A Novel Romance is pro-smoking, but that’s about the only unconventional aspect of this contrived NYC-indie romance. Puffing away with abandon is Nate (Steve Guttenberg), a former star ad executive who chases his novelist dreams while living with Jenny (Milena Govich), a friend of Nate’s gold-digging ex Adi (Shannon Elizabeth) who becomes his roommate after her two-timing boyfriend overdoses. Agreeing to be just friends in an only-in-the-movies 3,000-square-foot loft, the chemistry-deficient duo slowly strikes up an intimate relationship, with writer/director Allie Dvorin chopping up her tale via groan-worthy “chapter” title cards—”Chapter 2: For Love or Money” and “Chapter 9: Man Makes Plans and God Laughs”—and occasionally chopping off someone’s head with shoddy filming. Cohabitation “commandments” and talk of “chick flicks” further send the material into a cutesy tailspin, with the script’s low point an egregious scene featuring Nate sneaking a peek at a silhouette of Jenny undressing behind a curtain. Repeatedly showing off his buff physique sans shirt, Guttenberg delivers strained sensitive sad-sack shtick. His performance, however, is considerably less phony than the story’s notion of a world in which Shannon Elizabeth’s dating prospects amount to a choice between the former Police Academy star and pudgy comedian Jeffrey Ross.