Did Darius just react to my sexy picture with a thumbs-down? He had to have hit that by accident. He definitely did. But then he texts, Wow. I waited all day long, and this is what you have to show me? I'm starting to think you're playing games.

The jump from confusion to disappointment is immediate.

"You good, baby?" Mom says, cutting through the noise in my head.

I turn to face her and hope she can't see my annoyance. "I'm fine, Mom. It's nothing."

She nods. "Well, come help me with these papers, then."

While I'm sorting through receipts on the rug, my mind is working overtime. Darius is the first guy I've gone on more than a few dates with since a long relationship in college. It's hard explaining that I'm mainly looking for companionship with the potential for more-in a sea of people on dating apps asking for sex or something serious straightaway. My best friend, Issac, calls me a hermit crab because I avoid social media, limiting my dating pool even further, but I was just bragging to him about how I met Darius the old-fashioned way: while buying samosas at Kabob and Curry downtown. Darius told me to cut him in line because I was in a rush to get back to work. On the way out, I wrote my number on a napkin and handed it to him.

As if reading my mind, Mom asks, "Have you told Issac we're closing the shop yet?"

The question makes my throat thick. Before I can respond, my phone vibrates on the floor beside us and my eyes dart down to another message from Darius. The preview on my lock screen reveals a picture of his . . . Oh. My face burns hot. I hurry to tuck my phone under my leg and look at my mom, praying she didn't see the photo I just saw. But she's busy squinting at a utility bill. I laugh a little, selfishly relieved.

"You really should start wearing your glasses, Mom."

She sulks and picks up another piece of paper, hating the reminder that her eyesight has changed in her midfifties. I sometimes tell her Dad would've thought she looked cute in glasses, and she'll temporarily soften to them, but I'll get sad inside that he's not here to tell her himself, then days later she'll be walking around without them. "Don't ignore my question," she says.

"I haven't talked to Issac about it yet," I say, "but I will."

"Tell him before I do," she orders. "I'm not going to keep lying to that boy."

"Yes, ma'am."


Two hours later, I say bye to Mom and haul another box to my car. The early-June weather is perfect in Providence: high seventies with a breeze wafting through the treetops and sending a fresh scent of green and coffee and baked goods toward me while I walk. When I first found the space for Wildly Green, Mom was ecstatic. It’s in the heart of the city, between all the diverse neighborhoods that make up much of our clientele. The building sits on semi-busy Broadway Street, right beside shops we already loved. There’s Seven Stars Bakery and Julian’s for lunch and Schasteâ for tea and crepes. Columbus Theatre was renovated and recently reopened and has breathtaking old architecture inside. On the next street, there’s Heartleaf, a co-op bookstore with a beautiful shop cat named Penny, who I adore. Workers are always waving at me through glass windows, and there are at least four other pets that need petting each day.

I glance up at the Wildly Green sign, and a pit grows in my belly, a sad ache.

Inside the safety of my little Honda, crammed full of boxes, away from Mom, I open the text thread with Darius to find a picture of him in boxers with a visible outline of his asset, which is tame compared to the video he sent doing unspeakable things to himself (mainly because he doesn't deserve the mention). Not only would Mom be traumatized if she were wearing her bifocals, but she'd be downright pissed at Darius's audacity.

This is how it's done, he wrote below the video. What might have had me clenching my thighs under better circumstances only leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I take my time reacting to each of his messages with a thumbs-down, then silence our text thread before starting my car and recording a voice note for Issac.

"Remind me again why I still like men. Because some members of your kind make me wonder if decency among the general population actually exists. And don't even say you told me Darius was a dud in waiting. I'm not in the mood, big head."

I'm halfway home before I get a response from him. A single emoji. (:

2

How to swing
a Louisville Slugger

My mom would say these boxes are heavier than one person can carry, but that never stopped her from trudging ones like this up the stairs to our third-floor apartment when my dad was at work. I was tiny back then, but I'd drag a plastic shopping bag up behind her because I really wanted to help. That was two decades ago, but the memories have been bleeding through like watercolor and weighing on me. She's getting older, and I won't allow her to do the heavy lifting now that we'll be selling our natural products from home again.

My arms ache when I slide the last box out of the car, and it slips from my grasp, hitting the ground with a shattered-glass thud. I stare at it for several seconds, wishing for the ability to rewind time, hoping that the fragile pieces inside will be miraculously intact.

But the box is still on the ground, and now I have an audience.

