Blog tour extract: The Ex Factor by @inkstainsclaire


Is it possible to freecycle love?

Modern dating is hard, especially when all you meet are liars, oddballs, men who wear Superman pants and men who live with their mums.

So why not date someone who already comes pre-approved? Just because your friend’s ex wasn’t right for her doesn’t mean that he won’t be right for you. That’s Marnie’s new plan for herself and her three best friends, perennially single Helen, recently divorced Rosa and cynical lawyer Ani.

Through bad dates and good, the four friends begin to realise that there are advantages to dating pre-screened men…but there can be some serious pitfalls to falling for your friend's ex.


‘Will all passengers please fasten their seat belts; the captain has now started our descent . . .’
She ignored the announcement for as long as possible. After all, when you were running away—when you had nowhere else to go—there was no hurry to arrive. Only when the air hostess came to tell her off did she grudgingly belt up, and take out her headphones and open her window blind. From above, London was grey. Like something shrivelled, shivering in the January air. She wasn’t sure why she was coming back. Not home—she didn’t know exactly where home was right now.
The plane banked lower through freezing winter fog. Around her people began to gather their possessions, crumple up their rubbish, stretch their legs and arms. Looking forward to a new city. Buckingham Palace. The Tower of London. Madame Tussauds.
Not her. She was terrified. But if her mother had taught her anything, it was this: always get your game face on. And so she put on her huge sunglasses, despite the gloom, and brushed in-flight food from her carefully put-together outfit, re-applied red lipstick. Was the cape-coat too much? The dress too bright? No time to change now. She took out her phone and composed a tweet. Hitting the tarmac! Can’t wait to see you all, London! xx
She had a moment to think of what she’d left, and feel the tears push at her eyes for the tenth time that journey. Game face. She pasted on a smile. The tannoy dinged, and the grey ground came into sight. She was back.


Helen was woken by the buzz of her phone, shooting upright in bed, groping on the bedside table among the TV remote, the control for the windows blinds, the tissues, the hand cream, and the framed photo of her cat—her flat was somewhere between NASA launch control and the Pinterest board of a forty-something spinster. She blinked at the phone. Read the message again. Emitted a small ‘huh’ to the empty space beside her in the bed, then checked the time: 7.45 a.m. Only a person of deep selfishness would text a freelancer at 7.45 a.m.
The message stayed on the screen, burned behind her eyes. Her first thought was: 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.
There’s a saying that if knowing someone doesn’t change you as a person, then they’re not a true friend, just an acquaintance. Helen would have added to this. If knowing someone didn’t permanently make you feel like you were about to get on a roller coaster—excited, terrified, and with the slight possibility of serious injury—then they weren’t a true friend.

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