The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Bride Test by Helen HoangThe Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Series: The Kiss Quotient #2
Published by Berkley on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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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.

Friendly reminder that if you haven’t already read The Kiss Quotient, you should. And by friendly, I mean me-violently-shoving-the-book-in-your-face, because what the fuck have you been doing. I reread The Kiss Quotient before reading The Bride Test, and I’d worried a little bit it wouldn’t be as amazing as I remembered, but it was actually better if anything? Which…how? Helen Hoang’s a stellar new voice in contemporary romance, and she’s back with another book full of excellent representation and hot kissing.

To start, I will say that I didn’t love The Bride Test as much as The Kiss Quotient, but let’s be clear that that would be a huge ask, because I LOVE The Kiss Quotient. Like, it would be on my top ten favorite romances list, somewhere near the top. The Bride Test is a great book, but it didn’t send me to that obsessive shippy place where I want to do nothing but read and feel ruined by the amount I want the couple to work things out. Also, super subjectively, these aren’t my favorite tropes at work here, though I guess TKQ wasn’t really either but ya know.

The Bride Test is Khai’s book, cousin to Michael from TKQ. He was not a major character in the first book, but I was ready to love him. Khai’s autistic, like Stella. However, he truly believes he’s broken and incapable of loving, because he thinks his feelings do not work. As a result, his emotional arc is all about accepting that he does have feelings, which actually is a pretty standard male romance arc, only it’s a million times more sympathetic when the guy is autistic.

Khai’s love interest is My, who goes by Esme once she gets to America. Esme’s a hard-working single mom who helps support her mom and grandma by working as a maid in a hotel. When a wealthy Vietnamese woman offers to fly her to America for several months as a bride prospect for his son, she decides to do so, despite being deeply unsure about the ethics of such a thing.

I struggled with the romance largely because of this set up, because I didn’t love the way Khai’s mom was forcing him, like to the degree that she just drops Esme off in his house basically (he picks her up at the airport on her orders actually, but still SO AWFUL) and expects him to deal with it, even though routine is massively important to him. Also, Esme’s pretending not to have a child most of the time, and there’s an added lie that she’s an accountant, just so she can feel smarter. All of that was just so much that put me on edge for much of the book. I will say that I liked the resolution of everything, so I may be more into the ship on a future reread.

Khai and Esme don’t hit it off right away. Mostly she frustrates him, moving his stuff and interrupting his routines and giving him awkward boners while also making it difficult for him to masturbate. Esme’s tense, because she’s not good at English, misses her family, and doesn’t know how she feels about the bride test. Their bond grows slowly and starts out more physical than emotional, though it’s all tied up for Khai, really. For him, being comfortable around someone, willing to let them into his routine, basically is love. It’s not a particularly bantery romance, which again makes it less of a Christina romance, but they’re definitively sweet once they start learning how to communicate with one another. But omg one of my favorite scenes was View Spoiler ».

What gave me the most feels actually was Esme’s journey into confidence through education. If I summed her up in a sentence, it would be “immigrants, we get the job done.” Because she’s never had opportunity, she always assumed she wasn’t that smart, but she realizes that she does have the aptitude, and she makes use of her new freedom and money to attend night school. Her quiet strength is deeply admirable and is a reminder of what people can do with even an ounce of the privilege so many take as a given.

The real scene stealer of the book is Quan, who I already liked from The Kiss Quotient. Basically any scene with him was amazing, particularly because he was such a shipper, which is a trope I DO love. And omg I love that he had how-to guides about sex that he could pass on to Khai. I cannot WAIT for Quan’s book. I NEED IT.

Though The Bride Test wasn’t a favorite on this first read, it very much cemented Helen Hoang in my mind as a fantastic author. The story’s excellent, the character’s nuanced, and the writing fantastic. Maybe I’ll ship it more next time.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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