13 Dates
by Matt Dunn
Lake Union

I don’t know why it seems strange when Matt Dunn describes himself as a romantic comedy novelist. Is it because romantic comedians tend to work for the cinema? Is it because Dunn is male? Whatever, the author of Home (2015) has ventured into that most debatable of arenas: “I fall in love with Angel the moment I first see her.” Or “12.46, Saturday May 6, 2017” in a coffee shop, to be precise.

The scene establishes a classic case of opposites attracting. Angel (short for “Angela”) is a sarcastic redhead who enjoys baiting overheated baristas. Noah is the organised, buttoned-up but randy hero. Having noticed Angel’s behind (“I am that simplest of Pavlovian life forms, the single male”), he falls for her voice: “If she were a […] doctor giving you some bad news, you probably wouldn’t feel too upset about it.”

They set out on 13 mildly diverting dates to discover whether they can reconcile their differences or separate at 14th sight. The ensuing set pieces are likeable, but somewhat forgettable, too. The problem is a lack of zing to the characters and prose. Not only is Angel a cliché (too many argumentative redheads spoil the broth), she isn’t quite as charming as Dunn wants her to be. Barista: “Extra hot?” Angel: “You’re not so bad yourself.”