Helen Hoang began her The Kiss Quotient series in 2018 with Stella and Michael. Now, in The Bride Test, her story continues with the tale of Khai and Esme. Their clashing personalities and behaviors, opportunities, unfolding feelings…the many avenues Hoang’s story takes make The Bride Test an un-put-down-able book because you need to know what happens next.
Published: 7 May 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.
Rating: 5 Stars
The first thing I need to say is that I have not read Helen’s book The Kiss Quotient. I wasn’t wholly aware of the fact that it was related to this book; whoops on my part. The Bride Test can be read on its own, but there are spoilers for The Kiss Quotient, as characters from that book appear and have threads of their story continued. I am very excited now, of course, considering how much I enjoyed this book, to go back and see where their stories began.
Now, back to Khai and Esme.
I found it hard to set this book down. The story was very engaging. I always wanted to know more about the two central characters, Khai and Esme, whether it was about them as individuals or about what they were like when they were becoming two people together.
Things start out rather awkwardly. There are preconceptions about each other; Khai’s past and his autism both inform choices that he makes throughout the story and especially choices he makes regarding Esme; and Esme’s family always in her mind, holding her up when things seem hopeless in this new situation that she is in not just for herself, but for them as well.
Some of what I liked best were the little moments of trust that you could see developing between Khai and Esme. It could be something like Khai realizing he was sort of looking forward to eating the breakfast that Esme prepared, but I found myself smiling at them multiple times.
There were also personal developments being made for each character. Khai opening up as a person, figuring out how to assess his emotional state in the face of past events and in conjunction with his autism. It was interesting to see how the story navigated his narrative, particularly with his family being from Vietnam and having a specific point of view regarding his mental health.
Ever since his elementary school teacher insisted his parents take him to a psychologist, he’d known he was different. The majority of his family, however, had discounted the resulting diagnosis, saying he was merely “a little strange.” There was no such thing as autism or Asperger’s syndrome in the countryside of Vietnam.
Then there was Esme, coming from the slums of Vietnam and her position as a cleaner, learning about the ways she could accomplish more for herself and her family. The risks she took, the challenges she faced, made her a strong person even before the book began and set her up as someone I loved even more she met Khai’s mother and accepted the offer to come to America.
I did think that the balance of Esme’s personal developments (i.e. outside of her relationship with Khai – education, work) as written throughout the book felt a little heavy handed toward the end of the book and could’ve done with being spread out a bit more, but overall they were well written so were still enjoyable.
With the announcement that there will be five more Helen Hoang books in the future, I can say that I’m super excited to see where characters from this world will go in their own stories. Until then, going back to The Kiss Quotient and shouting praises for The Bride Test will do. 🙂
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
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