Alex Turner is never The One—but always the last one an ex dates before finding love—and now she’s determined to find out why in this hilarious new rom-com.
Single divorce attorney Alex Turner is watching reality TV when she sees her latest ex’s new fiancée picking out her wedding dress. Yet again, the guy she dumped went on to marry (or at least seriously commit to) the next person he dates after her. Fed up with being the precursor to happily ever after, she decides to interview all her exes to find out why.
Up-and-coming chef Will Harkness mixes with Alex like oil and vinegar, but forced proximity growing up means their lives are forever entwined. When Will learns Alex and her friends are going on a wild romp through Los Angeles to reconnect with her ex-boyfriends, he decides to tag along. If he can discover what her exes did wrong, he can make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake with Alex.
On this nonstop journey through the streets of LA, Alex realizes the answer to her question might be the man riding shotgun…
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
People never think about where divorce attorneys come from. How they are made. In Alex’s mind, she was sort of like a superhero who showed up to save her clients’ assets and, on very rare occasions, their dignity. But no one ever thinks about how a person decides to make their life’s work dismantling other people’s marriages.
Alex Turner’s origin story was what one might have expected if one pondered how divorce attorneys came to be, before actually needing one. She came from a broken home and had a divorce-happy grandmother, which caused her to grow up too fast. Because all the adults around her were too chaotic, Alex became really good at putting her emotions on a shelf to deal with later—or never.
Not feeling anything—and suppressing any stray emotions— came in handy when she was dealing with philanderers, fraudsters, and people who just couldn’t stand the sight of each other for another moment. She got paid the big bucks because she could keep her head on straight when everyone around her was losing their shit.
The fact that she was so good at her job often gave people the impression that she was just as cold in everyday life. Just because she was a killer in the courtroom, she’d had more than one guy on a date think she could take harsh criticism that she could not—in fact—take.
Alex was usually neutral about her clients’ soon-to-be-former spouses. However, she’d made an exception for Rogan Chase—a comic turned podcaster who espoused specious theories around everything from child-rearing to whether handwashing prevents infectious disease.
Chase had filed for divorce when his wife didn’t lose every last ounce of baby weight within three months of giving birth, and he hadn’t even told her in a private conversation. Instead, he’d announced it on his podcast. He’d started a hashtag and gotten his wife doxxed, and Samantha had fled to her mother’s house.
Unfortunately for Chase, Alex had made some modifications to the prenuptial agreement proposed by his attorney before the wedding—modifications that Chase hadn’t thought anything of at the time. She’d added a clause that stipulated that Samantha would receive a substantial payout every time Chase discussed his and Samantha’s relationship on-air.
Chase’s red face and ample spittle as he hurled insults at his ex-wife while he signed over fifty percent of his assets, including an ongoing share of the income he derived from use of his name and image, warmed Alex’s cold heart just a little bit.
In the midst of it all, Samantha leaned over and whispered, “I kind of wish my future income didn’t depend on him continuing to act like this.”
Alex didn’t allow her face to change as she said, “He really should read what he’s signing.”
Samantha choked on a laugh, and that set off Chase even more. To Alex’s surprise, one look from Chase’s lawyer got him to choke on whatever shitty thing he’d been about to say until he and Samantha had both signed the settlement agreement.
Alex’s spine stiffened when Samantha and Chase’s lawyer left the conference room, because Alex saw the way he licked his lips at her. She leveled her hardest stare at him and said one word, “No.”
“Well, I was going to ask you for a drink now that my divorce is final . . .”
“And you think that makes you some sort of prize?”
“I still have a lot of money.”
Alex snorted. “Like that’s a recommendation.”
“Not surprised you’re still single. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up all alone with a bunch of cats for company.”
“Honestly, I’d rather have a whole Grey Gardens thing going than end up with someone like you.”
“You have a bad attitude.”
“No, sir. You’re the one with a bad attitude. You think it’s still 1974, when a woman couldn’t even have a credit card in her own name, and that someone should see that you have money and fall all over your dick. I’m sure you’ll find a woman who mistakenly thinks that slobbing your knob is easier than making her own way in the world, but she’ll wise up, too.”
“You think you know me—”
“Do yourself a favor and shut up before I encourage your wife to have second thoughts about leaving you someplace to live that isn’t a refrigerator box on Skid Row.” Chase closed his mouth with an audible snap. “I may not have spent much time with you, but I know you. You’re nothing but a racist, misogynist, fatphobic worm looking for a new warm, wet hole to burrow into.” And he hadn’t even put up a fight when his wife had asked for sole custody. That truly made him irredeemable.
