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“I think I’ve found a chapter that is virtually free of the F-word and any explicit sex scenes,” jokes author Patrick Sanchez before reading from Girlfriends on a recent evening at Olsson’s Books and Records at Metro Center. His first novel follows friends—and occasional rivals—Gina, Linda, and Cheryl as they bar-hop, bed-hop, and shop while searching for Mr.—or Ms.—Right.

“I was inspired by the bar scene here,” Sanchez says. “I found it hysterical from both the straight and gay perspective—everyone trying to look their best and find someone to either take home or date.” Indeed, D.C. residents may recognize some of their favorite haunts. “I wanted to write what I knew,” says the 31-year-old District native. “I wanted to include bars and restaurants I had actually been to.”

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It took Sanchez—who by day writes proposals for a local managed-health-care company—about four years of evenings and weekends to complete the book, which was released in August by New York publisher Kensington Books.

“I don’t mind Sex and the City comparisons,” says Sanchez about the likeness between his book and the hit HBO series. “It’s a very successful show. I just don’t want people to think I ripped them off. When I started writing the book, I had never even heard of the show.”

Though several of the novel’s supporting characters are men, its focus is decidedly on the romantic and professional episodes of its lead trio. “I thought that it would sell better,” Sanchez explains. “Women are more likely to buy this type of book than men. Also, I didn’t want people to think the main character was me!”

Girlfriends may not be a personal memoir, but Sanchez admits that the similarities between him and the book’s heroine, Gina, don’t end with their love of dogs (Gomez is the name both of the author’s real-life pooch and of Gina’s fictional one). The two share a handful of other traits, he says: “the cynicism, the sarcasm, the tall sort of lanky build—and neither one of us can land a good man.” —Sarah Godfrey