Wilma Murphy from across the street walks over, cane in one hand, cup of coffee in the other. She stops a few feet in front of me, takes a slurpy sip, then says, "You know, it'd be smarter if you pulled into the driveway and unloaded the boxes at the back door."

I'm annoyed she's probably right, but I won't give her the satisfaction of seeing me shaken. "Is that so?" I say. "I'll remember for next time."

She narrows her eyes, surely sensing the sarcasm in my tone. "So, you're really closing the store? Does this mean your mother will be cleaning rooms with you for the rest of her life?"

Fun fact about my neighborhood in Providence: Silver Lake has fewer than nine thousand residents, which means there's a decent chance the boy you have a crush on two blocks over could've already hooked up with your cousin. What it means for me: Wilma Murphy's grandmother used to babysit my mother in the same house Wilma still lives in across the street. Even more interesting: Wilma's sister, Bridget Murphy, is a permanent resident of the hotel where I work and just so happens to be one of my favorite people in the world. And it might've been a nice thing, working in a space with one sister and living on the same street as the other, but Bridget and Wilma haven't spoken in decades. The reason is still unknown to me, but I believe it when my mom says Wilma was always petty or judgmental because the longer I live in this apartment, the clearer it becomes that this seventy-one-year-old woman can often be both at once, so I'm certain she must've done something incredibly spiteful to her younger sister.

"Maybe," I say, "but at least we'll have good company with your sister living there."

Wilma's top lip curls at the mention of Bridget. "Guess you aren't the businesswoman you thought you were," she says, before pointing to the lawn with her cane, a sour look on her face. "You should get someone to mow the lawn." With that, she turns away, whistling a song while walking toward her house with its perfectly mowed lawn.

Once I'm inside, I take one look at the shattered jars of sugar scrub and sink against the front door, still feeling the sting of Wilma's words below my breastbone. When we opened the shop, my mom was able to quit housekeeping to focus on creating products, something she started when she was a teenager who was sick of being sent to the salon every Saturday for relaxers. She never knew she'd find joy in making hair products, but six-year-old me was already dreamy while I listened to her sing and whip shea butter till it was smooth, waiting for the chance to mix something too. All I hoped for was to be as cool as her when I grew up, for her to look at me the way I looked at her, and I finally felt that when we first opened our shop.

I glance up at the wall to stare at the picture of us hugging in front of Wildly Green on grand-opening day, remembering that she couldn't keep tears out of her eyes. "I can't believe this is real," she said. Then with a shaky voice: "If only your dad could see us now."

My gaze flicks to another picture , of the three of us, which is in the same worn wooden frame I've had since high school. Dad with a handlebar mustache I'd poke fun at, me on his back with small six-year-old fingers pulling at his blond hair, Mom in stilettos with beautiful brown legs, tiptoeing to place a kiss on his cheek. He was staring straight into the camera, and it feels like he's staring right through me now, knowing that the business degree I was so proud of, the one I flashed in front of Mom's face, insisting we were ready to transition from a stable kitchen business to a store, didn't mean I'd have smart solutions to save it.
“A deep and sizzling slow burn.” 
Boston Globe

“Sometimes you read a book and you just know that no other writer in the world could possibly have written it—that this story was destined to be told in just this way, at just this moment. Riss M. Neilson’s A Love Like the Sun is one of those books. It's funny, heartfelt, and fresh, with dreamy prose and vibrant characters. Nielson has crafted something extraordinary in Laniah and Issac’s story: a raw, vulnerable, breath-stealing love you can feel as you read. Perfect for fans of Abby Jimenez, Kennedy Ryan, and Carley Fortune (aka me).”
Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Happy Place

“Dazzling, tender, and romantic, A Love Like the Sun is a beautiful story about taking risks, being brave, and letting the people who know us best, love us fully. I adored this friends-to-lovers romance!”
Carley Fortune, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Meet Me at the Lake

“A Love Like the Sun is a beautifully crafted and achingly tender story that offers a fresh take on the well loved friends to lovers trope. Laniah and Isaac's chemistry is undeniable, and I so enjoyed witnessing them find their way to each other. A must read!”
Kristina Forest, author of The Partner Plot

“Riss M. Neilson paints a poetic, sexy, and intimate portrait of falling in love in A Love Like the Sun. I absolutely devoured the best friends-to-lovers dynamic between Laniah and Issac, and cheered (yes, out loud!) when they finally gave in to their inevitable fall. Neilson's prose is as warm and effortless as the love story that unfolded, and just as compelling. A stunning read.”
Jessica Joyce, USA Today bestselling author You, With a View

