Sweet Misfortune
Kevin Alan Milne

Center Street
Hardcover/288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59995-297-0
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". . . a bittersweet treat that is well worth reading."

Keep the tissues handy for this bittersweet romance.

Nine-year-old Sophia Maria Jones sits in the rain on the sidewalk while Ellen, a police officer at the scene of a major accident, tells her it’s not her fault. Sophie knows she’s wrong. She holds the evidence. Ellen reassures her that she’s not at fault. Sophie balls up the bit of paper from her fortune and lets it wash down the gutter to where a man who has just lost four of his fingers in the accident picks it up.

A few foster homes later, Ellen becomes Sophie’s foster mother. Twenty years later, as the result of a blind date set up by Ellen and the dispatcher at the police station, Sophie becomes engaged to Garrett Black. Life is good. Sophie enjoys the sweetness of her chocolate shop, Chocolat’ de Soph, and soon she will marry Garrett. Maybe she will get her heart’s desire as that fortune twenty years ago predicted—but maybe not.

Two weeks before the wedding, Garrett breaks his engagement and moves away. A year later, Garrett returns and offers an explanation. Sophie isn’t interested. The biggest sellers in her store are misfortune cookies, a dose of reality hidden inside a sweet cookie shell dipped in unsweetened chocolate. Sophie offers Garrett a deal. She tells him to take out an anonymous ad in the newspaper: Wanted: Happiness that isn’t fleeting. When she receives one hundred letters, she will go on a date with Garrett and listen to his reason for breaking her heart.

With a premise that promises a deep look into the heart and mind of a little girl who loses her whole family—mother, father and grandmother—in an accident she feels is her fault, Kevin Alan Milne sets the stage where life can only get better. It doesn’t in Sweet Misfortune, at least not for a while. That’s what makes Sophie and Garrett’s story unusual. While there is a history and very little romantic tension between the protagonists, the real heart of this romance lies in a secondary character.

There are two troubling issues in Sweet Misfortune. A police officer believes an accident report is confidential information and shouldn’t leave the precinct files, yet copies the file and takes it home. A lawyer, an officer of the courts, keeps quiet about the cause of an accident that ends in four deaths. Both of these issues strike a false chord in an otherwise pleasant and sweet romance. An accident report is not confidential—copies are made available to insurance companies and those involved upon request. A lawyer who keeps mum about a crime would be disbarred if the truth ever came out.

Aside from these issues, Milne’s writing is clear and clean and his characters, for the most part, consistent and realistic. There are poignant moments that linger in the mind as good chocolate lingers on the palate and characters that touched my heart. For those reasons, Sweet Misfortune is a bittersweet treat well worth reading.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell