The Kiss Quotientby Helen Hoang Published 05 Jun 2018
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A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
"The Kiss Quotient" Reviews
#1 The Kiss Quotient ★★★★★
#2 The Bride Test
Sometimes, you hear so much hype for a book that you reach the point where you’re almost afraid to read it, because your hopes are so high that you just know, if it disappoints you even an iota, you’re going to be totally crushed… right? It’s the worst feeling and it can make it so hard to finally pick up that superlatively popular read, because nobody wants to be the only person who hates a book, right?
“All the things that make you different make you perfect.”
Nah, I’m just playing with you guys—this book was everything I ever hoped it would be and more. Oh, my gosh, I cannot even describe how much I adored this book! I literally picked it up with the goal of reading a few chapters for my buddy read, and bam! , it was way past my bedtime and I was sitting here in some sort of shocked state, like, “How do I even follow up how freaking perfect that was?!”
She wasn’t broken. She saw and interacted with the world in a different way, but that was her.
Seriously, The Kiss Quotient is worth every single ounce of hype it has received and so much more. The chemistry is on fire, the story is so fun and captivating, and these characters—you can’t help but love them. Stella is incredible. I loved being inside her head, and knowing that it’s own-voice autism rep, I wasn’t surprised by how much of what she said mirrored things my own autistic loved ones have shared with me (as well as feelings I myself have had, having strongly suspected that I am autistic for a very long time but never having sought out a diagnosis).
Michael was mint chocolate chip for her. She could try other flavors, but he’d always be her favorite.
While Stella is the star, Michael is honestly just as lovable and precious as she is. He’s this biracial Vietnamese/Swedish man, though the only family we meet of his is the Vietnamese side, and they are all so lovable and wonderful, even down to his obnoxious sisters. I loved every scene in his mother’s home, I loved his dedication to his mother and family in general, and I just cherished all of Michael’s motives and inner dialogue so much.
“I don’t want just a night or a week or a month with you. I want you all the time.”
Between the cuteness, the math, the fake dating trope done flawlessly, the steamy sweet moments, and the fantastic focus on consent… I honestly have nothing but good things to say about The Kiss Quotient. Instead of rambling on, I’ll just echo the tons of other people saying if you haven’t read this book, you need to! It’s wonderful, charming, sad, heavy, and sweet, all wrapped up into one emotional little bundle of romance, sex, and family.
Buddy read with Owl!
The Kiss Quotient is quite the unexpected romance novel. Stella Lane is on the spectrum and wants to get better at sex so she can, hopefully, find a life partner and start the family her parents so very much want her to have. To get better at sex she hires Michael, an escort with a lot of debt and a few secrets but who, somehow, is exactly the man she needs. Of course he is! That's how romance novels work. But this is such a fun read and it's also quite original and sexy and sensitive. Stella is a really compelling protagonist and Hoang does a fine job of showing us who this woman is and how she negotiates a world that isn't as welcoming to her as she deserves. Lots to admire her! Well worth a read.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is a 2018 Berkley publication.
A real charmer!
Stella, an Econometrician, has intimacy issues, perhaps a symptom of her Asperger’s. With her mother growing impatient for grandchildren, and after absorbing an ugly comment, which took aim at Stella’s lack of sexual experience, she decides to hire a male escort to ‘teach’ her everything she needs to know about dating and sex.
Michael Phan has never had a client like Stella. She touches a part of him, he keeps barricaded, especially with clients. Her effect on him is so powerful, he agrees to give her lessons on sex and dating, against his better judgment, and breaking every single personal rule of his profession.
However, their business arrangement soon develops into something neither of them could have anticipated. Before long, Stella begins to figure in a new type of equation- love!
Okay, I’ve seen the huge marketing push for the book, and I’ve had many friends on social media and book sites fawning it. From experience I know when a book gets this level of hype it is very important to approach it with a modicum of caution. Even though I was chomping at the bit to start this one, pushing everything else to the wayside if need be, I cooled my engines and let some of the furor die down before I finally allowed myself to read it.
So, did it live up to all that publicity?
I adored this story. It’s unique, featuring a female character who struggles to find her niche in a world that embraces conformity and uniformity. I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome, but I am an extreme introvert, so I could relate to some of the struggles Stella fought to overcome. I immediately warmed to her character and hoped she would find the confidence she had buried inside of her all along.
