The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley (January 26, 2021)
Paperback, 336 pages
Romance, Adult Contemporary Romance
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.
The Ex Talk gets off to a bit of a slow start for me, but once the plotline for their radio show starts it picks up really quickly. As in, it took me three days to get through the first few chapters and then I read the 80% of the book in one sitting because I didn’t want to put it down.
The entire book is from Shay’s POV, told in the first person present tense. This seems to be a trend among contemporary enemies to lovers workplace romances like this, and as always I wish we’d gotten some of the story from Dominic’s POV as well. I get why the choice was made – we’re supposed to wonder “does he actually hate her too or has he secretly loved her all along?” but I feel like I’ve read this same set-up so many times now, lather rinse repeat. I do appreciate how trope-tastic this book is. Enemies to lovers, fake relationship, workplace romance, opposites attract, secret romance, forced proximity, mutual pining – there’s even only one bed in here!
The dynamic between Shay and Dominic is really engaging to read. The way she keeps drooling over his forearms and his height, I kept picturing a cross between Henry Golding, Henry Cavill, and Hyun Bin. With how much Shay fantasizes about being pushed up against a wall and pinned there, I was expecting the sex scenes to be hotter/kinkier than they were. Don’t get me wrong, they were PLENTY hot, but Shay seemed like she’s into some dom/sub play and I wish that was more present.
One of the things I love about fake relationships is the part where they develop feelings and aren’t sure if the other person is also having feelings or is just really good at acting. The Ex Talk really takes that to the next level because they don’t like each other, are pretending to have had a past relationship but are now broken up, but need to get to know each other enough so they can keep up the charade of having dated enough to decide they aren’t compatible, all while finding they actually ARE really compatible. It enough to make your head spin, and it had me alternately grinning and clutching my heart. This seems like a tricky dynamic to write, and Rachel Lynn Solomon executes beautifully.
Another thing I really loved about this book is the casual diversity. Shay’s Jewish, Dominic is Korean, Shay’s mom’s boyfriend is Nigerian, Ruthie has a girlfriend and there are queer relationships just casually scattered throughout – and none of it is written in a very blatant way, like “here is my token queer couple, check off that diversity box.” It’s all quite subtle; Phil makes a comment in his Nigerian accent, Ruthie’s girlfriend Tatum works at a cafe, Paloma and her art history professor wife… Rachel Lynn Solomon has built a picture of Seattle that represents what I assume Seattle actually looks like – a diverse population of folks from all walks of life.
I enjoyed The Ex Talk and look forward to reading more of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s adult romance novels. She also writes YA contemporary romance, if that’s more your style!
A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.