CRANFORD — Alex Bernstein’s fourth book of humorous tales, inspired by “pure misery,” is here just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been writing about awful relationships and cringe-worthy first dates and terrible weddings for a long time now,” said Bernstein, a Cranford resident, who recently penned “Miserable Love Stories: 25 Romantic Disasters That Are Worse Than Yours.” 

“And Skyhorse Publishing came along and said, ‘well, why don’t we collect all these pieces into one big book for Valentine’s Day, so that everyone can suffer along with you?’” he recalled. “And I said, ‘wow, you read my mind.’”

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If the title sounds a bit familiar, it’s because a very famous author ripped him off 175 years ago, Bernstein insists.

“A lot of people ask if, by writing all these ‘miserable’ stories, I’m ripping off Victor Hugo [author of ‘Les Miserables’],” said Bernstein, who also writes for theater and television and performs stand-up comedy. “And what a lot of people don’t know is that Victor Hugo had a time machine. And he actually came to meet me about a month ago, and so that’s where he got all his ideas from.”

Misery Loves Company

Bernstein said he thinks that really great love and really great misery tend to go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate.

“You never quite get all of one without the other,” he said. “Most of the time, pain and suffering test the limits of a relationship. And sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t. The good news for me is that the miserable part of the story is usually much more interesting to read about than the plain old love part. So, yes, there are definitely some unhappy endings in this book, but spoiler alert: True love frequently wins in the end.”

Of the 25 stories in the book, Bernstein said, he has different favorites for different days of the week.

“The 25 pieces are all extremely distinct from one another,” he said. “But some favorites: ‘Clarity’ is a sweet New York romance about stalkers; ‘Barb’ is an ode to every girl I went to high school with; ‘Sexpo 2041,’ a short play, is a surprisingly touching piece about sex and relationships in the future; and ‘A Clean Break’ is a fun road trip to Hell.”

Miserable Events Coming Up:

“Sexpo” is among a dozen featured pieces from the book that the Rising Curtain Theatre, located in Bloomfield, will perform over Valentine’s Day weekend.

“Their performance of it is outstanding,” said Bernstein, who will be signing books at the show.

But first, you can catch the author at a meet-and-greet at The Town Bookstore in Downtown Westfield Feb. 8.

On Feb. 12, there will be reading and book signing at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair.

“We picked some very fun pieces for this book signing event,” Bernstein said. Despite the implied suffering, “It should be a very pleasant evening.”

If that's not enough torment for you, look for Bernstein's other books, “Miserable Holiday Stories,” “Miserable Adventure Stories” and “Plrknib.”