The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Genre: Adult contemporary romance
Representation: Vietnamese, mixed race, autism
Format read: audiobook
Series: The Kiss Quotient book 2
Rating: planchet-4

Khai is autistic.

To his Vietnamese family, this word doesn’t really mean much–autism isn’t much recognized in Vietnam. To them, he’s just…odd. But he’s family, so they accept him despite his foibles.

Except for one thing: Khai’s mother is convinced he needs a good wife. To that end, she travels back to her home country in order to arrange for a good, Vietnamese girl for him.

After interviewing dozens of wealthy, beautiful applicants and finding all of them wanting in the personality department, she finds her son’s perfect match in an unexpected place: a hotel bathroom. Tran Ngoc My is a hotel maid who spends most of her time scrubbing toilets. She has the routine down to a science–she’s very good at making sure everything is just so, and takes great satisfaction in a job well done.

Mrs. Diep makes her an offer she can’t refuse: $20,000 US to come to America for a summer and woo her son. If he doesn’t like her, she can go home at the end with no consequences. If he likes her, then she’ll have a husband by September.

There’s just one catch: My has a little girl waiting for her at home, and Khai makes it very clear he never wants children. Will the two of them be able to find common ground, despite their secrets?

I loved The Kiss Quotient and was super excited to pick up the next book in this series. While The Bride Test is set in the same world, it follows a different group of characters, though we do see some familiar faces from the first book.

I really, really liked My. I also really liked Khai (I think I mentioned in my review of the first book that I wanted a story from his perspective, and here we are!), but there were some questionable elements in this book. I thought the way Mrs. Diep behaved, both in trying to find a wife for her son without consulting him and then forcing them to live together for three months was completely unacceptable. I’m willing to chalk that up to cultural differences, since it was very clear that she was a caring woman, but it still made me angry. If I were Khai and someone just showed up on my doorstep like that, I’d blow a gasket.

I also had a problem with some of Khai’s anger issues. A lot of it comes from him genuinely not understanding My’s emotions or certain social situations or norms, but at one point he completely blows up at her in public and manhandles her, which was not okay, and I don’t think he ever apologizes for it, not really.

I would have also liked to see My look into autism more, to try to get a better understanding of what this foreign word means rather than blundering around blindly and walking on egg shells.

All in all, I did think it was a good follow up, though. I’d be happy to read a third book in the series if one was ever written, but I also really like that it’s 2 loosely connected independent volumes.

 

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Genre: Adult contemporary
Content warnings: Sexual harassment
Representation: SE Asian, mixed race, autism
Format read: audiobook
Rating: planchet-4

I have been wanting to read this book since before it came out. I finally got to sit down with it on my flight to Portland, and inhaled in about  hours. It was so good. 

This book follows Stella, an adult with low support autism (aka Asperger’s). She’s an economist with a great job. She’s not bad looking. But she has some odd habits and difficulty connecting with people that make it nearly impossible for her to get a date. And second dates are unheard of.

This is unfortunate because she would like to one day get married, and maybe even have children. But how can one do that what dates always end abruptly, and there’s never a follow up?

Taking the advice of a college, Stella decides that the only way she’s going to change anything is if she gets better at sex. That seems to be the sticking point with all of her experiences so far. Once they get to the bedroom, things rapidly go downhill.

But how does one improve at such a thing? Clearly, expert advice is in order.

Enter Michael. Half Vietnamese, he’s stunning, funny, a great cook–and he’s for rent.

Michael is a gigolo, driven by the economic hardship threatening his family–and his mother’s cancer treatments. Stella finds his profile online and quickly compiles a series of lesson plans she hopes he’ll help her with–everything from blow jobs to different positions.

But it quickly becomes clear that Stella’s meticulous plans aren’t suited for the job at hand. When things start to go faster than she hoped at their first meeting, she panics, completely locking up.

Eventually, Stella is able to alter her game plan, and hires Michael to be her “practice” boyfriend, to help her learn how to better connect with people, to relax in intimate situations, and maybe–possibly–even learn to enjoy sex. Or at least not suck at it.

The money is way too good for Michael to turn down, even though he feels guilty about the whole thing. The more he listens to Stella talk, the more he realizes that she’s not the problem–it’s the assholes she keeps dating. Reluctantly, he agrees. But only because of his mom. No, really. And maybe because he likes Stella and doesn’t want to see her hurt. But mostly it’s his mom.

This is a funny, sweet story that is not short on sexy romance. Usually romance/love scenes leave me completely cold in books (sorry, aro/ace over here), but I loved the relationship between Michael and Stella. They were good friends.They learned to adapt to each other.

I loved the autism rep in this book sooooo much. For me, Stella is highly relatable in the way she interacts with people. I really need to get my hands on the companion book, The Bride Test, now.