The Kiss Quotient
- Author: Helen Hoang
- Genre: Romance
- Publication Date: June 5, 2018
- Publisher: Berkley
- Series: The Kiss Quotient #1
CONTENT WARNING: mention of cancer
Stella Lane 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 or that 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. With the looks of a K-drama star and the martial arts moves to match, the Vietnamese-Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer. And when she comes up with a lesson plan, he proves willing to help her check off all the boxes — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position.
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. 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 …
It was while reading this book that I realized I’ve become a lover of the romance genre. This book is such a great one, that at one point, I actually found myself closing the book, holding it against my chest, and *swooning.* I have never done that before, and I texted the friend who recommended this book to me, raving about how much I was enjoying the story.
There’s OwnVoices autism spectrum representation that plays a huge role in the story. Stella has Asperger’s, and it strongly affects how she interacts with others, especially in relationships. I think the best part of the representation is the way Stella herself views autism:
“She wasn’t broken. She saw and interacted with the world in a different way, but that was her. She could change her actions, change her words, change her appearance, but she couldn’t change the root of herself. At her core, she would always be autistic. People called it a disorder, but it didn’t feel like one. To her, it was simply the way she was.”
Since Stella has difficulty socializing, and struggles with physical intimacy. And when someone makes a suggestion to her, she approaches it just like everything else in her life: logically.
“Did she dislike sex because she was bad at it? Would practice really make perfect? What a beguiling concept. Maybe sex was just another interpersonal thing she needed to exert extra efforts on — like casual conversation, eye contact, and etiquette.”
Enter Michael: an incredibly handsome escort, who Stella hires to help her get better at sex. Fortunately, there’s something about Michael that innately puts Stella at ease, and helps her break out of her comfort zone. He doesn’t view her as different, or treat her differently.
“She didn’t usually enjoy new things, but Michael made her feel safe. With him at her side, she was a part of this busy San Francisco night, not just an onlooker. There was something special and wonderful about being in a crowd and not feeling alone.”
I enjoyed the way the characters connected in what felt like a natural way, despite the … unconventional way that they met. Things get complicated, just like real life does, with friends, family, coworkers, and insecurities popping up, usually at the least convenient time. But clearly, the most complicated part of the story is the emotional entanglement that arises as a result of their arrangement. This got me incredibly invested in the story.
The spice level of the story was pretty high, which I kind of expected, to be honest. They were done really well, and I loved seeing Stella learn to unwind and enjoy making physical contact with another person, on her terms. Although Stella didn’t have great experiences in the past, Michael was very sensitive to her needs and didn’t push her to do anything she wasn’t comfortable with. He consistently checked in with her to make sure she was okay with what he was doing, and it earned him a special place in my heart. And the way he appreciated her brilliant mind had me melting for him:
“She worked her fingers blindly through his hair, twisted and arched her back with unconscious demand. Stella was loving this, losing her genius mind over his caresses.”
This book was absolutely fabulous. I couldn’t resist grabbing the next book in the series, because I fell in love with the cast of characters and the entire microcosm that Helen Hoang has created. She’s brilliant, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series.
Categories: Book Review