The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)by Helen Hoang Published 07 May 2019
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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.
"The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)" Reviews
He was ignoring everyone, including her, at this expensive wedding. So he could read a novel about alien demon things.
I am going to share this again closer to publication, but after my experience with The Kiss Quotient and how it quite literally changed my life, I just couldn't wait to read this. And I gave a lot of thought to my rating. Five stars for a cute smutty romance? Really? But these books are very special to me and I think, deep down, they are actually a lot more than cute smutty romances.
The Bride Test is about Khai, Michael's cousin in The Kiss Quotient. He is Vietnamese-American, autistic, and believes himself to be incapable of the emotions that matter. Like grief. Or love. His overbearing but lovable mother decides to take action and find him a wife from Việt Nam.
That's where Esme Tran comes in. After getting pregnant young, she now desperately tries to support her daughter in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City. She's mixed race, and has long wanted to go to America to find her father. When Cô Nga offers to pay for her visa and trip to California in exchange for her trying to seduce Khai, she takes the opportunity.
Khai and Esme are fully-fleshed out and adorable characters. Khai is geeky and obsessive, but as we would expect from an ownvoices author, it does not come across in a faux-quirky way. His struggles and passion for his few interests are so genuine. Quân is also a real source of hilarity in this book; the dynamic between him and Khai makes for some very entertaining parts.
On the surface, Hoang has returned once again to sexual and romantic relationships where one character is autistic. Khai is not a reincarnation of Stella from The Kiss Quotient but is very much his own person, and ASD affects him in unique ways. Esme must respect his boundaries, just as falling for her is a learning experience for him. The way these books bring sexiness to consent and mutual respect is wonderful. And HOT.
But I said "on the surface" because there's more to this story as well. Trust me when I say the author's note is an absolute must-read. The Bride Test is a sweet, cute, sexy and funny romance, but it is also the story of an uneducated Vietnamese immigrant coming to the United States. This aspect is loosely-based on Hoang's mother's experiences, and it is the tale of an incredibly brave woman defying the odds and clawing her way up from almost nothing.
Helen Hoang is making important waves, one sweet sexy romance novel at a time.
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ARC provided in exchange for honest review 💍
ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.
“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”
The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.
And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.
➽ Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael's cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.
➽ Esme - Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.
But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.
I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.
Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!
But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.
“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”
Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering.
Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤️
A romance with characters that express so much more than just physical attraction, but also grasps the heart of the reader with the tender emotions that are portrayed...
Once this beauty landed in my hands, I knew that there was no backing down of putting everything to the side and start it. That's what Helen Hoang does to you once you get a small glimpse of her writing. I remember last year how hesitant I was about reading The Kiss Quotient because of all the hype and love it kept getting. When it comes down to novels that are hyped too much, I like to back away from them and maybe read them in a month or so once the hype calms down. Thank the heavens I didn't, because I would have never encountered upon Helen's marvelous and unique way of putting so many in depth emotions to the page. I would have never gotten to understand, that even individuals whom may be different in some way, socially, physically, emotionally... anyway. There is still a fighting chance of finding love, cherishing that love, and grasping it for dear life. That's what Khai has demonstrated in this compelling romance novel that will have you running for more tissues.
In my reviews, I really don't like to talk about the story plot of the characters. I like to focus on the way the story plot comes to be and how it changes my mind and mood. Helen does so by implying this new character, in which we came across in The Kiss Quotient during Stella's and Michael's story. Khai. That intriguing and mysterious autistic young man, that had picked my interest from that small glimpse we got of him. His way of living is structured, has a routine that he follows every single day and should not be tempered with. From the point of view of his family such as his mother, brother Quan (whom shall be brought up in a moment), and his sister Vy (whom shall also be brought up in a moment...) he is a simple man who enjoys his lifestyle as an accountant, takes his shoes off once he arrives to his two bedroom home and enjoys the feeling of his old carpet against his feet. It's the little things that one would not be able to understand why they are so important in which in that unique side of him, his extended family never understands. Emotions is something that Helen touches a lot when it comes to Khai. He does not come to a realization that, even though he states he cannot comprehend emotions in general; anger, happiness, sadness, disappointment, and love—he truly is a strong human being whom expresses all those feelings.
