The Heart Principle
- Author: Helen Hoang
- Genre: Romance
- Publication Date: September 1, 2021
- Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
- Series: The Kiss Quotient #3
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CONTENT WARNING: mention of cancer, ableism, infertility, death of a parent, grief
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex – he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself.
However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family, she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her.
Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
I’ve loved the other two books in this series, so I was thrilled to get my hands on Quan’s story. And while I loved it, I just want to say outright that this is definitely more of a contemporary story with a romance in it than a typical romance. It’s also a lot heavier than the previous books in the series. None of this made me love it any less, though.
Anna is a character that I found hard not to like. While my experience, both culturally and personality-wise, is extremely different from her own, I was able to empathize so deeply with her on an emotional level. She receives a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder with low support needs in the story, and works to comes to terms with that even as she has to fight against the way she’s worked so hard for her entire life to adhere to what she believes she has to do to fit in with her family and society. My heart broke for her, and Natalie Naudus did an amazing job narrating Anna’s part. She conveyed a character who was fighting against her nature and on the verge of a breakdown. It felt as though it was a matter of when she would burn out, rather than if. On top of all these other stressors, she was also facing the breakdown of a long-term relationship that her family thoroughly approved of, and the meeting of Quan.
Which brings me to my favorite character in the series. I absolutely adored Quan in the previous books, and I loved his story, even though parts of it were heartbreaking. Quan has his own struggles, and early in the book, we learn that he is recovering from a devastating diagnosis. My first thought was that if something happened to him, I was going to revolt. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry. But he is dealing with some emotional baggage that goes along with his diagnosis. Seeing him struggle through the aftermath broke my heart right along with Anna’s story.
The connection between these two was amazing. Watching them connect was beautiful, seeing how Quan instinctively knew how to reach out to Anna and give her what she wanted. I hated seeing how used to being poorly treated Anna was, and how she just accepted it as normal. Then there was Quan who was patient and kind and understanding, and basically the perfect gentleman. And let me tell you — Helen Hoang knows how to write a spicy scene to perfection.
She’s also the queen of writing family drama. The book centers heavily around a family member having a stroke, and the way the family focuses on taking care of the person at home, rather than relying on a treatment facility. As anyone who has taken care of a seriously ill family member knows, this situation commonly creates tension and stress within the home, leading to conflict. In addition, Anna’s family is Chinese-American, while Quan is Vietnamese-American. Her family views him as “the wrong kind of Asian,” bringing up a bias that can exist within Asian communities. There’s also some other cultural issues that arise as well — Anna being in therapy, having an autism diagnosis, her relationship with her sister, and not pursuing a traditional career that her parents approved of. I have very little experience with this, but I could feel how stifled and conflicted Anna felt about all of this.
I loved the way the story unfolded, although don’t go into this book expecting a typical fluffy romance. It’s darker, deeper, and heavier than most romances, even the ones that Hoang has written before. But it was beautifully done and such a great story. I’m glad to see that Quan got his story, and I’m so sad to see this series end. Although I can’t wait to read more by her.
Categories: Book Review