I’ve been patiently waiting for Rachel Lynn Solomon’s The Ex Talk to become available through my local public library (the only way I can afford my reading habit, by the way). Last night, I was delighted to see my hold was FINALLY ready. It’s been less than twenty-four hours, and I’ve already devoured this book. It is truly un-put-down-able.
It’s so good, I’m making up words.
Shay Goldstein is a producer at her local public radio station, and she loves her work. In fact, work has become Shay’s life, even if her ambition to become a host seems like a pipe dream. Her only problem is Dominic Yun- the new guy in the office who became the golden boy of public radio practically overnight.
Facing a financial crisis, the Shay and Dom’s station needs innovative ideas to drum up listenership. Shay has a bold, risky idea- a show about relationships, hosted by exes. The station manager thinks it’s brilliant and wants Shay to host it… with Dominic. Unfortunately, the pair have never had a civil conversation, let alone dated. Neither of them are eager to lie on the air, but with their jobs on the line, they agree to co host Ex Talk. Setting aside their mutual dislike, Dominic and Shay discover they have a lot more in common than they realized. They may be lying about their history on their air, but there’s nothing fake about the chemistry pulling them together.
I can’t review this book without talking about the setting. Shay and Dominic both work at their local public radio station (think NPR), where Solomon was also employed before she became a full-time writer. As a long-time public radio listener, I felt right at home. That being said, there are lots of “inside jokes” and references to well known NPR shows, hosts, and fundraising tactics. If you’ve never heard of Terry Gross, or listened to This American Life, you may not be as enthralled with The Ex Talk as I was. That being said, the insider lingo is not an insurmountable barrier. There’s still plenty to love, even if your radio presets are all for commercial stations..
Like most romance novels, this book has open-door sex scenes. I loved the way Solomon portrayed sex on the page. Frankly, it was refreshing to see a hero with a low body count, who valued emotional connection in sex as much as physicaly pleasure. I love a rake as much as the next romance reader, but Dominic bears a closer resemblance to the men I know in real life. Dominic was just the right mix of competency, vulnerability, humor, and sex appeal. Also, there were lots of conversations around consent and safety. Romance novels aren’t necessarily guides to better sex, but Solomon’s bedroom scenes deserve to be lifted up as models for healthy sexual communication. And they’re hot, which is a bonus.
The Ex Talk’s greatest strength, however, is the complexity of Shay’s character. She wasn’t always likeable (I wanted to smack her at least twice), but she was always believable. Her few relationships were strained, but sturdy. She lived with grief and hope. She loved her work and resented her boss. In short, Shay felt like a real person.
This is a book I enthusiastically recommend for all lovers of contemporary romance!
Favorite Tropes: enemies to loves; workplace romance; fake relationship; only one bed;