Would you trust your friend enough to set you up on a date?
The Ex Factor is a novel that looks to comically uncover the trials and tribulations of the modern-day dating scene.
From internet matching-making apps to websites designed especially with cheating partners in mind, it now appears that anything goes where dating is concerned and whilst it may be fun to experience this new reality occasionally for those in search of a serious partner, divine intervention, or in this case, a friend, may just need to step in.
Through the eyes of four thirty-something friends you begin to realise that dating in the 21st century is harder than ever before, so perhaps the idea of setting a friend up with one of your ex-boyfriends doesn’t seem quite so bad after all.
But let’s think about this for just one minute.
Take a good look at your friendship circle. Yes, they are your friends and you may love them to bits but would you seriously date one of their ex’s?
Chances are, you have been there, picking up the pieces when things have all gone wrong. Over an evening of wine, you have been the one there consoling your friend, with a man-sized packet of tissues and the largest bar of chocolate you could find whilst in the supermarket reaching for the third bottle of Chardonnay.
So would you want to date them for yourself?
Well, four friends are about to do just that. The problem is, yes, they are friends, but they are friends with completely different outlooks on life – one is a serious Lawyer, one a self-confused hermit, one is a journalist whilst the fourth is so flighty she has been missing-in-action for the last two years living the life others only dream on, updating her Instagram feed on a daily basis with shots of stunning beaches and sunsets.
Let’s Meet The Girls
Helen has become accustomed to spending time on her own, becoming a recluse of choice and only venturing outside when the mood takes her. She has even managed to negate the need to mix with others at work – opting for a freelancing lifestyle that she can operate completely from her own laptop. In the two years since her best friend simply upped and left without even saying goodbye, Helen has not only developed a severe case of OCD she has also shed few pounds, taking her from a size 22 to a 12 even though her wardrobe has remained the same.
Helen is currently on a hiatus from men and has been for two years now with no real desire to jump back into the dating game any time soon.
“I am successful. I am happy. I am fine on my own.
She wasn’t convinced by the affirmations – she didn’t feel all that successful or happy. But she was most definitely on her own”. (Pages 10-11)
The best friend that vanished without saying goodbye, reappears as quickly as she disappeared in the first place. Marnie has an erratic personality, often switching moods within a blink of the eye, making it difficult for anyone to really understand what she is thinking.
Whilst her friends believe she has been sunning herself in far-flung places around the globe, the reality for Marnie is very different. Instead of enjoying cocktails on a beach in Rio she has actually been caring for her sick father up in Glasgow but was just too ashamed to let others know.
In need of a change however, she hops on a flight back to London and on landing sends a message to Helen announcing that she is back and wanting to meet the gang for drinks later.
“She’s back. Hello Marnie, goodbye non-interrupted sleep. Her second thought was: Bloody hell! She’s back! A flicker of something came and went in her stomach – excitement. Nerves. Something else that she couldn’t quite identify. Then she sat up and started Googling bars, restaurants and detox treatments” (page 10).
Sensible, serious Ani is always smartly dressed and ahead of the game whenever she walks into court. Like most Lawyers, she hates to lose but just lately it feels like no matter whether she wins or not, whilst the people she represents may be happy – something is lacking in her life. Perhaps being a divorce Lawyer is the problem – maybe it is the job that is causing her to be more picky about the man she is dating or maybe the fact that she works around bickering spouses each day has turned her into the date from hell.
After spending countless hours on dates with hundreds of different men, Ani believes she is destined to remain ‘on the shelf’ for the foreseeable future.
“…how could you believe in love when you spend all day sweeping up the smashed remnants of it?
At least she had dinner tonight to take her mind off of it. After all, if there was one person who was more terminally single than Ani, then that was Marnie”. (Page 16)
Tearful, with emotions running wild, the most that Rosa seems to be able to achieve at the moment is getting to work on time. But surely that is understandable; after all, she has just found out that her husband (whom she has been with for 15 years) wants a divorce after falling for the intern at their magazine. Perhaps things would be easier if she didn’t have to see him every day, but if she wanted to continue to pay the bills then she needed a job.
