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.
The Ex Talk is a fun and heartwarming story about storytelling and connecting with one another. The premise follows two rival coworkers at a radio station, Shay and Dominic, who are told to host a new radio show about exes giving out relationship advice. First of all, do we trust the advice coming from people who have broken up? But then again, if this was a real podcast, I’d probably be one of the first to check it out, let’s be honest.
This enemies-to-lovers trope was super well done. It’s one of the tropes I enjoy reading about, but I find some books have too much bitterness in the initial relationship that I don’t feel the blooming love, or they were practically like friends from the start. It isn’t the case here. Shay and Dominic are very different people. She’s content with her place in life while he’s ambitiously shooting up the ladder as fast as he can, potentially stepping on a couple of toes in the process. I liked that their differences were honestly explored so that their attraction and eventual deeper feelings made sense. Otherwise, it would just be lust, wouldn’t it?
The pacing was a little slow going at first, but I learned a lot about being on the other side of public radio from these parts. We also have other focuses in this story, including Shay’s feelings about her mom remarrying after the loss of her dad a decade ago. I liked that we got so much insight into why radio was so important to her, and the ongoing struggle holding onto the one thing she shared with her dad.
Some interesting things that stuck to me from other books in the romance genre was:
A) Dominic was Korean and I loved that it’s such a nonchalant thing thrown in there. I don’t see nearly enough Asian male romantic leads who are not written by Asian authors. Plus, a bit of the Korean American culture is present when Dominic introduces his favourite Korean restaurant foods to Shay.
B) Shay is about 6 years older than Dominic, a fact that is constantly highlighted. While some people may think this is no big deal and the emphasis Shay made in her own mind about being with someone younger may seem annoying, I kind of get it, especially for people in their 20s with different milestone markers that you hit in the decade. I’m in my 20s and I empathize with what Shay is feeling. Dominic had just graduated from his masters while she had been working for several years now. Maybe he seemed a little young in that sense because he was just starting out.
It’s not quite the norm as much as older men dating women a lot younger than them or in different life stages. But that makes me like this change more because it’s not always seen, and it helps normalize this for hopefully future generations.
C) The show snippets between chapters were some of my favourites. I don’t read enough romances to know if this is absolutely unique, but I really enjoyed the transcripts for some of their episodes and fan reviews of the show. It created a little bubble of fun and airiness as a breath of fresh air even when the emotion of the story intensified.
I also liked the way Solomon went about concluding this story. It wasn’t super neat with a bow on top. There were messy feelings, real life decisions and an understanding that we may not always have it together or know where life is leading, but that’s okay. The romance felt real even with the issues that came up (um, lying to everyone on your show?). This book is definitely cute AND heartwarming, a nice dive into relationships and what makes or breaks them.
The Ex Talk has a fun premise about fake exes pretending to be exes to host a relationship show. As that description depicts, it’s a mix of laughter and intensity, especially when real feelings chase these rival coworkers where feelings should not exist. The pacing was steady and the emotions just ramp up as you cheer for Shay and Dominic for their show’s success but more importantly for their happiness that may only be found in each other. I liked this more than I initially thought, and it definitely left warm feelings in my heart long after the book was closed.