Summary (from the publisher):
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.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I knew Rachel Lynn Solomon’s first adult contemporary romance, The Ex Talk, would likely become my favorite books of 2021, & I was absolutely correct with my prediction! As one of my favorite YA authors, I was so excited for Rachel Lynn Solomon to break out into my other favorite genre, contemporary romance. Set in a Seattle public radio station, workplace enemies Shay and Dominic are tasked to take their dislike for one another and pretend to be exes on a new dating show in hopes of boosting the station’s ratings.
The Ex Talk was an absolute perfect contemporary romance because it balanced one of my favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers, a unique premise, and other elements surrounding relationship development and personal growth. I guess The Ex Talk could technically also fall into the fake dating trope, since Shay and Dominic pretend to have dated, so they can act as exes hosting a radio show about dating, but I still say it’s an enemies-to-lovers because they are so annoyed with another at the beginning. Shay can’t stand how Dominic mentions his grad degree in journalism at any given moment (as a recent post undergrad & current grad student, I’m so used to this.. and probably done it a little bit myself…) and seems to have taken over the station despite working there for such a short time, while Dominic can’t stand how Shay is so stuck in her ways at the station. Their sarcasm and humor always had me laughing or smiling from the start. While I loved their dialogue throughout, I especially loved the transcripts of their radio show episodes. It really made me want someone to make The Ex Talk into a fictional podcast!
I really don’t know much about radio, but Rachel Lynn Solomon immerses her readers into the radio world. I loved the mentioning of real radio shows and podcasts – I often searched for them after reading. Shay also has such a genuine love for radio, so it was awesome seeing her so in her element. The book also does address the decline in radio listeners, since Shay and Dominic are tasked with the show after a few lay-offs and in hopes of helping the station stay in the game. The book also addresses workplace dynamics, specifically how the station’s director treats Shay and Dominic differently because of their gender. This misogyny was super frustrating to play out, but I think it was really important to include and I loved seeing Shay stand up for herself.
Aside from Shay and Dominic’s relationship development, as their hatred for one another of course turns into attraction & something more, I loved getting to see them grow as individuals, especially Shay. There’s a big emphasis on Shay’s family life, since the death of her father when Shay was in high school ten years ago had really impacted her and ultimately led her to her job at the radio station. Shay’s mom is recently engaged, something that Shay never really expected and nevertheless, didn’t expect her mom to get remarried before she herself got married. Like the female protagonists, Rachel Lynn Solomon’s YA books, Shay is Jewish, and there are a few moments where Shay talks about her relationship with religion and her family’s religious traditions. There are a few scenes in the book with Shay, her mom, and her fiancée’ family, and one of my favorites was their Passover dinner. Shay’s best friend, Ameena, acts an extended member of Shay’s famiy. As Ameena’s approaches a new job opportunity and Shay’s mom welcomes a new marriage, Shay begins to wonder if she is happy with her job and lifestyle. Seeing Shay grow personally and resolve issues with various relationships in her life was one of my favorite aspects of the book – although I thought one of the mini bombs Ameena drops involving Shay towards the end of the book wasn’t right. Additionally, I of course have much love for Shay’s dog, Steve Rogers.
Overall, Rachel Lynn Solomon’s The Ex Talk is one of my favorite books of 2021. I knew Rachel Lynn Solomon was one of my favorite YA authors, but she is completely one of my all-time favorite contemporary authors now! You likely know that I am highly anticipating her June YA release, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This, and I’m so excited to see what else she does in the contemporary romance world. Her next contemporary romance, Weather Girl, is scheduled to come out in January 2022, along with another YA release next year.
My Favorite Podcasts
Unlike Shay unfortunately, I don’t listen to radio too much (although The Ex Talk led me to download a This American Life episode about college admissions). However, I am an almost daily podcast listener. I started listening to podcasts during my commute to New York City during fall 2019, but I became a regular podcast listener during my daily walks last spring. Although my current commute is on the shorter side, I still listen to podcasts on my way to work and on walks. Below I’ll be mentioning the podcasts I listen to each week.
Girls Gotta Eat – Girls Gotta Eat is actually my current favorite podcast. Hosted by Ashley Hesseltine and Rayna Greenberg, this show covers everything from dating, lifestyle, sex, and relationships. I love so many of the guests Ashley and Rayna bring on, but I especially love the first 20-30 minutes of their episodes where they often recap their latest dating adventures and entertainment recs. I would absolutely love to go to one of their live shows.
Bad on Paper – Bad on Paper is definitely my favorite book podcast. Hosted by Grace Atwood and Becca Freeman, this podcast has such a great balance between book-related content and lifestyle. I know I’ve mentioned their monthly book blub a few times on the blog, but I’ve been trying to keep up with their present and past book club picks. I love their book club episodes and especially when they have a bonus episode with the book’s authors – some of my favorite guest author were Katherine McGee, Elizabeth Acevedo, Alexis Daria, Diksha Basu, and Rebecca Serle.
RomComPods – I haven’t ventured too much into fictional podcasts, but even if I did, I’m sure RomCom Pods would still be my favorite because it combines podcasts with my favorite genre, contemporary romance. Co-created by BOP host Becca Freeman and Rachel King, each season of this show follows a different rom-com storyline. Season 1 was set in Italy and followed the main character’s relationship with the tour guide, while Season 2 was set against a fictional presidential election following the romance between a campaign staffer and the presidential candidate’s musician son. Season 3 is set to release each week in June, and I believe it takes place in London on a competition baking show.
Some podcasts I also regularly listen to include Bachelor Party, Skimm’d This, and Sarah’s Bookshelves Live.
Have you read The Ex Talk? Have you read any of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books? What are your favorite podcasts or radio shows? Share in the comments!