Back to the Good Fortune Diner

Vicki Essex
January 2013, Series Romance
Harlequin SR #1828, $5.50, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373718284

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

After you read romance books for a while, some of the books run together, so I suspect all of us look for uniqueness, whether in the plot or characters. This book easily fit that qualification with its Chinese-American heroine. However, when you canít relate to the characters or their actions, then even that distinction canít help a flawed book.

Tiffany Cheung hated living in Everville, New York, growing up. She felt her race made her an outcast among her peers. She lived for the day she could leave the town behind and realized at a young age that education was her way out. However, excelling in school only seemed to perpetuate the Asian stereotype held by the townspeople. What did Tiffany care? She had no plans to return.

But now she is back. After having been laid off from her job in Manhattan, Tiffany did everything she could to find employment, without success. It is only after she is evicted from her apartment with no place to go that she returns home. Immediately, she gets thrown back into the familyís dysfunctional dynamics. Her mother only has to say something for her father to take the opposing view. It is the same with her father, leaving her brother and grandmother to navigate the peace.

Her family seems to think that it is a given that she will work in their Chinese diner, but Tiffany would rather sell her clothes than do that. Luckily, Chris Jamieson, her high school crush and now a father of a teenage boy, needs her to tutor his son Simon just as Tiffany tutored him.

Chris is amazed at the change in Tiffany. Her appearance is so sophisticated. He is not prepared for the attraction he feels toward her. But he is not in the market for a relationship, especially with the woman he hopes will improve his sonís chances of going to college.

However, with their close proximity, the attraction only grows. Still their relationship has little chance of success. Tiffany suspects the motives of anyone who reaches out to her in friendship, while others refuse to recognize their own bigotry. Tiffany doesnít want to live in this small unrefined town where she stands out like a sore thumb. And Chris, while he always had plans to travel and got to college, now has responsibilities to his father and son, and to the business he has cultivated.

The authorís wordsmith ability is never in doubt. The book flows well. It was the characters and actions that impacted my enjoyment. I don't dislike Chris or Tiffany but honestly canít say I truly like them either. Tiffany appears to wear a chip on her shoulder, blaming her lack of acceptance and friendship on her culture and race. I do understand why she felt that way in high school, but going away to Manhattan didnít appear to bring her any peace or improve her ability to interact with others. In fact it is insinuated that she was laid off because of her inability to be a team player.

Chris and Tiffanyís families grated on me like a screeching piece of chalk on a chalkboard with all the bickering. For me it is frustrating when the impetus for change is only a conversation away, and I must read most of the book before that happens. I donít understand how people can refuse to speak up when the actions of others affect them. I might sit on it a while, but my feelings donít stay buried long. I am compelled to vocalize what I think.

Tiffanyís brother, Daniel,lives at home and works thirty-five hours a week in the family restaurant even though he has an MBA. He seems shocked when Tiffany points out that living with your parents while in your thirties classifies you as a loser. While I can understand the dutiful son in never questioning his fatherís decisions involving the restaurant, I never truly comprehended how he could be so oblivious to adult independence. He is also afraid to have his parents meet his girlfriend. As a secondary romance, his failed to capture my interest.

Maybe I am wrong, and maybe the author authentically portrayed the life of first-generation Asian-Americans. However for me, I was left with the impression of subjugated adult children, fearful of speaking their mind.

I wish I could recommend this book because I do want publishers to receive the message that readers are open to heroines and heroes of all races, but I didnít really like this one.

-- Leigh Davis

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