Romance and Me: The Ex-Factor

Filed in Romance and Me , The Latin Lover Posted on June 15, 2011 @ 2:00 pm 7 comments

Hey Everyone!

If by any chance you don’t know what I’m talking about I have to tell you until last night I had no clue there was a phenomenon bearing such a name. Last night when I asked a couple of my fellow Book Lovers if they had any romance issues I should talk about, our lovely Susi mentioned the X-factor, and me being clueless asked what that was. (I imagined it being some sort of romance novels centered around some kind of American Idol setting lol) And she informed me she was alluding to the exes in a couple. Ahh, lightbulb moment! And I agreed with her problems about these plots. So I am here today to discuss exes and their new portrayal in romances.

Until this spring ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends were always portrayed as villains: being jealous, possessive and usually crazy.

But this spring I discovered a new trend when at least 4 novels had almost the same plot: ex-couple gets together due to some family or job event, they spend some time together and realize they are the love of each other’s life and live happily ever after.

Sounds familiar? Just a couple of books which come to mind right now and which had this very same initial setting: My One and Only by Kristan Higgins, Stranded with her Ex by Jill Sorenson, Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson.

Sounds weird? Well I would agree. I would assume that if despite the couple making their best efforts to fix their problems, a marriage or a relationship of several years didn’t work out for whatever reason,  then why do these people suddenly think that a couple of years later their marriage will work? When they have spent years apart, grown apart and evolved individually? I have to confess not only was I sceptic and cynic to this setting but I didn’t believe in it big time.

But then as fate would have it, these Ex-Factor novels landed on my TBR pile and when I started reading them one after the other (again, not a conscious decision, it was all fate or luck) I discovered that these authors took on a very challenging I would even say disadvantageous initial setting and turned it around wonderfully. I was sold. They masterfully convinced me by showing to us readers why they think these couples now stand a chance and why there is a real possibility that this time they will make it work.

If you are curious or sceptic as I was I can only suggest you read My One and Only by Kristan Higgins and see for yourself. (Until then you can also check out what Caro and I have thought about it.)

So tell me, what do you think of the Ex-Factor phenomenon? Have you read any novels where the hero and heroines were each others ex-husband/wife and saw each other several years after their bitter and hurtful break-up/divorce?

Do you think these novels were done in such a way that you as the reader believe ex-spouses can get their 2nd chance and their final HEA? 

And Ex-Factor novel recommendations?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! 😉

About Stella

Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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  • Sabrina June 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Romances with an ex can work for me, I enjoyed for example "Black Hills" by Nora Roberts. But often they fell flat because I don't believe in the rekindled love.

    Unfortunately two of the three books you mentioned in the post didn't work for me at all (the ones by Kristan Higgins and Rachel Gibson) because I thought that the heroes were not hero-worthy and acted too selfish.

  • Deea June 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Ha! Now that you mention it, I did notice this trend. The last book I read when the EX comes back in the life of the main character and then they live happily ever after is Tracking Shadows by Regan Black. It's pretty cool, as they first try to kill each other LOL (in the past few years that they didn't see each other, one of them became a smuggler, the other one an assassin).

    Anyway, I prefer the Ex-Factor to Insta-love any day! (where the main characters are staring at each other one minute and on the floor, clothes off the next. Jeez!)

  • Jen B. June 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I would have never believed in true love after the breakup but I actually know a couple that divorced after more than 20 years together. They were apart for 5 years and then realized that they were meant to be together. More power to them. One of my all time favorite books is about a couple that broke up, married others, divorced and then found their way back to each other. It's Lauren Dane's Laid Bare. It's a beautiful love story and Todd and Erin are amazing characters.

  • Stella (Ex Libris) June 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    @Sabrina: How interesting to see that we perceived the same book/hero (Nick in Kristan Higgins' My One and Only) so completely differently. Me I was amazed what an unselfish and wonderful hero Nick was and even after the huge pain and hurt his wife caused him, after she break his heart in a way that he hasn't been able to get over it and her and still wants her happy humbled me. So interesting to hear you saw this so very differently 😀

    @Deea: I agree, an ex-factor story anytime over the instant-soulgazing-love stories!

    @Jen B: great that you mentioned it that the ex-factor exists in real life, now that I think of it I also know of a couple (friends of my best friend's parents) who divorced after about 18 years together and then about 5 years after the divorce got back together and live the perfect happiness ever since 😀

  • Sheree June 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I buy it more in fiction than in real-life but I'm glad for those who do make it work in real life.

  • Kaetrin June 16, 2011 at 1:33 am

    I'm with Sabrina on My One & Only. I didn't really like Nick that much and it actually took me a while to warm to the heroine also – she started off really mean re her firefighter boyfriend. I thought Nick had been a complete asshat when it came to the marriage and I didn't see him change anything so I didn't buy the HEA I'm afraid.

    However, I do like second chance at love stories and when they're done well, they are some of my favourites. I can see that sometimes people have to mature and learn to change their behaviour before they can be successful in a relationship – it probably doesn't happen much IRL, but I do like it in romance!

    Sherry Thomas does a great job at this – Private Arrangements, Delicious and Not Quite a Husband are all "ex factor" stories. There's a Mary Jo Putney contemporary (I think she only wrote 3 – I believe it's called The Burning Point) which has this theme but be warned some may not like it as there was domestic abuse by the husband and he had to work out his issues – some readers just didn't buy that an abuser could change. For my part, having had extremely little experience (happily!) with domestic abuse IRL and as I thought that the abuse was on the lower end of the violence scale**, I was prepared to buy it and I personally though the author did a great job of showing his angst over the behaviour and how they, as a couple, sorted it out some years later for a HEA. I liked Lauren Dane's Laid Bare also. I have Stranded with her Ex on my TBR – I love Jill Shalvis books! 🙂

    (**I'm not for a second suggesting that any violence is "okay" – it isn't but I think it's probably easier to come back from a slap across the face once or twice for example as opposed to repeated violent beatings where bones are broken and/or weapons are used – but that's just my take – I'm quite aware that this is a hot button for many readers and, like I said above, this book didn't work for some (quite a few?) people didn't like the theme or the hero).

  • LSUReader June 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    The Ex-Factor is a good plot device because it begins with a lot of deep emotion between the main characters. What a great starting point. Where it goes from there, though, is iffy. Complete redemption is difficult to attain.

    In the examples you gave, I agree with you, Stella, about My One and Only–I thought the hero made major headway and deserved his second chance at an HEA. But the heroine? Not so much. She was irritatingly strident.

    And I agree with Sabrina about Any Man of Mine. I didn't see enough character growth in the hero to justify the HEA. (And the cover for this book, which is simply beautiful, drives me nuts because the hero is a blond! How hard is it to get that right?)

    Thanks for an interesting column.

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