Chase looked her up and down. “Now, I’m hitting on you, so I can’t be racist.”
Alex rolled her eyes so hard that she thought she pulled something. “Oh, so you’ve backed down from your whole ‘I don’t see color, BUT’ schtick. But let me spare you. My grandmother was the most famous Black woman in the world in the 1970s and 1980s. She was basically Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Cardi B combined. The first thing she taught me about being a woman of color—particularly a Black woman—is that people who don’t see color don’t see humanity. You don’t see the humanity of any woman, especially not your wife, and I have a good feeling that it would be ten times worse for a Black or Brown woman who you somehow hoodwinked into fucking you.”
“You bitter little bitch.”
Alex clapped her hands together and laughed ruefully. “There it is.”
“There what is? How the fuck did you get through law school? You talk in circles.”
“You asked me out and then called me a bitch as soon as I challenged you. Because I see right through you. You’re my bread and butter and the reason I drive a Maserati.”
Alex turned to leave, more than done with this ghoul. As the door to the conference room closed behind her, she heard him muttering, “Stuck-up cu—”
Alex was still shaken by her encounter with Chase when she got home from work that night. The only good things about the day were that it was Friday, her DVR was chock-full of her favorite shows, and she’d remembered to put a bottle of rosé into the fridge before heading to the office.
Unfortunately, Chase wasn’t the first former spouse who’d hit on her before the ink on his divorce decree was dry. In fact, her clients’ former spouses were more likely than a barista or a bartender to hit on her these days. The flirtation from associates at Trader Joe’s hawking samples felt like it came from a purer place than when a man who had recently blown up his marriage—likely through some real douchebag behavior—decided that she’d be a good next victim.
On days like today, Alex didn’t understand why anyone would get married in the first place. It was all well and good to want companionship, help with household expenses, and someone to have sex with on speed dial, but making it legal seemed unwise for most people.
In Alex’s professional and familial experience, getting married was like playing the lottery. Sure, you had all these hopes and dreams about what you might do with the jackpot before the numbers were pulled. But very few people actually won and got to live out those dreams. For most, it was a waste of resources that could be better put to use elsewhere.
And on days like today, she especially didn’t understand why some other women were so eager to be married. It ended so badly so often, and even her friends in good marriages sounded as though they were suffering from a very particular form of Stockholm syndrome. If Alex had a dollar for every time one of her married friends started a sentence with “I love my husband, but” and then recounted him doing something truly horrific, she could retire. Even though she’d dated a few guys whom she could have seen herself married to, she had never understood why married men were never expected to make sacrifices, other than the opportunity to sleep with other women without hiding it. And, considering the size of her client base, many of them couldn’t even manage to do that.
Somewhere along the line, Alex had decided that marriage wasn’t something she wanted. The grind of her job and the weight of her family history made her feel like she was uniquely fucked when it came to romantic relationships. There were men in her dating history whom she’d thought she’d been in love with, whom she’d pictured spending her life with, but none of those relationships had worked out. Now she made it explicit from the beginning that she only wanted to be in a relationship for as long as it was fun for everyone involved.
Alex’s negative view of marriage could not diminish her love of reality television shows about the institution—like Say Yes to the Dress. She also loved the Real Housewives, but that was essentially client development work. But watching a show where too-young women were emotionally abused by their mothers and future mothers-in-law while they tried on dresses that cost more than a used Toyota Corolla and made them look like cupcakes was more relaxing than candlelight yoga.
Even though she couldn’t envision getting married—ever—she did enjoy critiquing the truly audacious choices made on the show. It would be bad for her reputation if people knew that she had a secret wedding dress Pinterest board. No one wanted to hire a divorce attorney with a romantic streak, so Alex kept her love for the show a secret. But truthfully, it was one of the few things that made her feel better about her own romantic track record. Even though no one had ever asked her to marry them, at least she didn’t have anything with a sweetheart neckline or a see-through panel around her midriff in her history.
So yeah. She loved weddings, specifically wedding dresses. But she had serious questions about them—and marriage in general.
