Published by Berkley on May 7, 2019
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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.
“When she died, demons were going to torment her for eternity instead of letting her reincarnate. Or worse, they’d let her reincarnate, but she’d be a catfish who lived under a river outhouse.”
The Bride Test is a companion novel to The Kiss Quotient, but it isn’t necessary to have read that one before this one (thankfully, unlike many novels marketed as “companion”).
So, somehow I avoided all the general hubbub that surrounded The Kiss Quotient, author Helen Hoang’s debut novel, when it came out last year. I was aware of it, but not being in a mood AT ALL for romance, I skipped it. I continued to hear people rave about it, and then this subsequent companion novel, so I decided to pick it up.
I loved so many things about this book. I loved Khai so much, and I liked Esme even if I didn’t entirely relate to her…and, since she is coming from SUCH a different background than, I imagine, almost anyone who will read this book, I doubt I am the only one. She is a strong woman who will do anything – ANYTHING! – for her family, even if it means sacrificing herself. She does eventually come to realize that it is not worth it to sacrifice her happiness, even if it means a better life for her daughter, but she plays such a dangerous game here. The author’s note at the end of the book actually talks a lot about this, which I really appreciated.
Autism definitely gets positive rep here, and it was such a refreshing breath of air. I did think it was a little odd that Esme – who researches EVERYTHING – just sort of blew off Khai’s statement about it. That seemed really out of character, but whatever, I guess. She was super sensitive to his need for a different kind of touch, to his need for order and routine…but I felt like part of that was her desperation to try to get him to like her, and it sat a little sour with me. I’m glad that she came into herself by the end, but still.
There are definitely sexy times in this book – phew! The way Khai handles his sexual attraction to Esme is funny, cute, and sexy at the same time. There is clearly attraction between them, and I love that Esme was completely okay with having sex for sex’s sake – even if nothing else would come of it. We need more of that sort of sex-positive attitude in books. Enough with the slut shaming.
I also loved Khai’s big family. His mom – the whole reason Esme is in America – is hilarious but also so sweet because she clearly loves her kids so very much. The way Kwan and Khai interact completely melted my heart, too. I hope we get Kwan’s full story in the next book! Now I am definitely going back to read The Kiss Quotient and am really looking forward to the next installment as well.
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