While I didn’t know how to feel about Michael’s unorthodox occupation, I did LOVE this guy’s gentle patience. It was fun watching Stella crawl under his skin, seeing how he understood her, quirks and all, and how they managed to create a relationship with each other, as Michael slowly draws Stella out. Michael turned out to be a terrific hero, and I might have developed a secret and deliciously sinful crush on him.
That said, the book was still a wee bit over-hyped. While I understand why some felt this one was special and deserved a lot of attention, the format, at its core, is not much different from any other contemporary romance. The writing or prose didn't set it apart from any other books out there, although it is obvious the author knew her subject matter intimately.
What does set it apart is the diversity, and the boldness of placing a character with Asperger’s as a lead in a romantic comedy. The delicate balance of approaching the syndrome with respect and the gravity it deserves, while adding in humor and poignancy, is very well done. From that perspective the story is very original, unique, and refreshing!
Everything you love about romance is here: It's hot and steamy, funny, charming, emotional, and inspiring, with a lovely feel good ending.
However, this one gives voice to those rarely featured in these types of stories. I love that about this book!! I for one, applaud this new angle and approach to contemporary romance, and hope to see more books step away from the standard 'Plain Jane' tropes and branch out into new, mostly unexplored territory, in the romance genre. Books like this one could help the genre shake off a few of its hardwired stigmas and reach a much broader audience.
4 1/2 stars. Well, this book. I'm not even sure where to start. I guess I'll begin with an overview.
The Kiss Quotient is a seriously sexy, fun book that has rekindled my interest in the romance genre. When it hits the spot, I LOVE a good romance, but I rarely find one that goes beyond cliches and instalove so I usually end up bored. Not with this one. Not one bit.
It's the perfect blend of sweet and steamy. And let me be clear: this is not YA. There's a lot of graphic sex scenes, though I should also say that the author builds up to it really well; she knows how to tease us. It was just so nice to read a book where sex is actually sexy and not political, cold, a form of manipulation, or not sex at all because consent went out the window.
This is an ownvoices book about Stella, who has Asperger's syndrome. Convinced she needs lessons on how to be good at sex and relationships, she hires Michael, an escort, to teach her. Michael is mixed race - Vietnamese and Swedish - and described as a hotter version of k-drama star Daniel Henney. In a gender-reversed Pretty Woman scenario, the two inevitably end up developing feelings for one another.
Stella's autism makes it difficult for her to know how to behave around other people, and she also struggles with being touched. Through this, the author explores the importance of consent - Michael is deeply respectful of her boundaries and always waits for her to be 100% ready. Perhaps it sounds less sexy than the spontaneous grab-and-go on the office desk sex but it actually isn't. It's kinda wonderful.
Okay, and here's the weird thing. I don't know how to talk about this or if I really should, but I think it is worth mentioning. We talk about the importance of diverse books all the time and the way voices by POC, LGBT+, and those with disabilities are absolutely essential. They foster understanding and help a lot of people realize they are not alone. Well, I got a lesson in just how important books like this can be.
As I was reading about Stella, I started to make some comparisons. I was so affected by it that I made a list. This list:
• Extreme social anxiety
• Loss of focus; frequent "zoning out"
• Fanatic obsession with a small number of interests
• Difficulty reading verbal cues and understanding sarcasm
• No interest in playing with others as a young child
• Avoiding eye contact or overcompensating and staring
• Clumsiness and poor spacial awareness
• Called "quiet" "shy" "weird" and "odd"
• Outbursts of anger when losing or unable to complete a task
• Deep levels of frustration and anxiety when routine disturbed
• Practicing "conversation trees" in head
• Facial tics
Um, yeah. So this is me. Some of these are behaviours I exhibited as a child, but many I still do. It turns out I probably have high functioning autism, formerly known as Asperger's Syndrome. I currently only have a self-diagnosis and a score of 35 out of 40 on the Cambridge autism test (over 32 is high probability of autism) but I am pursuing a professional diagnosis.
Honestly, this book just made me feel so... understood. Everything that I've worked so hard to hide and bury about myself is normalized and even celebrated. So yeah, it is sexy as hell and really sweet, but it's also so important. Seeing as so many women and girls go undiagnosed, this book could offer validation to so many who need it.
