Cover The Ex: An old-timey mic with lighting bolts coming out of it with two half-faces of a man and woman talking into it over a pink background

About the Book

Title: The Ex Talk
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

First Impressions: On Trend
What’s Your Type?
Enemies to Lovers, Fake Dating, Seattle, NPR, Forced Proximity, Slow Burn
The Lean:
We Need to Talk:
The Happy-Sad
Was It Good For You? 
I’m So Excited

First Impressions: On Trend

If you take a gander at current romance shelves this cover will hardly stand out; lately it’s all brightly colored, cartoon stylized sweetness. There are some little moments of detail I appreciate, like the little heart in the power cord and the old-timey mic with “a novel” on the top instead of the radio name.

What’s Your Type?

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Fake Dating
  • Seattle
  • NPR
  • Forced Proximity
  • Slow Burn

Dating Profile

Shay Goldstein has crafted her entire adult life after college around her Puget Sounds segment producer job at Seattle’s Pacific Public Radio station. While she’d love to be the “voice” of a popular show, fate has not yet dealt her that hand. With her mom on the verge of remarrying, her best friend interviewing for jobs across the country, and a new brown-nosing, upstart employee quickly gaining favor with their boss over her, Shay’s insular world is starting to implode.

That new, know-it-all employee is Dominic Yun, who will have you know he earned his Master’s degree in Journalism at Northwestern, thankyouverymuch. He grew up in Seattle but came back rather abruptly after completing his degree, and despite his stick-up-the-ass attitude and the weirdly perfectly-creased khakis…Shay can’t deny he’s still kinda hot.

Meet Cute

Shay can’t stand Dominic moving in on what she considers her turf, especially since Kurt, their boss, seems to enthusiastically implement Dominic’s every suggestion. But it’s HER off-the-cuff show idea that everyone supports in order to boost declining listener numbers. The only catch? It’s a relationship show about two exes who get along—but there’s no couple like that who works at their station. So Kurt tasks Shay and Dominic to be the hosts and pretend to be exes, and keep it a secret from everyone but the three of them. Surely lying about an entire relationship won’t blow up in anyone’s face…right?

The Lean: Enemistry

(In entertainment media) there’s nothing worse and yet more sexually-charged than being forced to interact with someone you despise. In order to play realistic exes, Dominic and Shay have to actually get to know each other and flesh out the details of their fake romance and subsequent break-up. This lends itself well to some awkward-but-tantalizing moments (what was their faux sex life like?), unintentional bonding, and actual leaning. There’s even a forced “romantic” weekend away featuring antiquing and one bed.

Dirty Talk

Solomon uses her sex scenes sparingly but to excellent effect. It may not be enough for some, but I thought she made it work well in the context of the story she was trying to tell and gave me, personally, the right Goldilocks amount (too little and it’s like, “Are we even reading a romance?!” but too much and I get sex-scene fatigue. I have exacting standards I cannot quite quantify).

He bends to kiss along my inner thighs, gently at first. Then he removes my underwear, kisses beneath my navel before dipping lower. “So this is something you wouldn’t mind?” His tongue starts slowly, a whisper of pleasure as he steadies me with a hand on my hip. He slips one finger inside me—but only for a moment before he draws it back out. I clutch at his hair as he does it again. “Should I stop?”
“Don’t you dare.”

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose

Solomon’s prose isn’t very flowery, which I appreciate, and she peppers in moments of Shay’s internal thoughts that make it very “of the time” with pop culture references. I know people are of two minds on this, in that it can either help ground the book in reality in a good way or make it feel dated too quickly. (I don’t mind them myself.) Since I’m close in age to Shay it just helped make her feel that much more “real” to me. A sampling:

“What’s holding you back? Is it…is it me? The idea of dating me?”
His eyes widen, and he drops his spoon. “No. Not at all. Oh god—I’m not like, insulted by the idea that you and I could have dated. Mildly shocked, yes, but not insulted. You’re…” At that, his eyes scan my face and travel down my torso. His cheeks redden. It gives me a bit of a rush, knowing he’s very obviously assessing me.
You’re a catch. You’re a ten. I wait for a compliment from this person who’s only ever been vile to me.
He clears his throat. “Cool,” he finally says.
Excuse me while I walk right into downtown rush-hour traffic. Cool is the Kevin Jonas of compliments. It’s like saying your favorite color is beige.

(No offense to Kevin Jonas on this writer’s part. I’m sure he’s lovely; this just made me giggle.)

We Need To Talk: The Happy-Sad

This could be one of those internet misquotations, but was it Nora Ephron who said something about how the best romances have an element of sadness to them? (It could have also been someone drawing conclusions about why her movies were all so successful or maybe even something Meg Ryan said in You’ve Got Mail—or was said ABOUT You’ve Got Mail? My Google search terms all failed me miserably!) WHOMEVER actually said it, I do agree! If your character has more struggles or hang-ups in their non-romantic life to overcome, it helps create a more well-rounded character and world they live in. Ultimately, it makes the relationship triumphs feel that much more special.

After Shay’s father—and best cheerleader—died when she was in college, she drew inward so much that she became very lonely, despite having other connections. And I don’t want to spoil anything related to Dominic’s story, but he’s also living with some level of isolation. Honestly, many of Shay and Dominic’s struggles are first-world problems, but that’s not to say they aren’t important to them and don’t make for a compelling story. This book had the right amount of “stakes” for me after reading some other very heavy “issues” books.

I really adored Solomon’s recent YA release, Today, Tonight, Tomorrow and she didn’t let me down with The Ex Talk. Her writing feels breezy but has substance behind it, and even though this isn’t an issues book itself, she still incorporates critiques on things like casual racism and misogyny that keep her world from feeling too Disney-perfect.

Was It Good For You?

Y’all, I’m either the best or worst person to review a book like this because I don’t listen to ANY podcasts! *waits for boo-ing to die down* I prefer rocking out to music in the car than listening to NPR. My husband loves them and had to cajole me into listening to the uber-popular Serial and, yes, okay, it was fascinating. (If you’ve read any of my posts before you’re probably rolling your eyes at me and saying, trust your damn husband already, because I almost always enjoy his recommendations—I’m not proud to admit I thought he was over-hyping the Hamilton soundtrack to me back in 2016—but he will always get points off for believing that I’ll like his favorite movie, The Big Lebowski, if I just “gave it another try”, which, NO.)

So if you’re a podcast-lover, I feel like you’ll love all the inside-the-station bits and fan-appreciation Shay/Solomon have for the medium in addition to the great romance. And if you’re not a fan, well, I still had fun! It almost made me want to try a podcast. Almost.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Berkley. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Ex Talk is available now.

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Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.