*cue screaming* I’m so excited to be reviewing one of my new favorite romances that happens to be by one of my all-time favorite authors!!
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Title: The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Release date: January 26, 2021
Synopsis: “Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.
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.”
Shay Goldstein has been working at her local Seattle public radio station for years–she’s been a lifelong radio fan thanks to her late father’s influence. But recently, something’s been making work miserable for Shay: her new coworker and resident know-it-all Dominic Yun. When Shay comes up with an idea for a fresh new relationship advice show hosted by exes, her boss thinks it might just be the thing that’ll save the station. The one catch? Her boss wants Shay and Dominic to pretend to be exes and host the show together. Despite some misgivings, Shay and Dominc both agree and concoct an entire relationship and breakup that never existed. But as the show gains surprising popularity and Shay and Dominic’s feelings start to turn real, the two will have to decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the show–and the station–going.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Rachel Lynn Solomon fan; I’ve loved all of her YA books and was over the moon when she announced an adult romance. The Ex Talk absolutely exceeded my expectations and was downright amazing. Much like her YA novels, The Ex Talk features #OwnVoices Jewish representation and characters that feel so real, messy, and authentic. Her adult romance debut has a nice dose of steam and the tension between Shay and Dominic is artfully done. I love that The Ex Talk brings a fresh new take on fake dating–fake exes!–and it’ll be a huge hit for romance readers who adore this trope. Readers who also like workplace romances, enemies-to-lovers, forced proximity, and there’s-only-one-bed will enjoy this one, too.
While The Ex Talk is certainly a rom-com, it also deals with some heavier subjects in a sensitive, nuanced way. Shay is still working through the grief of losing her father several years prior; her father was a huge radio fan and it’s because of him that she fell for the public radio world. Now, with the fate of the station in jeopardy and not knowing how much longer radio will be a part of her future, Shay has to process her grief head-on. At times, she struggles to separate her love of public radio from her grief, and her feelings are further complicated as she watches her mother prepare to remarry. I think anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one will see themselves in Shay’s experiences.
In addition to grief, The Ex Talk tackles some other big topics. Shay’s best friend is considering moving to another state, and Shay is also dealing with casual sexism from her male boss. Domininc is not without his own struggles, too: he’s still recovering from a painful breakup after his first serious relationship and is also adjusting to life back in his hometown after college. Additionally, creating a radio show built off of a lie forces both Shay and Dominic to question their journalistic integrity. As their radio show gains more listeners, attention, and sponsorships, they both begin to fear a potential fallout if the truth gets out.
Like Rachel’s previous novels, The Ex Talk has a diverse cast: Shay is Jewish and Dominic is Korean-American. There are supporting characters who are queer, Nigerian-American, Chinese-American, Indian-American, and several other identities. Shay and Dominic are both such lovable characters who feel so real. Shay is still trying to figure out who she is, and her passion for radio is endless. Dominic wants to be taken seriously as a journalist, but is also a sensitive, hopeless romantic. There’s a five year difference between the characters; Shay is a millennial while Dominic hails from Gen Z. I loved that this created an interesting conversation around generational differences.
As every rom-com should be, The Ex Talk perfectly balances hilarious wit and banter with a swoon-worthy love story. It’s got just the right amount of steam and sexual tension. I found the pacing to be spot-on, with the build-up masterfully crafted. Every character felt fleshed out and realistically flawed. I absolutely loved seeing Dominic and Shay go from not being able to stand each other to being forced to pretend to be exes to eventually falling for each other. I absolutely love Rachel’s writing, and it’s safe to say that she is just as skilled at adult romance as she is at YA.
This book has so much more that I loved, like weird dogs and Buffy references, but suffice it to say that The Ex Talk is easily one of my all-time favorite adult romances. As an #OwnVoices Jewish reader, this book makes me feel so seen, and I will forever cherish it. I want to acknowledge that Rachel works really hard to get her books into the hands of Jewish reviewers and that work means so much. Readers who’ve enjoyed her YA novels as well as romance readers new to her work will adore her adult romance debut. I’ll be recommending this to fans of Sarah Smith, Jen DeLuca, Rosie Danan, and Kerry Winfrey. And of course, this is a must-read for public radio listeners–but even if you’re not one, you just might fall in love with public radio after you’ve read The Ex Talk.
Thank you to Rachel Lynn Solomon, Berkley Romance, and NetGalley for the digital review copy!