Book Review

The Bride Test

The Bride Test

  • Author: Helen Hoang
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Series: The Kiss Quotient #2

CONTENT WARNING: mention of death, grief

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but he doesn’t experience big, important emotions like love and grief. Rather than believing he processes emotions differently due to being autistic, he concludes that he’s defective and decides to avoid romantic relationships. So his mother, driven to desperation, takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect mail-order 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 to marry an American arises, she leaps at it, thinking that it 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 believes he can never return her affection.

Esme must convince Khai that there is more than one way to love. And Khai must figure out the inner workings of his heart before Esme goes home and is an ocean away.

After falling in love with literally everything about The Kiss Quotient, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read this follow up, especially since I was so intrigued by Khai and wanted to see him get a HEA. So I went into this with very high expectations, and I wasn’t surprised to realize that my expectations were not only met, they were left in the dust. In book 1, I vividly recall having to put the book down to literally make swooning noises and collect myself before being able to return to reading. This one was no different, except that I cried a lot more (happy tears). 

Khai is highly successful, set in his ways, and surrounded by supportive people who understand what he needs from them. I loved seeing his relationships with his mother, his sister, and especially his brother, Quan. Realizing how he views his autism and himself broke my heart, when he said that he was different in a bad way. But the way that he vowed to keep a distance from others because he was worried about hurting them completely melted my heart into a puddle. I wanted him to realize how worthy he was of love and to realize that he wasn’t broken, just different. 

“Khai didn’t hurt. He felt nothing most of the time. That was exactly why he steered clear of romantic relationships. If someone liked him that way, he’d only end up disappointing them when he couldn’t reciprocate. It wouldn’t be right.”

I also really loved Esme’s character. She didn’t always view herself in the most flattering light, often putting herself down because of her lack of education and career, but she was aware of her strengths when it came to personality traits. I was in awe of her ability to pick up and move halfway across the world in search of better opportunities for herself to provide for her family. It isn’t easy to move to a country where you aren’t fluent in the language, don’t know anyone, and aren’t familiar with anything, but Esme did it. She was incredibly strong, and I loved how she connected with Khai in a unique and understanding way. I think the author did such a great job rendering her character well and conveying the difficulties associated with immigration:

“All of this was too new. Even she felt new. New place, new name, new person, new life. Maybe. For the summer, at least. She should be excited. Hollywood and Disneyland were here. But all she felt was … scared.”

The romance was so sweet that it made me cry more than a couple of times. I was rooting for Khai and Esme as soon as they connected, and it was beautiful to see that so many other characters were as well. Not everyone, autistic or not, is capable of expressing emotion through words as well as others, and while Khai was busy denying that he had emotions, they bled through in all of his actions. I just wanted to reach into the book and shake him! But it was done really well and kept up the tension in the story, along with a couple of other storylines throughout the book. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and devoured this book in a single day.

Helen Hoang has skyrocketed up to the top of my favorite authors list, and I can’t wait to read the next book and see Quan get his HEA!

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