Buy Something to Talk About
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Reviewer: Melissa on July 14, 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner is a cute and sexy LGBTQIA+ romance novel featuring one narrator who is a young, bi+ Jewish woman and an older, closeted Chinese-American woman. Some of my friends were talking about it and referred to it as a contemporary romance novel with a bit of a The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo vibe since, it too, is set in Hollywood, and maybe also because there is a secondary character named Evelyn in Wilsner’s novel. (Don’t expect anything like the framework in the magazine story in Evelyn Hugo though.)
Like many contemporary romance novels that have been published over the last few years, it has the characteristic, illustrated cover style. Moreover, since the first paparazzi image taken of the showrunner, Jo, and her personal assistant, Emma, on the red carpet is such a pivotal point and image in the novel, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the illustrator created a rendition of that very same moment. That said, there are some liberties at play—a close reading of the novel wouldn’t suggest that Emma was leaning over to whisper in Jo’s ear—but at the same time, there are key elements, such as Jo’s yellow dress, which will recall that moment to the reader’s mind. I will say, however, that unlike the covers of the first two books in the Bromance Book Club series, which I reviewed last week, this illustration appears rather flat since the represented characters don’t have any believable shadows. I also don’t, particularly, like the title treatment, but the story and description are much better than the cover, so I’m glad that I didn’t judge it without giving this LGBTQIA+ romance a chance.
In the Hollywood world where the #MeToo movement is alive and well, but, so too, is the reason the very same movement is necessary, Something to Talk About was a breath of fresh air. Yes, this is a workplace romance that is rife with drama, especially of the tabloid kind, but it’s not—in any way—the creepy kind. This isn’t about the creepy, older boss hitting on her assistant…whether or not the assistant was interested.
Rather, it’s a very slow burn romance that starts off merely as a great showrunner-assistant relationship on the set of the tv show where they met, The Innocents. However, when Jo invites Emma to the SAG Awards as a buffer from the uncomfortable questions she expected to have to face from journalists and the paparazzi over her upcoming job on a movie script, they capture an image that—out of context—looked romantic. Afterward, everyone in Emma’s family teases her that Jo is her girlfriend, and the tabloids have stories filled with anonymous sources from a leak from their set that kept the rumour of Emma and Jo’s relationship alive. Jo refuses to comment on the rumours publicly because she’s never commented on her love life in the 30+ years, but despite what she thinks the rumours don’t quickly disappear.
While the picture of Jo and Emma sets the tabloids, the employees on The Innocents’ set, Emma’s family, and Jo’s BFF, Evelyn, talking and imagining a relationship between the young assistant and the boss of The Innocents’ set, it isn’t an impetus for either Jo or Emma to start having inappropriate feelings for one another. Nothing much changes with them initially, though they both find themselves second guessing their normal ways of interacting with one another in front of other people, which is understandable. Jo, in particular, doesn’t want the casual way she touches Emma to be misconstrued, and Emma worries about calling Jo, aka Ms. Jones, the nickname “boss” when anyone is around. Over the course of the novel, there is a lot of drama both at their workplace and in their personal lives, and readers will be here for the way it slowly gets both of them thinking about each other in less than professional ways. Readers will slowly fall in love with these characters just as we see them falling in love with each another.
One of the things I loved about this novel, beyond the romance, is that it really dives into the consequences of the rumours, especially for Emma, the young assistant who was falsely assumed to be sleeping her way to the top. For someone like, Jo, who is in her early 40s and at the top of her game, there is very little that can negatively affect her career at this point. (It’s possible that she will hit the glass ceiling, but that wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with rumours—whether they were true or false.)
However, things are different for Emma. She’s just starting out and rumours like these could taint the way future employers would view any recommendations Jo sent her way. Even more pressing, though, is the fact that a well-established director uses the rumours as a legitimate excuse to proposition Emma in a casually creepy and totally disturbing way. That said, it also offers the opportunity for the book to make a clear delineation between this creep and the way Jo treats workplace sexual harassment and her slowly developing feelings for Emma.
Final Thoughts: Something to Talk About will give you a lot of things to squee over and talk about when your friends have also read this slow burning, but nevertheless, sexy f/f workplace romance.
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