That's when Mỹ, aka Esmeralda, aka Esme comes along. A twenty-three year old young lady from Việt Nam whose dreams had to take a pause because life came in the way. Supporting her mother, grandmother, a special someone who shall not be named for the sake of spoilers, is what Mỹ had been doing before she encountered upon Khai's mother whom was looking for a bride for him. She is instantly drawn to Mỹ and offers for her to come to the states for the summer and try to seduce her son, Khai. Mỹ of course has to think about it because she has to support her family. But after a very thorough decision, she decides to accept the offer and goes to the states to try and make Khai fall in love with her.
At first, meeting Esme with the circumstances he was put in by his mother, is not something Khai is pleased with. She moves in with her, but he is also instantly drawn to her natural beauty. Her eyes captivate him in the best of ways, making his body react in ways that have never acted before. The attraction is there and it's beautiful to read that a gentleman such as Khai, whom does not believe he can ever love anyone, expresses these feelings towards Esme;
"Strange, incomprehensible, beautiful woman. She said the funniest things and smiled all the time. His fingers itched to touch that smile, and he sipped away out of self-preservation..."
Weeks pass and Esme and Khai learn how to adequately be with each other. That does not stop Khai's body from acting in a non-gentleman way of course. Which I find so endearing to read from the third point of view. He knows he cannot deny that attraction, but he also knows that he shouldn't act upon it;
"She was already a song that payed on endless repeat in his head. If he started having sex with her, this thing would escalate into pure addiction, and what the fuck would happen when she left at the end of the summer?"
Once feelings expand, that's when the struggles begin to form for Khai. Things take a turn when Esme comes across wanting to have a life in America, a life in which she can set as an example for her next in kin. Her dreams come back to life and want to expand and explore everything that is out there for the world to offer to her, but she knows that if she doesn't fight she will not get far. That includes Khai's love towards her as well.
Overall, as previously mentioned... Helen has created a story that has truly gasped my heart and pierced it with her words. It made me cry, made me giggle, and made me swoon over the love and admiration Khai has towards Mỹ. Stories such as this one are not found very often and that's why they need to be cherished in the best of ways. Thank you so much to Berkley for being so generous with this advance copy. And as previously mentioned, Quan and Vy better come next. Vy's story should be mysterious to read because we really don't know much about her. But Quan however... **sighs** he is the rugged brother, with sexy tattoos that will have me drooling over him once Helen writes his story... that's IF she does it... **wink wink Helen Hoang**
ARC galley kindly provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review...
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Helen Hoang has done it again! Similarly to The Kiss Quotient, this perfectly balances a mix of charming romance and deeper topics and I loved the heck out of it. The only thing that really kept me from giving this a full 5 stars was the weird power imbalance between Khai and Esme. I never doubted them or their feelings for each other, but it did just feel a little weird as a reader knowing the stakes and the secrets that were being kept behind the scenes. With all that being said I still HIGHLY recommend y'all check this out and I cannot wait to read a million more books from Helen in the future!
Ugh. No. Not for me.
So many issues, so little time.
I appreciated the author’s note at the end.
I’ll just leave it that.
I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
More serious, less smutty, equally sweet, compared to The Kiss Quotient.
So, mail-order bride scenario in romance is not exactly my idea of a good time. (And neither was a male escort one in The Kiss Quotient). But what Helen Hoang undoubtedly has a talent for is creating characters that are kind and empathetic.
Esme is recruited by Khai’s mom to seduce and marry him, so that he finally can have someone to be with. He is on the spectrum, and isn’t good at relationships, for obvious reasons. Now, this can go wrong in many ways, but Khai’s mom is super nice and truly believes Esme is the best match for her son. Esme isn’t exactly a seductress, but a goofy girl with a big heart (and some mistakes in her past). And Khai believes himself incapable of feeling emotions.
I feel like The Bride Test is a weightier, more serious work. Hoang draws on her parents’ immigrant past, adding a big dose of realism to this romance, but not exactly going all the way there, it is a smutty romance after all. Esme and Khai’s personal journeys are more real too, and so are their problems.
I liked The Bride Test a lot, and inhaled it in a matter of hours. I didn’t like it quite as much as The Kiss Quotient, because apparently I like fantasy scenarios more than real ones. And I clearly prefer a lot of smut too. Esme and Khai’s relationship is a steamy one , but I would have preferred it... even more so. The book has the sexiest haircut scene though. It’s amazing how arousing a conversation about boundaries and sensory sensitivity can be! @[email protected] And when Khai and Quan and Michael are in a different scene together, it’s a total riot! You are in for a treat.
Now, more wait for the next Helen Hoang romance. I don't know what it is yet, but I hope it’s Quan’s turn.