While on vacation, I was looking for some quick, spicy reads to transport me to a place of relaxation. I read Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient a few years ago and loved it—the characters were different but great, and the spice level was spicy without going too far. When I found out she had a follow-up book in the same universe, The Bride Test, I was immediately looking forward to going back there and being sucked right in.
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.
Though I never wrote a review of The Kiss Quotient, Hoang’s first book, it was a five-star read for me, so I had high expectations going into The Bride Test. And though there were a lot of elements I liked a lot, it didn’t resonate with me as much. The spice level was also not at the same level as TKQ, if that matters to you.
What didn’t work for me
The love story: Because this is the crux of the story, this is why the book got the rating it did. While I enjoyed both characters separately (kind of), I felt like neither of them really liked each other because of who they were. I felt Khai was only sexually attracted to Esme and didn’t really know her as a person much beyond that. And Esme enjoyed spending time with Khai, but he didn’t treat her very well, so I’m not sure why. If there was literally any other man in her orbit who was interested in her, she would have gravitated toward them.
Esme: I felt a disconnect between how she was acting and what was happening inside her head. At one point, she takes a kitchen knife and goes outside to cut down trees in Khai’s backyard (and I can’t remember what she was or wasn’t wearing, but it was out of character), and I was just confused as to why she would do that. The person narrating her story was ambitious and made smart decisions, so it was disconnected for me.
What I liked
The diversity: One thing I love about Helen Hoang is that she brings diverse characters—from Vietnamese characters to those with autism—to the forefront. I like reading stories that feature different people from myself, especially when they’re authentic.
Quan: The highlight and hero of the story is Khai’s brother, Quan. He’s the perfect mixture of sensitive, bad boy and the voice of reason. Hoang’s next book in the series features Quan and his love story…and I can’t wait to read it!
“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours. You’re my one.” —Helen Hoang, The Bride Test