As someone who absolutely adored The Kiss Quotient I wasn’t sure The Bride Test could possibly live up to expectations but Hoang has done it again. It’s sweet, funny and very hot. I love how she uses her own experiences and background to take a common romance trope and turn it into something so much more.
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.
I absolutely adored The Kiss Quotient so when I heard Hoang was writing a sequel I knew I had to read it and it did not disappoint. Just like her previous book it’s sweet, funny and hot, hot, hot. Oh and if you’re wondering if you need to read the Kiss Quotient before picking this one up, you do not (there’s a little bit of crossover but the focus is very much on different characters).
This is a story about Esme and Khai (who popped up briefly in TKQ). Khai is autistic and believes he can’t feel emotion so has no intention to ever marry or have children. His mother won’t accept this however and travels to Vietnam to find him a wife. Esme is a single mother living in poverty in Hoh Chi Min city and working as a cleaner when she meets Khai’s mom. After some persuading she agrees to travel to the US to spend the Summer living with Khai in hopes that he’ll agree to marry her.
I loved that yet again Hoang took a common trope and created something very unique and unputdownable. It’s wonderful to see non standard characters, a hero with mixed heritage and autism and a heroine who is an immigrant from a background of real poverty. The way the author draws on her own background and her family history makes this feel very authentic and she covers a lot of difficult issues with sensitivity and heart.
I loved both Khai and Esme, he’s very sweet and thoughtful but completely clueless and she’s strong and determined but feels like an outsider. The highlight as it should be however was the chemistry between them. Every single interaction between them was a joy to read and I shipped them soooo much. I loved the clash of cultures, the misunderstandings and how considerate they were of each other. They are absolutely perfect for each other, if they can just overcome the obstacles in their way.
If I had one criticism of this book it would be similar to my criticism of the Kiss Quotient in that a lot of the drama and obstacles could have been overcome if they communicated more. Khai tells Esme that he’s autistic and that he struggles with things but not once does she look into it, something I found odd considering she was trying to understand him and be what he wanted her to be.
I also felt like his family could have stepped in to explain things to her rather than leaving her thinking she was doing something wrong. I mean Michael and Stella feature briefly but not once do they speak to Esme about how they made their relationship work. It’s frustrating.
Anyway, it is still a wonderful story and it made me both laugh and cry. I can’t wait to read what Hoang comes up with next.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an advance copy. As always all views are my own.