REVIEW: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
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.
Dear Ms. Soloman,
I wasn’t sure that this enemies-to-lovers trope book was going to work for me, and to be honest there are parts that didn’t, but overall I was surprised and pleased. There are all kinds of diversity and inclusion, a lot of humor, and a rescued dog with his own issues. There are also some romance issues and professional issues that I wasn’t thrilled with – at all.
First off, readers need to prepare themselves for a soft core circle jerk for NPR and Seattle. Shay does mention some of the stereotypes about each (hipsters, flannel, rain, and pledge drives) but the endless repeats of how public radio was her dream from pre-teen and how this form of radio allows for deep dives into news began to bore me after a while. But this is pretty much all she knows both in terms of a place to live and a job.
The reasons for Shay and Dominic to be in forced proximity resulting in heightened sexual awareness actually made sense. They needed to become familiar with each other as former lovers would be in order to make their listeners believe in their lies. Being in a blacked out restaurant which features aphrodisiac foods or being sent for a weekend together in order to make their on-air relationship feel less scripted, made sense here, and I found these a lot easier to accept than some silly things I’ve read in the past.
Thank goodness both were initially leery of lying about their “relationship” in order to float the premise of the show but the threat of being out of work worked wonders on convincing them to go along with that. Of course there was always commercial radio or music radio but see the NPR love fest discussion above.
I liked the villain less and less with his tendency to treat Shay more like a secretary and how he cut her off in front of Dominic during one meeting. So okay he’s the poster boy for misogyny. This aspect of the book was also well done in that it was misogyny of a million cuts and little things that added up rather than one big awful thing which made it seem more realistic to me. Still no one goes to his higher ups and complains about his arm twisting and threats of unemployment regarding agreeing to do the show.
The diversity inclusion was great and I loved that it didn’t just seem like boxes checked off. Shay celebrated Passover yet the only reason she didn’t eat a shellfish at a dinner scene was because she “doesn’t like them”? Hmmm. Okay maybe she doesn’t keep kosher but that detail stood out for me. I loved that Shay went to the shelter to adopt her dog and that she didn’t give up on Steve despite his lack of socialization and that she worked with a dog trainer to help him be all that he can be.
However there were things I had trouble with such as the fact that both Shay and Dominic lied through their teeth to their audience, their coworkers, and most of their friends and family. So … pretty much anyone who means anything to them. The public outing was brutal and at the end of the story, it seemed that the two of them had split from public radio plus had apologized out the wazoo but I can’t help but feel that earning back the trust of their listeners much less their families, was going to be a long slog. Especially for “I have a Masters degree in journalism” Dominic.
The romance was good but not great. At times Dominic, his sexy forearms notwithstanding, was a bit bland and when she needed him most, Dominic failed her, then failed her with his initial apology, and also with his subsequent actions. His public apology was heartfelt and inventive but when it counted – he fucking failed.
For a while, I was humming along with this book and feeling the charm. Then bit by bit, it settled into more ‘eh, not bad’ territory. I could have done with less of the paean to public radio but Shay did loosen up a bit about it by the end and perhaps she’ll take her best friend’s advice and continue to expand her horizons a little. B-/C+
Jayne, I just finished this one last night. I was really loving it—I adore enemies to lovers so I usually one-click those romances—but around the 75% mark, it dragged. Specifically, it was when she put the brakes on the relationship and I kind of rolled my eyes because the justification felt flat. I had to push myself to read from 75-90% and definitely skimmed the second (show me what you like) sex scene because it bored me to pieces. I did think the ending was good, but I found what Dominic did totally unforgivable and inexcusable. BUT I also had a really, really, really hard time believing that the villain would out them like that and that Shay or Dominic wouldn’t have been on top of it since they were constantly checking the social media!!! Also, while Dominic was totally a jerk, Shay was, too, in that she wasn’t totally understanding of Dom’s social anxiety/panic attack during that moment, and in a way, she wasn’t there for him just like he wasn’t there for her.
And I was pretty much on board with this romance but I just couldn’t get past that these two—especially I have a Masters—would willingly lie about something so major, especially since it strikes at their journalistic integrity. There was no mention at the end how Dominic’s family took the betrayal. And, frankly, I thought they both got off way too easy. Their families and friends would have serious trust issues, and I just can’t see Shay/Dominic being able to have a career into that space because I think that what they did would always be used against them. Or if they do have a career, I just think they’ll always be tainted. I thought the villain was too thinly drawn and that he was inserted at times to create more drama/conflict.
I did love her mom/Phil a lot, though. They were great.
Also, I did like the book but it fell apart for me.
@Elyssa: I’ve read reviews that are at both ends of the spectrum and either love or loathe various elements of the story. I didn’t like that they lied all through their original podcast – especially to everyone they seemed to care about – but one reviewer also mentioned (and this didn’t initially strike me though it should have) that with all the fake news we have to wade through today their faux podcast would be more reprehensible.
Shay’s producer also let them off too easy as I could see people in the industry assuming that she must have known about what was going on, too, and condemning her for it.
That’s a good point about the social media which should have clued them in to what was coming because though it obviously happened shortly before the program, it wasn’t right before they went on stage.
There is nothing at all unusual about this, in fact it’s very common. Before I went vegetarian I ate bacon and ham (I was never a fan of the shellfish flavor) and I also celebrated Passover. It’s my favorite Jewish holiday and I loved every one of its traditions then just as much as I do now.
According to Wikipedia, 2013 survey states that only 22% of Jewish Americans keep fully kosher. So as long as she doesn’t eat shellfish at the Passover table, it’s 100% believable that she’ll still celebrate Passover even if she doesn’t keep kosher. I would guess there are more Passover-celebrators who don’t completely keep kosher than ones who do. If you think about it, her actions are no more strange than those of the American Christians who put up a Christmas tree but don’t attend Christmas mass.
@Jayne: We needed a time stamp on that tweet, lol. But yeah the impression I got was that the tweet was sent earlier and not just as they took the stage. Also, the author made it seem that only Shay/Dominic were in charge of the social media for the podcast (although it seemed more Shay, tbh, as she DM and talked about reaching out to other similar tweeters), and there was no mention of the station or the villain handling the social media. So part of me wondered how the heck the villain got access to the social media page if said villain didn’t have the password (unless the password was known by powers-that-be but that seems very careless as that could lead to hacks, etc) and we, the reader, never see the villain put out tweets before that. But suddenly it’s all oh, the villain did this because he’s a misogynist and the worst. I think it would have been more believable had the author set it up beforehand, that the villain had, at least, tweeted out once (but I really would have a hard time wrapping my head around that one, tbh).
I pretty much think this: the author wanted to create a public break-up which would expose the insecurities Shay had (no partner being there for her in time of need, and we actually really never see Dominic being there for her in a time of need, so that’s a big reason why I couldn’t totally buy into them forever being HEA), that also exposed the lies and author needed a convenient way to do it, which would then lead to what happens directly after in terms of Shay/job. So, the author had the villain aka a deux ex machina do it. It wasn’t totally unbelievable if you’re totally in the book as a reader but the threads unravel if you pick at the loose strand. ;]