The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
January 26, 2021
Reviewed by Melanie
Normally when choosing my first read of the year, I’ve never given it too much thought. This year though, I wanted to be intentional with my choice. Begin as you mean to go on, and all that. I can honestly say that beginning my reading year with this delightfully charming novel sets the bar pretty high going forward.
The Ex Talk is an unique workplace romance. For one, it takes place against the backdrop of a local public radio station. Second, is the premise. While this could definitely fall into the category of fake relationship, the two main characters, Shay and Dominic aren’t pretending to be in a relationship. No, for the sake of dwindling radio ratings and in an effort to bring in more listeners, Shay and Dominic, cohosts of the new dating show, The Ex Talk, are pretending to be exes, breaking it down episode by episode exactly what went wrong in their “relationship”.
I adored pretty much everything about this book, from the two incredibly well-formed, engaging main characters to the side characters, painted equally vividly, to the nuanced commentary on grief, loss, adapting to change, and workplace misogyny. I realize this makes it sound like the book is dark and it’s very definitely not. It somehow manages to balance some of the more sobering themes with lots of fun and lightheartedness, witty banter, sexual tension, and even an only one bed (!) trope thrown in for good measure.
One of the other things this book does so well is with the diversity of the characters, from the two main characters to the side characters as well. Dominic is Korean American, Shay is Jewish, her best friend is Indian and her mother’s fiancé is Nigerian. There are also LGBTQ characters in the book. And the most interesting thing about how these characters are presented is that it’s not ever a big deal. It’s just casual and matter-of-fact like this is what the real world looks like so of course, the book would be a reflection of that world.
This book hit some of my tropey sweet spots from a somewhat awkward hero (Dominic’s habit of stating he has a Master’s degree from Northwestern could get old except that it’s immediately turned into a joke) to a seriously competent heroine (Shay is great at her job, knows she’s great at it, and by the end of the book, the reader will know it as well) to a grovel scene that more than makes up for the dark moment in the book.
I will add there is off page death of a parent that happens years before the book starts so if that’s a deal-breaker right now, please proceed with caution.
All in all, it was just the loveliest book to start the year with, sweet and sexy with two adorable main characters who made me fully invested in their HEA.