ARC provided by Berkley Romance in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
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.
Oh, to dive back into the world of my favorite Vietnamese family made me so happy!
There’s just something so comforting about Helen Hoang’s writing. I can’t put into words how much her books mean to me and the themes she tackles are so important. If I could choose one author to read books from for the rest of my life, it would be her.
The Bride Test is a spin-off/companion novel to The Kiss Quotient. We follow Khai, a smart, hardworking young professional. He also has ASD (autism spectrum disorder, formerly known as Asperger’s), which makes him feel and process emotions a bit differently. Khai believes he has a heart of stone; that he is incapable of feeling love and sadness. He doesn’t get close to many people, and because of this, his mother decides to try to play match-maker. She flies to Vietnam to find Khai a girlfriend (and potential wife.)
Enter: Esme. Esme is half Vietnamese and white, but she never knew her birth father. She works as a hotel maid, and she’s a single mother taking care of her daughter, mother, and grandmother in Vietnam. When the offer to fly to California to meet Khai arises, she takes it, thinking she can at least try to start a new life for her and her family.
I will admit, the whole “mail order bride” concept did cross my mind and it made me feel kind of weird. But this story isn’t about forcing two people into a marriage. This story is about a girl who just wants a better life for her daughter; to carve her own path and to make her own future. Esme is so smart and brilliant, and she doesn’t take shit from anybody. But she’s also so kind and softhearted, and she truly sees the best in everyone.
I simply adored her dynamic with Khai and his family. And I loved how Helen Hoang made everything very slow-burn. The pacing was perfect, and it also played out the romance (and sexual tension) in an organic way. I appreciated how Hoang spoke about ASD and explained how Khai processes information and how he reacts to certain things a certain way. This book is ownvoices, and Hoang drew inspiration for Khai from her own experiences with ASD.
But above all, this book was a love letter to Hoang’s mother. Just like Esme, her mother came to America with hopes to start a new life, too. And she truly did. All on her own. I implore you to read the author’s note at the end of the book, because it will make you feel 10000% more connected to the story.
So, I know you’re probably wondering which book is “better”: The Kiss Quotient or The Bride Test? They both stand on their own in totally different ways. If I HAD to choose? I think I preferred The Kiss Quotient because it was a bit more lighthearted. The Bride Test was definitely steamy, and the characters are so lovable (Quan is truly the best bro out there), but it took on more serious tones. (But, yes, there is a cameo from our beloved Michael and Stella.) Even so, I still stand by my 5-stars. As someone who grew up in SE Asia, I was living for all the scenes that talked about food (fish sauce, rambutans, lychees) and the Asian-family dynamics. I truly think this book will be perfect if you’re looking for a steamy romance filled with so much heart and humor. ❤
Also? I am so stoked Hoang is going to write five more books, all centering around Michael’s sisters! BRING THEM ON!