About one year ago, Meryl Wilsner released their first book, Something to Talk About. This Hollywood-set workplace romance, featuring two women and an age gap, instantly captured my interest. In honor of Pride Month, I decided now was the perfect time to read it. I opted for the audiobook version, narrated by Jorjeana Marie and Xe Sands.
|Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner|
|Narrator||Jorjeana Marie and Xe Sands|
|Book Length||7 hours (336 pages)|
|Format I Read||Audiobook|
|Original Publication Date||May 26, 2020|
A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.
Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time—threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.
As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.
With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?
Something to Talk About is a Hollywood romance, but think more of the behind-the-scenes business side of things rather than the onscreen actors. Jo was an actor when she was younger, but has since moved into directing. Her younger assistant, Emma, has big dreams of her own, and is hoping for a promotion. Jo is a mentor to Emma and, given her many connections, can open doors for her.
This love story tackles two difficult tropes: a workplace romance (between a boss and her employee) and an age gap romance. Despite the uneven power dynamics, though, I found that Meryl Wilsner did a brilliant job in addressing the issues directly. Both Jo and Emma approach their relationship with caution and sensitivity… perhaps too much caution!
The romance comes in gradually, with their workplace dynamics taking center stage for most of the book. Jo is a hardworking woman who values precision and competence. She’s put her job ahead of her personal life, and apart from a friend on the other side of the country, she isn’t close to anyone. Emma has been a perfect assistant so far, always knowing exactly what Jo needs before she’s even asked. When Jo invites Emma to a red carpet event—in part to be a buffer to pesky interviewers—Emma is nervous but excited. The two women get along well, but on camera, it maybe comes across differently. The morning after the event, rumors abound about a possible romantic relationship between them. Instead of addressing the rumors, though, Jo chooses to ignore them, assuming they’ll die down. They don’t.
At this point in the novel, Jo and Emma’s relationship has been nothing but professional. But the more rumors swirl, and the more certain colleagues comment on the possible relationship, the more the feelings start to feel real. Even so, neither woman is ready to pursue a relationship. On the one hand, it could be disastrous for Emma’s career. She doesn’t want to look like a woman who sleeps her way to the top. She wants to genuinely earn her next promotion, and she wants to be respected for her work. For Jo’s part, she’s not out of the closet, having publicly dated only men and then avoiding any relationships at all. Almost no one knows that she is a lesbian, and she’s still not sure if she’s ready for the world to know that about her.
I appreciate how careful Jo and Emma are in not crossing boundaries within their professional relationship. Even as they form a friendship and a deeper bond, both are conscious of the #MeToo movement and the prevalence of sexual harassment at work, especially in the entertainment industry. Jo’s efforts to help people in the industry who have faced sexual harassment, and simultaneously take down the predators, further compounds her sensitivity to any romantic relationship—real or not—with Emma.
This is a super slow burn, and it takes a very long time for either Emma or Jo to move the relationship forward. The first kiss comes quite late in the book. If you want action a little sooner than the end, this may not be the romance for you. Even so, it is a cute and thoughtful romance, and I really liked both characters and their overall dynamic. They make sense together, and after a drawn out will-they-won’t-they and some miscommunications, the payoff when they finally do get together is worth it.
Something to Talk About is a sweet novel, and Berkley’s first F/F romance. (Wow, it really took them until 2020 to get there?! Better late than never, I guess.) Jo and Emma are both lovely characters, and though it takes a long time for them to finally get together, it’s worth it in the end. This is Meryl Wilsner’s debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from them in the coming years.
About the Author
Meryl’s debut novel, SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, as well as being one of Amazon, Kirkus, and NPR’s best books of 2020. Their next book, MISTAKES WERE MADE, will publish October 11, 2022. While in SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, the characters take so long to kiss you want to fling yourself into the sun, MISTAKES WERE MADE opens with a sex scene. Meryl is large. They contain multitudes. In their dayjob, they’re being slowly crushed by capitalism.
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