Perhaps dating so soon after a big split isn’t such a good idea for Rosa.
“Marnie was sure to have some advice about how to cope with working in the same office as your ex. After all, there was no dating situation on earth she hadn’t experienced”, (Page 19)
How The Ex Factor Unfolds
After receiving the text message, Helen is all systems go, booking a table and rallying up the girls for what could be, an interesting evening out. No-one had heard from, let alone seen, Marnie for two years so no doubt there would be many stories to tell.
“Even though Rosa was sad and Helen was worried and Ani was tired, all three of them looked up as she came in, and one by one they smiled”. (Page 23)
Within hours of her return, and after listening to her friends dating horrors, it appears Marnie has an idea. Knowing that dating is a minefield of disastrous one night meet ups and with a desire to finally meet someone and settle down, she suggests that…
“…we each set one of the others up with an ex of ours.” (Page 33)
Unperturbed by the distress her friends show with her outlandish suggestion, Marnie continues, growing more eager as her plan unfolds. As she explains it, all they need to do is simply introduce one of their friends to one of their ex’s – what could possibly go wrong?
So it is settled, after demonstrated great resilience, the final person to agree is Helen giving Marnie the green light to put her plan into motion.
After picking names out of a hat – Marnie will be choosing for Helen, Helen for Ani, Ani for Rosa and Rosa for Marnie.
Marnie’s Choice for Helen
Meet Dan, a guy that stands at around 5’2 and doesn’t really like to talk. If fact, he is so socially awkward, after agreeing to move on from drinks to dinner, he does a runner whilst Helen is in the bathroom leaving her with the bill.
Helen is mortified but deep down was it really Dan she wanted Marnie to pick or had there been another ex that she would have liked to have dated herself?
Helen’s Choice for Ani
They met at computer camp and haven’t really spoken since, but with limited ex’s to choose from Helen opts for Nik, or Nikesh as he now prefers to be known.
Nikesh is a rich IT guy who asks Helen to fill in a questionnaire before agreeing to meet Ani because he is worried that Ani will be yet another person simply interested in him because of his money. Ani on the other hand, has grown cynical about every man she meets – can they both put their issues behind them or will this turn into yet another dating disaster?
Ani’s Choice for Rosa
With so many recent ex’s to choose from, Ani decides that the boring theatre critic would be the best option for her depressed best friend. With a receding hairline, the only thing that seems to attract Rosa to Simon is the fact that they both have a love of literature and in particular, the classics. Could this be the start of something new for Rosa?
Rosa’s Choice for Marnie
Who would you pick for your friend that appears to have done so much and dated so many? The problem is that Rosa had been with David, her now ex-husband, since she started University so ex’s are a bit limited. That being said, before dating David she did fall for an activist called Tom whom might just be the type of man that impresses Marnie.
Still hoping to revolutionise the world, Tom is keen to get Marnie involved with his latest plight – but does picketing outside government houses and living in a squat really appeal to Marnie?
Will it all work out for the girls or will this experiment just highlight the pitfalls of dating?
Intrigued? Then pick a copy of The Ex Factor up for yourself – no spoilers will be given here!
Our Thoughts on The Ex Factor
If you are struggling to find an easy book to enjoy now that the nights are drawing in then pick up a copy of The Ex Factor.
It’s easy to read, funny in places and whilst it is predictable as hell you will find yourself reading on to find out what happens next.
Have you read The Ex Factor? Would you recommend it to others?
Eva Woods, author of The Ex Factor may be better known to some as Claire McGowan author of Crime and Thriller Novels. Want to find out more about the author then click here.
Perhaps you have read another Romance Novel recently that you think others should know about. Please feel free to mention it in the comments section below.