Back to the Good Fortune Diner

Tiffany Cheung has had a string of bad luck: she has no job, no apartment, and no car. She balks at moving back home and working at her parents diner – which is Good Fortune in name only, in her opinion. Not only do her family have a certain high standard that they expect her to live up to, but she has set some pretty high ones for herself as well. She doesn’t get a thrill from working in a diner like her brother, Daniel, saying to him at one point: “I hate that after all the work I put in, this is where I’m at. I was supposed to be an editor at a publishing house by now. But here I am, thirty-two and back living with my parents.”  But then she reconnects with Chris (high school crush) who hires her to tutor his son, Simon. And guess what? The crush is alive and well. There are goosebumps and sparks and racing pulses, oh my.

Okay, so it’s not as if I haven’t read this type of book thousands of times – former high school weirdo/nerd returns to small town and finally scores big with the quarterback hottie, yet Back to the Good Fortune Diner still managed to feel fresh. Not to mention refreshing. I’m not gonna lie – I get tired of reading about white people. The story resonated with me because I could understand not only how it felt to be the only (or one of few) POC in a predominantly white environment but also how it felt/feels to be an awkward individual in general. Sometimes being a combination of the two feels downright tragic (please watch The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl if you haven’t already). Tiffany’s self-preservation tactics tickled me; she’s crushing on Chris big time but gets all Ice Queen when she’s around him, giving the appearance that she couldn’t care less when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. He’s pretty popular with the ladies so watching him squirm was entertaining; his attempts at flirtation with her in the beginning are awkward but their initial interactions still manage to crackle with sexual tension. By the time Tiffany started letting down her defenses, I was relieved although not entirely convinced that she could loosen up so entirely around Chris in such a short period of time. But nevermind that, I quite enjoyed her “propositioning” him using kittens as bait. And that gravy/French fry scene? I actually clutched my pearls and said, “Dang.”

I completely bought Tiffany and Chris’ attraction, but the love? Not so much. It was too much, too soon. And don’t even get me started on Chris’ father, whose transformation from racist to introspective, empathetic human being was a bit of a stretch. How nice for Tiffany, that a well overdue talk down to a big bully magically relieved him of his ignorance. I wish.

Despite that, I still enjoyed Back to the Good Fortune Diner and hope to read more by Ms. Essex.

3.5 stars.

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