Jo Jones is a former child star who played the adopted Chinese daughter of a white family on a popular television show. As an adult, she is the showrunner for a successful television drama.
Emma Kaplan is her assistant, who hopes to become a director one day.
Jo asks Emma to accompany her to the SAG Awards—as her assistant—but they are photographed together on the red carpet and the whole world assumes that they’re dating.
A different book might handle this with a set of (convoluted) circumstances in which Jo and Emma are obligated to pretend to be dating and end up falling in love during the course of their fake romance.
There’s nothing wrong with the conventional fake dating trope, but that’s not what happens in Something to Talk About. Instead, Wilsner has taken a romcom staple and given us a thoughtful and nuanced story.
To begin with, there are reasons for hesitation on Jo’s part: there’s a bit of an age difference- Emma is in her late twenties and Jo is forty-one years old. There’s also a power differential: Jo is Emma’s boss, and the #MeToo movement has shown us how people can be exploited by someone who has the power to advance or destroy someone’s career.
So Jo is reluctant to risk doing anything to put Emma in that position; even though she doesn’t have any intention of doing anything exploitative, the implication could be damaging enough. Likewise, Emma suppresses her feelings for Jo because she respects her boundaries and keeping things professional is a priority.
But that doesn’t stop the rumor mill from thinking that Jo and Emma are dating.
The book takes place over the course of a year and Jo and Emma spend most of it being awkward and stilted around each other as they try to remain professional, despite a handful of “almost” moments between them. But honestly, there’s not that much time for pining because there’s a television show to run, and Jo has the additional responsibility of writing the script for the next Agent Silver movie, a popular superhero franchise.
There’s a nice balance in this book between lighter material like bonding over youth sports and cupcakes, and heavier material, like the aforementioned power dynamic (with a minor character). Even though they spend most of the year avoiding their growing mutual attraction, Emma and Jo’s bond deepens. This makes their eventual romance even more satisfying, as it becomes clear that they are perfect for each other.
I would absolutely recommend Something to Talk About. I loved the way that Jo and Emma worried about each other; they both demonstrated their concern in a unique way. I also appreciated the way in which toxic people were handled. This was such a good book, and I am looking forward to reading more from Wilsner in the future.
I received an ARC of this book from Berkley/Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.