Review of The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Series: The Kiss Quotient #2
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Thank you to Berkley Publishing for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.
Please don’t let there be two of them. He didn’t know what he was going to do with one woman. If his mom had acquired him an entire harem, he needed therapy. After a heart-pounding second, logic returned to his brain, and he concluded she must have adopted a Western name to help her in the States. He did not have a harem. Thank God.
I blazed right through this one and had an incredible amount of fun returning to the world of The Kiss Quotient.
The Bride Test follows Michael’s cousin Khai and a new character, Esme, a Vietnamese immigrant. Khai is intelligent, logical, intense and autistic. He’s also single. The latter of which his mother plans to remedy by inviting Esme to stay with Khai for the summer. Esme desires a better life for herself, her daughter and their family. She reluctantly sees this opportunity as a stepping stone to said life. She isn’t searching for a husband. But how hard could it be? Go to America and seduce this man. Perhaps they would fall in love. And if she didn’t succeed, she would at least be paid for her time. Both Esme and Khai certainly have their work cut out for them.
I really enjoyed this story and found it to be sweet and funny, while also carrying a fantastic message about grief and maneuvering one’s emotions. Esme’s character is truly the bright spot of this story and I admire her hard-working nature and tenacity. She is truly the type of character I could aspire to be more like.
And if she asked, he knew he would give her anything. If he could.
The romance in this is slow to blossom, of course. Khai has never had a non-platonic relationship with a woman in any form. Esme’s past relationships have been wrought with bad experiences. Watching these two navigate their relationship from roommates, to friends, to more was delightful. I especially found a part in which Khai criticizes junior high sex education and seeks advice from Michael and Quan to be hilarious and true in so many regards. (Seriously folks, sex education in its current form is atrocious and so misinformed.)
All of this said, Khai and Esme have big secrets they are keeping from one another (because of course) and must decide how to approach these subjects, or lose one another completely. Khai is in new territory, with Esme constantly in his personal life – whereas before he could ignore phone calls and lock himself inside his house. As they grow closer, Esme finds she doesn’t know how to share the most important part of her life. She fears it’ll shatter her chance of a different life.
It’s important to note that The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test are #ownvoices novels. The author Helen Hoang and the characters Stella and Khai have autism spectrum disorders. Helen has clearly infused both of these stories with her own experiences and struggles. As the parent of a child on the spectrum, I feel the difficulties Stella and Khai have in traversing emotional and social situations deep in my bones. Its something I struggle to help my own child with on a daily basis. I applaud Helen for bringing us these characters and their stories to us readers.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed The Bride Test and his predecessor, The Kiss Quotient. Definitely keep your eyes peeled for Helen’s next novel, The Heart Principle, due out in Spring 2020!
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