Title: The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Source: ARC from the publisher
Release Date: January 26, 2021
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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 read The Ex Talk after DNFing about five books (not really proud of it, but what’s the point in continuing to read something you don’t like?), and to be honest, I was just looking for something okay… Something entertaining enough to end my reading slump, and guess what happens? I instead find a new favorite book!
The Ex Talk opens with us meeting our heroine, Shay, starting her day at her job. She has been a producer at her radio station for a decade, and the passion for what she does just jumps from the page. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when Shay learns that the struggling radio show is about to fire non-performing shows, with the show she’s producing at the top of the list. Faced with the possibility of unemployment, Shay pitches a show about exes to her boss. The boss loves the idea, and enlists Shay, and her nemesis, Dominic to host the show… and pretend to be exes. Eventually deciding to pretend that they are indeed exes, Shay and Dominic establish the white lie, and they launch The Ex Talk. Success quickly follows, and now, Shay and Dominic are trapped in the deception they created.
While The Ex Talk gains traction quickly, things didn’t come together so easily. Dominic dreams of being a journalist in the thick of things, breaking important news, and he has made his disdain of fluff shows very clear. Shay, meanwhile, has long given up her dreams of being a radio host, and is content to sit in the background, producing for others. When the opportunity presenters itself, especially with Shay realizing that she would most certainly be fired if she doesn’t agree to host, I don’t blame Shay for deciding to do the show. I also don’t blame her for working hard to convince Dominic to do the show with her either. I can’t help but think if I were in the same shoes – of course I would do almost anything to keep my job! It’s a fascinating situation, an ethical dilemma, that our main characters are in. I don’t judge them for making the decision to start their show off with a lie, especially if they have so much to lose if they don’t.
Shay and Dominic are very relatable and fun characters to read about. They’re very driven and very passionate about what they do. They’re also each convinced that they know more about their job than the other, and this means that they initially don’t like each other. Shay and Dominic being forced to do the show means that they have to work at getting to know each other fast, and I love seeing them do everything backwards. They start as rivals, then pretend exes, friends, and finally, a hint of something more. Seeing their relationship develop was incredible, and I couldn’t get enough of them growing together, and opening up to each other. My favorite Shay and Dominic phase has to be them realizing that they actually want to spend time together, and that after spending so much time alone, they prefer to spend time playfully annoying each other instead. Ugh, my heart. So adorable.
While I love both characters, I have to say that I connected with Shay more. Shay is terrified of everything changing, and seeing everyone around her move on with their lives makes her feel more alone than ever. She’s doing everything she thinks she should do – she buys a house because she’s expected to buy one as an adult, yet she can’t quite make it feel like home just yet. She’s fighting tooth and nail to keep her job, because public radio is all she’s known. Shay’s fears all feel so familiar, something that all adults go through during our lives. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see yourself in books, and this made me root for Shay all the more so.
All in all, I could not get enough of The Ex Talk. I’ve never read a romance book set in the world of radio and podcasts, and I’m always a fan of an intriguing premise. I initially thought it would be exhausting reading a book while waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the truth to be revealed, but I liked how Solomon instead put the character growth and relationship development at the center of the story. Another thing I adored is the transcripts of the podcasts between the chapters of the book – I was laughing out loud at all the bantering going on! I could not get enough, and I definitely can’t get enough of Solomon’s writing. I can’t wait for her next adult book!