The Last Romeo by Justin Myers

published 2018

(available now for Kindle: paper version in May)

Last Romeo

[Our hero James is going on a date with someone he met online]

I was worried about not recognizing him thanks to those awful photos, but Bella’s advice rang in my head: ‘Look for a desperate bloke, all on his own. Just make sure you’re not looking into a mirror.’

A woman was slapping the jukebox in frustration – not a Steps fan, I assumed – and as she gave it one final whack, I spotted a table in the corner with a man hunched over it, sipping a drink. He was wearing glasses, had his hair pushed to one side, and was shrouded in a grey hoodie that was far too large, but if I squinted and perhaps held a torch to his face, and applied untold filters, I could make him out as my date. I could see he’d gone for a prize-winning lack of effort as his ‘look’, with product through his hair about the only concession to looking nice. I went over and stood right in front of him, casting a shadow. He did not look up. Wow. Really making me work for it.

Last Romeo 2

commentary: Justin Myers is The Guyliner, whose blog of that name contains one of my favourite regular online features. It’s a bit niche, so bear with me while I explain. The blog deals with many aspects of modern life – particularly as seen by a gay man in contemporary London. Dating is a huge part of that, and so at some point he took to reading the addictive Blind Date column in the Guardian newspaper’s Saturday magazine every week (just what it sounds like: the Guardian introduces two people over a restaurant dinner, and then questions them separately about how it went.) Myers had the brilliant idea of providing a commentary each week on the participants, and their chance of finding true love this way. One of the standard questions asked of the would-be daters is ‘Good Table Manners?’ and Myers feature is called after the standard answer: ‘Impeccable’.

If this is sounding too meta and complicated, the point is that it is hysterically funny, because he says things you thought yourself, and then things that would never have occurred to you. I suspect the commentary would be funny even if you hadn’t read the original article: here’s a chance to try it out. This particular Impeccable Table Manners features someone I know in real life, so give it a go and get a feel for his style…

And now Justin Myers has written a novel, which is a hilarious and charming story of a mid-30s gay man, just out of a bad relationship, looking for love via internet dating apps. He is simultaneously writing a dating blog called The Last Romeo, while working at a celebrity gossip website, and various complications arise from all this. Although many of the tropes here will be familiar – James has his Greek chorus of commenting friends giving advice, there are secrets and lies, he has to make peace with the ex – and although I have read about a million books about contemporary life, I have actually never read a novel like this: I had to think hard, but no.

I have of course read many books that feature gay characters and protagonists, and books about daters, and books about the social whirl of London, and about internet dating. But never one with this exact combination. And it is a great book – I loved it. The endless dates keep the pace going, and he is very funny and observant. Someone said to me recently ‘I love descriptions of someone getting ready for a date and trying to decide what to wear’, and I hard agreed: this book has several strong examples.

The fact that a lot of it feels autobiographical (it very much reflects his own story arc as far as one can tell) is slightly odd, but in the end doesn’t matter. And I loved the combination, for me, of areas I knew a lot about, and other sidelines which were completely new to me. Informative!

And it is very very funny.
‘I acted like we’d been going out for years.’
‘What, you stopped having sex and started arguing over council tax?’
When the table’s occupants claimed the seat was taken, Curtis pretended to inspect it closely, bellowing, ‘By whom? An ant? I can’t see anyone on there.’ 
‘Jack this is Curtis.’ I gestured at each of them like an air hostess pointing out the emergency exits.
[Curtis is a truly fabulous character: there should’ve been more of him.]

Apart from all this – the use of blogging in the book was excellent. I am operating in a very different part of the blogosphere, so (as with dating and modern life) there were things that resonated and other areas that were completely unfamiliar, and that added to the fascination. All bloggers would find something to enjoy and recognize here, even if they review novels rather than potential life (or sex) partners.

The book is very definitely a first novel, and could have been edited a touch more, but who cares? It was tremendously entertaining. I have recently read two other books about modern life, covering similar areas (one a memoir, which I blogged on, and one a novel, not on the blog). Both are being much feted and acclaimed, and are apparently best-sellers earning back their huge advances. Neither is half as enjoyable as The Last Romeo. (I see that I have assumed there that Myers’ book was not the subject of a multi-publisher bidding war - if wrong I apologize, and congratulate him.)


  1. Oh, this does sound really funny, Moira. And I do like the writing style - a lot. What an unusual book, too! I like it when an author holds up a mirror to a place/group of people with that sort of wit. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Yes, Margot: it was both unusual and very very real and familiar, a real joy to read. And so funny... (and making me so glad I am not out dating at my time in life!)

  2. Thanks for the link to Impeccable Table Manners. So funny, and I'd never come across it before.

    1. It's marvellous isn't it? I was quite a late-comer to it, and was delighted to find it. When I read the original Blind Date article each week, I'm already wondering what the Guyliner is going to say...


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