The one thing that truly bothered her on the show was how they never explained how one went to the bathroom in one of those things. What if they were sewn into the dress? Were they expected to hold it until they could take the dress off and perform their wifely duties for the first time? Alex found it fascinating and symbolic of the fact that—unless they won the lottery—wives weren’t expected to be human beings. One of her clients had told her that she’d never taken a dump in the same bathroom her husband used after he commented on her stinking up the bathroom on their third date. Before they’d bought a house with more than one bathroom, she’d waited until she got to the Starbucks to go every morning. For ten years.
As Alex sat down with her Big Gulp–sized glass of rosé, she was prepared to watch a twenty-one-year-old who thought a thirty-five-year-old who didn’t have bed frame was her soul mate. What she was not prepared for was to see a woman who looked eerily like Alex waxing poetic about Alex’s most recent ex-boyfriend.
She’d met Jason speaking on a Black Law Students Association panel at UCLA Law School, featuring four Black law partners under forty. When she’d walked in and seen all six foot four of Jason, she’d been glad she hadn’t found an excuse to cancel her appearance. It wasn’t that she hated giving back, but she always felt exhausted after socializing with new people. She’d planned to sneak out in the first ten minutes of the happy hour after the panel when Jason brought her over a glass of boxed wine. He’d smiled at her, and the rest of the room had fallen away. They’d talked for the whole cocktail hour and then he’d taken her out to dinner. It had been so long since she’d liked someone that she’d been a little helpless to resist him at first.
Of course that had changed later on, but she’d been intoxicated with Jason that first night.
Seeing Jason on a show about weddings was doubly shocking because Jason had told Alex in no uncertain terms—multiple times during the months they’d dated—that he didn’t believe in marriage. That was why Alex had started dating him in the first place. She would never have to wonder whether she’d won the lottery or thrown away her time and money for a dream that only came true for one in a hundred million. There was no danger that she’d end up hog-tied in a Pnina Tornai dress, later trying to furtively poop in the locker room before her third SoulCycle class of the day because a man who hadn’t pushed a watermelon out of his vagina thought she was too fat a month after doing so.
She’d thought they were on the same page.
But Jason had apparently lied to her about his aversion to marriage. As Alex watched the photo montage of his relationship history with this other woman, she started to feel sick. At some point, she put down her wine and leaned toward the television. She clasped her hands together so hard that the joints in her knuckles ached. It was better than what she really wanted to do—throw something at the TV.
She didn’t even know why. They’d had a nice few months together, but she hadn’t been in love with Jason. They were compatible—in bed and out—but she hadn’t thought about him when he wasn’t around. Her feelings for Jason were warm and pleasant, but there hadn’t been any passion between them. They’d parted ways amicably, and she’d thought they would both sail off into another chapter of serial monogamy.
Still, she seethed as she watched this woman pick out a dress to marry a man who’d apparently changed his life plans in the nine months since he’d dumped Alex. She didn’t know why, but thinking about him moving on with this woman formed a sinkhole in her chest. Instead of doing anything about it, like changing the channel, Alex sipped her pink wine and really looked at the woman who was going to marry Jason—her handsome, financially stable, erudite ex-boyfriend who’d told her that he’d rather put his balls in a panini press every morning than spend the rest of his life with one person.
And as the woman on the screen picked out a dress that was so simple and classic that it made Alex’s chest ache, she realized that Jason had only had an aversion to marriage because he couldn’t countenance the prospect of marriage with Alex.
After the episode ended on a frame of Jason’s fiancée crying as her mother gave her a blank check to purchase the dress she chose, Alex turned the sound down and opened up the Facebook app on her phone. She usually stayed off it because it was for boomers and conspiracy theorists, but she hadn’t given up her account because her sister occasionally posted pictures of her nieces on there. They lived a thousand miles away, and she missed them. Hanging out with them on Christmas gave her a vague understanding of why her sister had volunteered to have her vagina ripped open in order to bring them into the world. But she wasn’t descending into the bowels of social media at ten o’clock on a Friday night to admire the fruits of her sister’s loins.
She was on a mission, a journey, and a quest.
Alex had never looked up her exes before. In her mind, that was for girls who didn’t have anything going on in their own lives. Her mother, an anthropology professor, would find it fascinating and might even write a whole book about how the American patriarchy twisted young women’s minds. She would then send it to Alex’s sister, who wouldn’t read it, and then they would have something to fight about over the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that Alex’s sister insisted they all attend.
It would be a refreshing change of topic from the ethnographic presentation about stolen Native lands that Alex’s mother usually insisted on as a condition of her attendance.