7 Days and 7 Nights
I picked up 7 Days and 7 Nights eagerly because I had recently been pondering two romance novel topics: the dearth of interesting workplace romances, and the ripeness of the “reality programming” trend as a romance backdrop. This novel, the story of two competing talk radio DJs (one male, one female, of course) closed up together in an apartment for a week, touched on both concepts and I was excited to see how they would play out. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.
Matt Ransom hosts “Guy Talk,” the testosterone-heavy night-time talk show that is the polar opposite of Dr. Olivia Moore’s morning advice-for-women program. Where Olivia delves into relationship issues eagerly, Matt gives chest-thumping advice when he allows relationship discussion at all; he’d much rather turn the topic to custom cars or baseball. To make things more interesting, both Matt and Olivia have a secret they’ve kept from the rest of the station: they had an affair years before when both worked in another city, one that ended in heartbreak for Olivia and a continuing reluctant fascination with Olivia for Matt. When the station cooks up a publicity stunt involving locking the two hosts into a very small apartment for a week, the tension between their shows’ philosophies as well as their personal chemistry ratchets up in no time.
Neither character’s internal dilemmas are particularly unique. Matt and Olivia both suffered early heartbreak in their families; Matt reacts by keeping everything superficial while Olivia is a control freak who insists on the safe route when secretly she longs to be a bit more daring. What makes 7 Days and 7 Nights interesting is the unique external circumstances that the personality conflict plays out in.
Author Wendy Wax is a veteran of radio production, and her experience shows in the details of the job setting-everything from the conflict between corporate control and station creativity to the process of screening calls on a talk radio show. It’s refreshing to read a romance where the characters have real, interesting jobs that have a bearing on their lives and aren’t just part of the wallpaper.
Wax also lives in Atlanta, and uses the setting well. Most authors tend to overplay either the cosmopolitan aspects, making Atlanta into any generic city, or the southern aspects, making it look more like Mayberry than a major metropolis, but Wax does a good job of blending the two.
The “reality show” situation of living in a small apartment and being on a webcam most of the day was well done, exploiting the inherent tensions in such a situation. Matt and Olivia gradually see the good points in each others’ approaches to life, as played out in things like food preparation and remote control techniques. And the sexual tension that builds between them is fun to watch.
Also entertaining was a secondary romance between “Dawg” and JoBeth, frequent callers to Matt and Olivia, respectively. JoBeth is tired of just living with Dawg and wants to get married; Dawg is panicked at the thought. Both receive competing advice from Matt and Olivia, and their application of that advice leads to a diverting secondary plotline that doesn’t detract from the main storyline. My only complaint regarding this secondary plot was a tendency to show JoBeth and Dawg’s world in a bit too stereotypical “countrified” light (people have names other than Emmylou and Ina, even in the most outlying suburbs of Atlanta!)
The bigger problem was a marked deflation in the pace and tension of the storyline once Matt and Olivia leave the apartment. There’s a separation that seemed to drag on and on, in contrast to the peppy pace of things up to that point. I was also a little puzzled by the sudden “closing of the bedroom door” once the delicious tension finally builds to its natural culmination – after lots of fairly explicit buildup, I expected an equally hot payoff and found myself a bit let down by what actually transpired.
7 Days and 7 Nights is light, entertaining, and often funny. The dialogue zings, the setting is believable, and for the most part the book has a lively pace. Though she needs to further hone her pacing and perhaps open up that bedroom door, this marks a strong debut for Wendy Wax. I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more from this inventive author.