The Ex Talk
- Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
- Genre: Romance
- Publication Date: January 26, 2021
- Publisher: Berkley
CONTENT WARNING: death of a parent, misogyny
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.
When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.
As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
I listened to this as an audiobook, and really enjoyed it. The narrator (Emily Ellet) was well cast as Shay, and did a great job with the story. I was captivated from the beginning to the end.
The premise of the story was unique, and I was all about it! It was intriguing to read a story set with a public radio/podcast backdrop, since my nephews run a podcast and my mom is a huge fan of NPR. Enemies to lovers trope with witty banter is my secret weakness, and this book was chock full of it! Two smart characters going head to head at work was a recipe for disaster … or romance.
I fell in love with the characters, or most of them. I’ve recently come across more books with Jewish protagonists, and Shay is one of them. The Jewish representation is good in this book. It isn’t over the top, but it’s done well and brings our holidays into the story without feeling forced. Both Shay and her mother are in interracial relationships, and I liked the way Dominic’s Korean roots are brought into the story as well.
I wanted to shake Shay at times when she wouldn’t speak up about her boss’s misogyny, and I really would have liked to see that addressed more in the story. He would consistently assign her tasks that weren’t her duty, and dismiss her ideas and statements, instead deferring to male peers. I was so frustrated for her, and even more so when a male coworker finally called her boss on it, rather than speaking up herself. It played into the “damsel in distress” role that I really don’t love to see. Where’s her sense of strong, independent feminism? I was also frustrated with Ameena for making a choice and then blaming Shay for it, and waiting years to mention it.
Honestly, the biggest standout character of the story was Steve, in my opinion. Solomon clearly understands chihuahuas, because she seriously painted such an accurate description of what owning a chihuahua is like in this story. Steve has a huge attitude and personality, trapped in a tiny little body (just like my two chihuahuas). And as any chihuahua parent knows, they definitely pick who they like for completely undiscoverable reasons. Steve was a real star.
For a rom-com, the story also touches on grief and loss, and reminded me a little of Beach Read in that sense. The death of Shay’s father wasn’t recent, but still guided a lot of her adult life. And part of the story involved learning how to support her mom’s journey to finding happiness with someone else, even as she copes with her own long-term grief. Because as anyone who loses someone they love deeply understands, grief doesn’t ever really leave you. It just gets easier to live with:
“I used to think that without my dad I’d never be whole again. But maybe that’s what we all are: halfway broken people searching for things that will smooth our jagged edges.”
The relationship felt like it developed naturally, and I especially liked that both of them are cinnamon rolls. The chemistry between these two is undeniable, and the sex scenes sizzled! Shay is the one who is a little more experienced, as well as older, although she gets a bit hung up on that at times. I felt like it went hand in hand with her tendency to overthink things and hold her emotions in rather than let them out. I’m far more outspoken than she is, and it frustrated me at times with how much she let slide. I did enjoy how the story played out, even if the end felt a little bit rushed. Even so, I’m still going to be check out more of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s works!
Categories: Book Review