Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘Romantic Comedy’ Is an Absolute Treat of a Novel

book cover of romantic comedy on a yellow background
cover: random house; background: Flavio Coelho/getty images

Boy meets girl, boy and girl have undeniable chemistry, boy (or girl) does something to screw it up, boy and girl live happily ever after. We love rom-coms because they’re formulaic and comforting. But they can also feel a little, ahem, predictable.

Romantic Comedy, a new novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (Eligible, Prep) is a modern, compulsively readable and not-at-all-derivative take on the genre.

Sally Milz is a 30-something who’s been a writer at The Night Owls, a weekly sketch comedy show a la Saturday Night Live, for nine years. She’s working on a sketch based on her officemate, Danny, a funny and smart but aesthetically average guy who’s somehow gotten engaged to a gorgeous actress—just like many of her male colleagues have. Her argument is that the reverse would never happen—“a gorgeous male celebrity would never fall in love with an ordinary, dorky, unkempt woman.” For her part, Sally has all but sworn off a happily ever after in the wake of an early 20s divorce and an unfortunately one-sided situation with a fellow writer.

Enter Noah Brewster, an ultra-popular—and startlingly handsome—musician who’s pulling double duty as host and musical guest on the show. Sally assumes that Noah is like many of the other stunning and famous if not terribly comedically inclined hosts she’s worked with during her tenure at TNO, but he quickly proves himself to be smart, sensitive and suspiciously interested in spending one-on-one time with Sally.

Over the course of the book, which is broken up into two sections—the week leading up to the show and two years later, during peak pandemic—the two lose touch and reconnect as Sally continuously self-sabotages, assuming her sketch is factual and that a guy like Noah would never fall for a woman like her. (It is occasionally frustrating that “a woman like her” means a successful, Emmy award-winning comedy writer.) 

Despite a majority of the book taking place during Covid, it’s refreshingly not a ‘Covid novel.’ Sure, there are references to KN95s and pulse oximeters, but Sittenfeld’s focus is on Noah and Sally, their charming courtship and clever commentary on the strange nature of celebrity (for most people, Sally tells Noah, “flying commercial” is just called “flying”).

For fans of Nora Ephron and 30 Rock, Romantic Comedy is deliciously charming, whip-smart and, perhaps unsurprisingly, would make a fantastic movie.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...