“Sexy, heartwarming and soulfully human, Riss M. Neilson's stunning adult debut is an homage to home, family, love, and the fears that hold us back from our destiny."
Shirlene Obuobi, author of On Rotation

“A Love Like the Sun filled me with warmth and shined as brightly as the star itself. A truly remarkable, achingly tender, and deliciously sexy romance that will stick with me for years to come. This childhood friends to lovers novel brims with the giddiness of a first love and the enduring glow of true love. Neilson’s adult debut is a romantically powerful force to be reckoned with, and I loved every page.”
Mazey Eddings, author of The Plus One

"Riss M. Neilson masterfully crafts the fears and fireworks of best friends-to-lovers romance while showcasing culture, curls, and sizzling chemistry. And yes, Isaac brings that star power, but Ni is otherworldly—for these two, it was only ever a matter of time.”
Taj McCoy, author of Zora Books Her Happy Ever After and Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell
© Jadin Gagnon
Riss M. Neilson is a magna cum laude graduate of Rhode Island College, where she won the English department's Jean Garrigue Award, which was judged by novelist Nick White. Her debut young adult novel, Deep in Providence, was a 2022 finalist for the New England Book Awards, and her forthcoming novel I’m Not Supposed to be in the Dark is set to publish in 2023. She is from Providence and lives for the city’s art and culture scene. When she’s not writing, she’s watching anime or playing video games with her two children. A Love Like the Sun is her adult debut. View titles by Riss M. Neilson

About

Most Anticipated by The Root ∙ Boston Globe ∙ Rolling Out ∙ and more!

"Extraordinary... a raw, vulnerable, breath-stealing love you can feel as you read."
—Emily Henry

"Dazzling, tender, and romantic." —Carley Fortune

Lifelong best friends spend a fateful summer discovering what might happen if they were to be something more in this radiant, heart-clenching adult debut.


Laniah Thompson is a homebody who craves privacy. Issac Jordan is internet famous and spends his days followed by paparazzi. She runs a small business with her mom in her hometown. He runs an international brand.

And they’ve been best friends since childhood.

When Issac comes home to Providence for the first time in months and discovers Laniah’s dream is slipping out of reach as she and her mom struggle to pay the bills at Wildly Green, their natural hair store, she refuses to take a dime from him. And so, he does what any self-respecting best friend would do: tells the world they’re dating.

Suddenly business is booming, and Laniah agrees to his ridiculous plan to pretend to be lovers for the course of the summer. Just long enough to catch the eye of an investor and get her dream back on track, like she helped him do so many years ago, he reminds her.

Too soon, though, Laniah knows she’s playing with fire, because for as long as they’ve been friends there’s an undeniable pull they’ve never given in to. And as the lines between art and life—real and pretend—blur, it becomes harder and harder to see where friendship ends and something else begins....

Told over the course of three sizzling summer months, A Love Like the Sun is about shared history, those who make us our bravest selves, and love in its many forms.

Excerpt

1

The way it
shouldn't be done

If my calculations are correct, I'll be alone in the shop for at least ten minutes before my mom comes back from the bakery, which is plenty of time to take a sexy picture. I sit in a chair at the break table in the back room and slide my pants down. Not all the way, just enough to expose my soft belly and the black panties creased between my hips and thighs. I take a few shots and stare at them, positive that they're sexy enough to entice someone and leave them wanting for more. The someone is a guy I've been on five really good dates with but have only slipped some tongue before we said good night. His patience with me not wanting to rush sex is attractive, but this morning he asked if I'd send him a little something, and I've been distracted all day thinking of taking risks. I pick one, take a breath, hit Send.

Darius looks at the picture immediately but doesn't answer back with the same energy. My heart races in my chest while I wait. And wait.

Read. Read two minutes ago.

The bubbles finally pop up. Darius is typing. He stops. Starts again. And then . . .

"Laniah Leigh Thompson, why in the world are your pants at your knees?"

I startle, drop my phone onto the table, and scramble to my feet. I'm twenty-five years old and the tone of my mother's voice can still strike fear in my heart. "I . . . uh."

She takes a step forward, a paper bag and cup tray in her hands, dark penciled-in eyebrows low on her face. "Were you taking a . . . a nude photograph?"

The back of my neck burns while I pull up my pants and button them. A heartbeat. Two. "I was . . . checking for swelling, actually," I say.

"Swelling?" she repeats.

"Mm-hmm. Yeah. Just thinking of my doctor's appointment in a couple of days."

I've been having headaches, and I think it's from elevated blood pressure, so this seems like a believable lie. Still, we stare at each other for the longest thirty seconds of my life-her top lip curling a little, suspicion in her eyes, a small smile on my face, convincing enough I hope. So much for Seven Stars Bakery being lunchtime-rush busy. She finally sighs and places the cups on the table. I hurry to snatch my phone and pocket it, even though she's not wearing her bifocals to see anything that might be waiting on my screen.

"You swear I was born yesterday," she says. "I just hope you're not being stupid, but whatever."

Whatever has been her general mood lately, and I briefly wonder how she would have reacted to me sending dirty texts if things were different. My mom and dad were always openly flirtatious, which was awarded with many eyerolls from me as a kid. But my dad died nine years ago, and I sometimes wonder if her playfulness died with him.

She takes a cookie out of the bag, her coffee from the tray, then leaves me. I know better than to stay in the back, she'll think I'm looking at my phone, and though I'm tempted to do just that, I grab my cup of tea and follow her. As soon as I'm in the front of the shop with its half-empty shelves, I feel the same whatever mood my mom does. We opened Wildly Green three years ago, giddy to have a storefront for the natural body butters and hair oils Mom had been mixing in our kitchen since I was a little girl. We'd had big plans, but reality struck, and instead of building our dream, we've pulled in serious debt.

Only a week ago this place was teeming with the smell of coconut and fresh flowers, there was art on the walls and a neon sign that blinked hello, gorgeous in bright green letters. But we've been packing for a few days to close its doors-plants in boxes and all the cardboard at our feet-and we haven't even played music over the Bluetooth speaker to do it. The once colorful space has been leached of life. Most days, I prefer coming after working my second job at the hotel, when my mom's not here, so we don't have to pack in misery together.

My phone dings in my pocket and I bite back a smile, anticipating sweet words that Darius seems to have a knack for, but I begin clearing off the conditioner shelf as a distraction.

"You can check your messages, you know," Mom says from behind me. She's sitting on the floor, looking through old paperwork to see what we should keep, and I can hear the curiosity hiding in her voice. This is a trick. If I look at my phone now, she'll know I'm anxious because a response to a nude is on it. But if I don't look at my phone, she'll know I was avoiding it because she's here. It's a lose-lose. So I do what any reasonable, anxious, and sweaty person would do: put the products in my hands down and pull out my phone.

Except it's not a message. It's a thumbs-down reaction on my picture.

My stomach sinks slowly while my brain rushes to make sense of what I'm seeing. Did Darius just react to my sexy picture with a thumbs-down? He had to have hit that by accident. He definitely did. But then he texts, Wow. I waited all day long, and this is what you have to show me? I'm starting to think you're playing games.

The jump from confusion to disappointment is immediate.

"You good, baby?" Mom says, cutting through the noise in my head.

I turn to face her and hope she can't see my annoyance. "I'm fine, Mom. It's nothing."

She nods. "Well, come help me with these papers, then."

While I'm sorting through receipts on the rug, my mind is working overtime. Darius is the first guy I've gone on more than a few dates with since a long relationship in college. It's hard explaining that I'm mainly looking for companionship with the potential for more-in a sea of people on dating apps asking for sex or something serious straightaway. My best friend, Issac, calls me a hermit crab because I avoid social media, limiting my dating pool even further, but I was just bragging to him about how I met Darius the old-fashioned way: while buying samosas at Kabob and Curry downtown. Darius told me to cut him in line because I was in a rush to get back to work. On the way out, I wrote my number on a napkin and handed it to him.

As if reading my mind, Mom asks, "Have you told Issac we're closing the shop yet?"

The question makes my throat thick. Before I can respond, my phone vibrates on the floor beside us and my eyes dart down to another message from Darius. The preview on my lock screen reveals a picture of his . . . Oh. My face burns hot. I hurry to tuck my phone under my leg and look at my mom, praying she didn't see the photo I just saw. But she's busy squinting at a utility bill. I laugh a little, selfishly relieved.

"You really should start wearing your glasses, Mom."

She sulks and picks up another piece of paper, hating the reminder that her eyesight has changed in her midfifties. I sometimes tell her Dad would've thought she looked cute in glasses, and she'll temporarily soften to them, but I'll get sad inside that he's not here to tell her himself, then days later she'll be walking around without them. "Don't ignore my question," she says.

"I haven't talked to Issac about it yet," I say, "but I will."

"Tell him before I do," she orders. "I'm not going to keep lying to that boy."

"Yes, ma'am."


Two hours later, I say bye to Mom and haul another box to my car. The early-June weather is perfect in Providence: high seventies with a breeze wafting through the treetops and sending a fresh scent of green and coffee and baked goods toward me while I walk. When I first found the space for Wildly Green, Mom was ecstatic. It’s in the heart of the city, between all the diverse neighborhoods that make up much of our clientele. The building sits on semi-busy Broadway Street, right beside shops we already loved. There’s Seven Stars Bakery and Julian’s for lunch and Schasteâ for tea and crepes. Columbus Theatre was renovated and recently reopened and has breathtaking old architecture inside. On the next street, there’s Heartleaf, a co-op bookstore with a beautiful shop cat named Penny, who I adore. Workers are always waving at me through glass windows, and there are at least four other pets that need petting each day.

I glance up at the Wildly Green sign, and a pit grows in my belly, a sad ache.

Inside the safety of my little Honda, crammed full of boxes, away from Mom, I open the text thread with Darius to find a picture of him in boxers with a visible outline of his asset, which is tame compared to the video he sent doing unspeakable things to himself (mainly because he doesn't deserve the mention). Not only would Mom be traumatized if she were wearing her bifocals, but she'd be downright pissed at Darius's audacity.

This is how it's done, he wrote below the video. What might have had me clenching my thighs under better circumstances only leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I take my time reacting to each of his messages with a thumbs-down, then silence our text thread before starting my car and recording a voice note for Issac.

"Remind me again why I still like men. Because some members of your kind make me wonder if decency among the general population actually exists. And don't even say you told me Darius was a dud in waiting. I'm not in the mood, big head."

I'm halfway home before I get a response from him. A single emoji. (:

2

How to swing
a Louisville Slugger

My mom would say these boxes are heavier than one person can carry, but that never stopped her from trudging ones like this up the stairs to our third-floor apartment when my dad was at work. I was tiny back then, but I'd drag a plastic shopping bag up behind her because I really wanted to help. That was two decades ago, but the memories have been bleeding through like watercolor and weighing on me. She's getting older, and I won't allow her to do the heavy lifting now that we'll be selling our natural products from home again.

My arms ache when I slide the last box out of the car, and it slips from my grasp, hitting the ground with a shattered-glass thud. I stare at it for several seconds, wishing for the ability to rewind time, hoping that the fragile pieces inside will be miraculously intact.

But the box is still on the ground, and now I have an audience.

Wilma Murphy from across the street walks over, cane in one hand, cup of coffee in the other. She stops a few feet in front of me, takes a slurpy sip, then says, "You know, it'd be smarter if you pulled into the driveway and unloaded the boxes at the back door."

I'm annoyed she's probably right, but I won't give her the satisfaction of seeing me shaken. "Is that so?" I say. "I'll remember for next time."

She narrows her eyes, surely sensing the sarcasm in my tone. "So, you're really closing the store? Does this mean your mother will be cleaning rooms with you for the rest of her life?"

Fun fact about my neighborhood in Providence: Silver Lake has fewer than nine thousand residents, which means there's a decent chance the boy you have a crush on two blocks over could've already hooked up with your cousin. What it means for me: Wilma Murphy's grandmother used to babysit my mother in the same house Wilma still lives in across the street. Even more interesting: Wilma's sister, Bridget Murphy, is a permanent resident of the hotel where I work and just so happens to be one of my favorite people in the world. And it might've been a nice thing, working in a space with one sister and living on the same street as the other, but Bridget and Wilma haven't spoken in decades. The reason is still unknown to me, but I believe it when my mom says Wilma was always petty or judgmental because the longer I live in this apartment, the clearer it becomes that this seventy-one-year-old woman can often be both at once, so I'm certain she must've done something incredibly spiteful to her younger sister.

"Maybe," I say, "but at least we'll have good company with your sister living there."

Wilma's top lip curls at the mention of Bridget. "Guess you aren't the businesswoman you thought you were," she says, before pointing to the lawn with her cane, a sour look on her face. "You should get someone to mow the lawn." With that, she turns away, whistling a song while walking toward her house with its perfectly mowed lawn.

Once I'm inside, I take one look at the shattered jars of sugar scrub and sink against the front door, still feeling the sting of Wilma's words below my breastbone. When we opened the shop, my mom was able to quit housekeeping to focus on creating products, something she started when she was a teenager who was sick of being sent to the salon every Saturday for relaxers. She never knew she'd find joy in making hair products, but six-year-old me was already dreamy while I listened to her sing and whip shea butter till it was smooth, waiting for the chance to mix something too. All I hoped for was to be as cool as her when I grew up, for her to look at me the way I looked at her, and I finally felt that when we first opened our shop.

I glance up at the wall to stare at the picture of us hugging in front of Wildly Green on grand-opening day, remembering that she couldn't keep tears out of her eyes. "I can't believe this is real," she said. Then with a shaky voice: "If only your dad could see us now."

My gaze flicks to another picture , of the three of us, which is in the same worn wooden frame I've had since high school. Dad with a handlebar mustache I'd poke fun at, me on his back with small six-year-old fingers pulling at his blond hair, Mom in stilettos with beautiful brown legs, tiptoeing to place a kiss on his cheek. He was staring straight into the camera, and it feels like he's staring right through me now, knowing that the business degree I was so proud of, the one I flashed in front of Mom's face, insisting we were ready to transition from a stable kitchen business to a store, didn't mean I'd have smart solutions to save it.

Reviews

“A deep and sizzling slow burn.” 
Boston Globe

“Sometimes you read a book and you just know that no other writer in the world could possibly have written it—that this story was destined to be told in just this way, at just this moment. Riss M. Neilson’s A Love Like the Sun is one of those books. It's funny, heartfelt, and fresh, with dreamy prose and vibrant characters. Nielson has crafted something extraordinary in Laniah and Issac’s story: a raw, vulnerable, breath-stealing love you can feel as you read. Perfect for fans of Abby Jimenez, Kennedy Ryan, and Carley Fortune (aka me).”
Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Happy Place

“Dazzling, tender, and romantic, A Love Like the Sun is a beautiful story about taking risks, being brave, and letting the people who know us best, love us fully. I adored this friends-to-lovers romance!”
Carley Fortune, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Meet Me at the Lake

“A Love Like the Sun is a beautifully crafted and achingly tender story that offers a fresh take on the well loved friends to lovers trope. Laniah and Isaac's chemistry is undeniable, and I so enjoyed witnessing them find their way to each other. A must read!”
Kristina Forest, author of The Partner Plot

“Riss M. Neilson paints a poetic, sexy, and intimate portrait of falling in love in A Love Like the Sun. I absolutely devoured the best friends-to-lovers dynamic between Laniah and Issac, and cheered (yes, out loud!) when they finally gave in to their inevitable fall. Neilson's prose is as warm and effortless as the love story that unfolded, and just as compelling. A stunning read.”
Jessica Joyce, USA Today bestselling author You, With a View

“Sexy, heartwarming and soulfully human, Riss M. Neilson's stunning adult debut is an homage to home, family, love, and the fears that hold us back from our destiny."
Shirlene Obuobi, author of On Rotation

“A Love Like the Sun filled me with warmth and shined as brightly as the star itself. A truly remarkable, achingly tender, and deliciously sexy romance that will stick with me for years to come. This childhood friends to lovers novel brims with the giddiness of a first love and the enduring glow of true love. Neilson’s adult debut is a romantically powerful force to be reckoned with, and I loved every page.”
Mazey Eddings, author of The Plus One

"Riss M. Neilson masterfully crafts the fears and fireworks of best friends-to-lovers romance while showcasing culture, curls, and sizzling chemistry. And yes, Isaac brings that star power, but Ni is otherworldly—for these two, it was only ever a matter of time.”
Taj McCoy, author of Zora Books Her Happy Ever After and Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Author

© Jadin Gagnon
Riss M. Neilson is a magna cum laude graduate of Rhode Island College, where she won the English department's Jean Garrigue Award, which was judged by novelist Nick White. Her debut young adult novel, Deep in Providence, was a 2022 finalist for the New England Book Awards, and her forthcoming novel I’m Not Supposed to be in the Dark is set to publish in 2023. She is from Providence and lives for the city’s art and culture scene. When she’s not writing, she’s watching anime or playing video games with her two children. A Love Like the Sun is her adult debut. View titles by Riss M. Neilson