Author: Helen Hoang
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 01 minute
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.
The Bride Test is the second novel in The Kiss Quotient series. This series is amazing not only because it, so far, has lovely romances, but it includes neurodiverse main characters who are on the autistic spectrum. Although Stella from the previous novel and Khai from this novel both are on this spectrum, they are in no way copies of each other. Each is unique on the spectrum, and I love how the author illustrates the wide range of autism through their inner thoughts and interactions with others. While I greatly enjoyed the first novel, this one was even more amazing, and I cannot wait to read more from the author.
This story centers on Khai Diep, the cousin of Michael, the love interest from The Kiss Quotient. When his mother decides it is time for him to marry she locates Mŷ (Esme) Tran to woo her son. The story hinges on the “meddling” mom who plays matchmaker for her son, which culturally fit, at least according to my friends who said Khai’s mom was very similar to their own. Since the mom is the catalyst that brings Khai and Esme together, if the original concept of the mother matchmaking for her child is not for you, then it may be best to choose another story. Before getting the offer from Khai’s mother, Esme worked as a cleaner at a hotel in Vietnam. To take a chance in California to be with Khai, she has to leave her family, including her daughter, Jade, behind. Building a romantic connection is not easy as Khai is convinced that he is incapable of feeling love due to his autism. While attracted to Esme, he keeps his distance as he believes it is for the best; however, the more the two interact, the more their connection grows.
In The Kiss Quotient, Michael was familiar with people on the spectrum as he grew up with his cousin, Khai. This contrasts Esme, who at least on the page, does have a lot of experience with people on the spectrum. I loved this difference as Esme approaches connecting to Khai differently than Michael tried to connect with Stella. Esme had to learn a lot through trial and error to figure out what would work for Khai, which gave an added layer of complexity to the story. Esme is an immigrant to the States and trying to navigate the culture, the language, and the general getting by to make a better life for herself and her family as a single mother. This story pulls at the heartstrings with complex characters and a sweet romance story where the characters grow as individuals and as a potential couple. Overall, it was a fantastic read and I cannot wait to read all about Quan (Khai’s brother) in his own story, The Heart Principle, soon!