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This was my pick for the June 2018 Book of the Month box!
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
“I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.”
Friends, The Kiss Quotient is so deserving of every ounce of hype it has received thus far. I am not sure I’ve ever been so happy, and had such a lame grin on my face, while reading any other book. This was heartwarming, beautiful, and a treat to read. Don’t sleep on this one. Also, Michael and Stella are both partner goals, I swear.
This is an ownvoices novel about a high-functioning autistic woman who has succeeded in every aspect of her life, except for love. Her mother is putting pressure on her to find someone and start thinking about family, now that she turned thirty. Plus, Stella is kind of lonely anyway, and as much as she loves throwing herself into her work, she wants to spend her life with someone who she can completely be herself with. The problem is, Stella thinks her autism makes her unable to successfully date, and maybe even unable to be good at/enjoy sex. So, she hires the dreamiest escort to help her!
“Girls like me intimidate boyfriends away. Girls like me have never been asked out by a single boy. Girls like me have to find their own way, make their own luck. I’ve had to fight for every success in my life, and I’m going to fight for this. I’m going to get good at sex, and then I’ll finally be able to entice the right person into being mine.”
The thing is, Michael is an escort that doesn’t do more than one session per client. Yet, after his and Stella’s first night, he might be willing to make an exception. Michael is biracial (Vietnamese and Swedish), fashion designer, and has always put his family first, especially after the way his father left them all. Michael’s mother is also battling cancer, and the medical bills are piling up.
Trigger and content warnings for unwanted touching and forced kissing, lowkey sexual harassment, anxiety attacks, abandonment, a loved one with a chronic illness, a fatphobic comment/insult, and someone telling someone else about a person’s diagnosis.
Also, this book has very explicit and graphic sex scenes. But, like, all of the sex scenes in this book are 11/10. So damn hot, I swear. I have a lot more experience with sex than Stella, but I would happily let Michael teach me a thing or two. *clutches pearls forever* But please use caution if that is something you do not enjoy in your books!
But besides the steamy sex, the beautiful romance, and the lovely messages that are inside this book, my favorite part is that this book never shames Michael for being an escort, and it sure in the hell doesn’t shame Stella for being on the autism spectrum. A lot of other conflicts happen throughout, but those two things are never put in a negative light and it was such a blessing.
And I never expect a fiction book to teach me anything, but this book gave me such a wonderful glimpse and perspective into some people’s autism. (Obviously, I know that no two people are the same!) From overstimulation with lights, sounds, and smells, to the preferred clothing, to focusing everything into one thing, to the importance of schedules, lists, and reminders! This book was really insightful, and I loved that about it.
The importance of consent is always at the forefront of this novel. I think that’s why most people who are reading this right now are so in love with Michael, and it’s because he always is thoughtful and so very patient with Stella. He truly puts her needs first, and makes sure he is never overstepping any line that she is not willing to cross.
And I just loved Stella Lane as a character. She is actually probably my favorite heroine of 2018. Not only does she know who she is, she refuses to change for anyone, even the guy she has fallen in love with. I had happy tears in my eyes so much while reading this, and it was mostly just because I was so proud of her. Michael might be most people’s wet dream, but Stella felt like the character I’ve been searching literature for forever.
“But I want you to know I can handle the truth. If I’m not enough for you, that’s fair and I accept it. I’ll get over you eventually. I don’t want to be coddled or lied to because of what I am. I don’t need your pity friendship”
Overall, this was such a perfect read! I loved this from first to last page, and I couldn’t put it down. Here, I’ll really sell you on how good this book is: Muse of Nightmares, my most anticipated release of 2018, came in the mail while I was reading this book. And you know what I did? I finished The Kiss Quotient before starting it. Seriously, this is a masterpiece. And I can’t wait to see what Helen Hoang does next.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Re-read 6/12/18: Hi hello I am still SO obsessed with this book. If you haven’t read it yet, PLEASE READ IT. You absolutely will not regret it.
Original read 5/2/18: I am a swooney mess, oh my LANTA. I haven’t swooned this hard since Joshua Templeman. My heart is so happy right now, I can’t even. WHAT A ROMANCE.