I picked up Meryl Wilsner’s Something To talk About as a palate cleanser of sorts. It looked like a quick, light read, something to make me smile in between some of the heavier books I’ve been reading lately. Unfortunately, though parts of the story were engaging, I struggled to connect with the characters, making this a less than stellar reading experience.
I love books that center around TV shows, so the synopsis of Something To Talk About looked right up my alley. It’s the story of Jo, a successful show-runner who holds the world at arm’s length, and Emma, her free-spirited assistant who is desperate to make her mark on Hollywood. Their relationship has been nothing but professional up until Emma accompanies Jo to an awards ceremony. A reporter snaps a photograph of the two of them on the red carpet, and from there, the town is buzzing with rumors about the romance that seems to have sprung up between them. Of course, these rumors are blatantly false, but no one seems to be interested in the truth. Instead, they’re looking for the next big scandal, and a scintillating romance between Jo and Emma promises to keep the rumor mill going strong.
Jo was a difficult character for me to warm up to. She’s really aloof, and while the author has given her a compelling backstory to explain her behavior, I had trouble getting past the facade she shows the world. Some readers may find her prickly nature endearing, but it didn’t work for me. I was turned off by the brusque way she treats Emma, even when they’re spending time together outside of work hours. It’s like she’s always in professional mode. The author tells us there’s another side to her, but the story doesn’t bear this out, and I ended up feeling more frustrated than intrigued.
Emma is Jo’s opposite in every imaginable way. She loves her work, but it doesn’t rule her life. Just around the time she and Jo are seen together at the ceremony, she learns she’s in line for a promotion, something she’s been working toward for years. Now though, she’s the subject of all kinds of gossip. She’s understandably concerned that all the talk could negatively impact her career, but Jo dismisses her concerns out of hand.
And this, my friends, is the basis for so much of what I disliked about Something To Talk About. There’s an obvious lack of equality between Jo and Emma, and Jo, the one with the most power in the relationship does nothing to address this fact. Instead, it felt like she was constantly dismissing Emma’s very real concerns. It didn’t come off as protective or nurturing, even though that seemed to be the author’s intent. It was off-putting and cringy, and I found myself wanting Emma to run for the hills as fast as she could. Unfortunately, she stuck around for more of Jo’s bad treatment.
In order for a romance to be believable, the characters must have some kind of chemistry on the page. Unfortunately, the relationship between Emma and Jo fell flat. I couldn’t buy into their feelings for one another, and a lot of what threatened to keep them apart felt contrived. I think it was a case of the author doing too much telling and not enough showing.
Some books just aren’t good matches for certain readers, and that’s okay. I’m sure there are people out there who will love everything about this particular romance, even though I struggled to make it through to the end. Luckily, there are tons of great books in the world and I’m sure I’ll find the perfect one for me in the not-too-distant future.