The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”

The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.

And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.

Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael’s cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.

Esme – Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.

But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.

I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.

Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!

But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.

“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”

Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering,

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤

 

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1) by Helen Hoang

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This was my pick for the June 2018 Book of the Month box!

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.”

Friends, The Kiss Quotient is so deserving of every ounce of hype it has received thus far. I am not sure I’ve ever been so happy, and had such a lame grin on my face, while reading any other book. This was heartwarming, beautiful, and a treat to read. Don’t sleep on this one. Also, Michael and Stella are both partner goals, I swear.

This is an ownvoices novel about a high-functioning autistic woman who has succeeded in every aspect of her life, except for love. Her mother is putting pressure on her to find someone and start thinking about family, now that she turned thirty. Plus, Stella is kind of lonely anyway, and as much as she loves throwing herself into her work, she wants to spend her life with someone who she can completely be herself with. The problem is, Stella thinks her autism makes her unable to successfully date, and maybe even unable to be good at/enjoy sex. So, she hires the dreamiest escort to help her!

“Girls like me intimidate boyfriends away. Girls like me have never been asked out by a single boy. Girls like me have to find their own way, make their own luck. I’ve had to fight for every success in my life, and I’m going to fight for this. I’m going to get good at sex, and then I’ll finally be able to entice the right person into being mine.”

The thing is, Michael is an escort that doesn’t do more than one session per client. Yet, after his and Stella’s first night, he might be willing to make an exception. Michael is biracial (Vietnamese and Swedish), fashion designer, and has always put his family first, especially after the way his father left them all. Michael’s mother is also battling cancer, and the medical bills are piling up.

Trigger and content warnings for unwanted touching and forced kissing, lowkey sexual harassment, anxiety attacks, abandonment, a loved one with a chronic illness, a fatphobic comment/insult, and someone telling someone else about a person’s diagnosis.

Also, this book has very explicit and graphic sex scenes. But, like, all of the sex scenes in this book are 11/10. So damn hot, I swear. I have a lot more experience with sex than Stella, but I would happily let Michael teach me a thing or two. *clutches pearls forever* But please use caution if that is something you do not enjoy in your books!

But besides the steamy sex, the beautiful romance, and the lovely messages that are inside this book, my favorite part is that this book never shames Michael for being an escort, and it sure in the hell doesn’t shame Stella for being on the autism spectrum. A lot of other conflicts happen throughout, but those two things are never put in a negative light and it was such a blessing.

And I never expect a fiction book to teach me anything, but this book gave me such a wonderful glimpse and perspective into some people’s autism. (Obviously, I know that no two people are the same!) From overstimulation with lights, sounds, and smells, to the preferred clothing, to focusing everything into one thing, to the importance of schedules, lists, and reminders! This book was really insightful, and I loved that about it.

The importance of consent is always at the forefront of this novel. I think that’s why most people who are reading this right now are so in love with Michael, and it’s because he always is thoughtful and so very patient with Stella. He truly puts her needs first, and makes sure he is never overstepping any line that she is not willing to cross.

And I just loved Stella Lane as a character. She is actually probably my favorite heroine of 2018. Not only does she know who she is, she refuses to change for anyone, even the guy she has fallen in love with. I had happy tears in my eyes so much while reading this, and it was mostly just because I was so proud of her. Michael might be most people’s wet dream, but Stella felt like the character I’ve been searching literature for forever.

“But I want you to know I can handle the truth. If I’m not enough for you, that’s fair and I accept it. I’ll get over you eventually. I don’t want to be coddled or lied to because of what I am. I don’t need your pity friendship”

Overall, this was such a perfect read! I loved this from first to last page, and I couldn’t put it down. Here, I’ll really sell you on how good this book is: Muse of Nightmares, my most anticipated release of 2018, came in the mail while I was reading this book. And you know what I did? I finished The Kiss Quotient before starting it. Seriously, this is a masterpiece. And I can’t wait to see what Helen Hoang does next.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject