Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sally Milz is a writer on live TV comedy sketch show The Night Owls. Her male colleague is romantically involved with a glamorous actress – punching above his weight she thinks – as are several others on the show. Sally writes a sketch ‘The Danny Horst Rule’ poking fun at this phenomenon, but also suggesting that the opposite would be unlikely to happen. Enter Noah Brewster – popular singer-songwriter with a reputation for dating models – as guest host and musical guest on the show.  He and Sally hit it off, but she can’t believe he could really be attracted to her. Two years later he gets back in touch, so maybe she was wrong?

Curtis Sittenfeld is known for writing literary fiction, so Romantic Comedy is a bit of a departure from her usual subject matter, but then again this is not like other romcoms. Firstly, the structure is unusual with only three chapters, a prologue and epilogue loosely divided up only by date and time. If you normally like to stop at the end of a chapter,  you will find it difficult here. The first chapter describes in great detail how the live show is written and put together. I did think there was a bit too much emphasis here, and did not find it as amusing as I was perhaps meant to. No matter, I was intrigued enough to carry on reading. The second chapter consists entirely of emails between Sally and Noah, as a prelude to them meeting up again in the final chapter. Noah is obviously used to life as a famous musician and all that that entails, but for Sally it is a bit of a shock to be recognised and photographed everywhere they go. Mentions of politics and covid will mean Romantic Comedy is forever set in place and time.

It is beautifully written with believable characters and I really hoped they could overcome the obstacles and make a go of it. Sally is deeply flawed, but her continuing lack of self-belief got a bit wearing after a while. Random trivia – the Indigo Girls mentioned throughout the book are a real band and I even found we had a CD at home. I have not read any of Curtis Sittenfeld’s other books, but plan to correct that as soon as possible.