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.
With our review for The Bride Test, Vera and I decided to go back to a format we both really enjoy doing- discussion reviews. We absolutely loved the author’s debut and were equally excited for this new book, and so we simply had to read it and review it for the blog as soon as possible. So. without further ado… here goes!
Vera: I think what we should get out of the way, and this is probably something a lot of people are curious to hear, is if The Bride Test lives up to The Kiss Quotient. *dramatic pause* I’m super-pleased to say that it does, fully, and does so while being completely different from TKQ, both in its description of the characters and the vibe of the story.
Ruzi: I think it definitely lived up to TKQ too! I quite even liked this one a tad more than the previous, which is saying something because I already liked TKQ a lot. I’m starting to get rambly here, but to answer the question that’s been haunting most of us for a long, long time- yes, it definitely lives up to the author’s stellar debut while still being unique in its own way.
“Warm. Content. Safe in his arms. Him safe in hers. She hugged him tighter. He was bigger and stronger, but she would protect him with everything she had.”
V: I’m kind of curious; you say you liked this one a bit better than TKQ, and I believe you gave this one a better rating too. What aspect stood out to you in TBT that made it more enjoyable for you?
The Protagonists & the Romance
R: Well, my reasons may sound a little… unprofessional? Lol, but I’m big on relating to protagonists and I had a harder time getting used to Stella than I did with Esme. The latter, I took to quite easily and I could kinda see where she was coming from. And so, I felt more comfortable with how things progressed. There was also the fact that things felt a little unrealistic for me at times with TKQ, which didn’t really happen with the current book. Which is quite weird, if you think about it, because if anything, the situation in TBT is weirder. But yeah, it’s mostly about how I related to the characters and story than anything else.
“She wasn’t impressive in any way you could see or measure, but she had that fire. She felt it. That was her worth. That was her value. She would fight for her loved ones. And she would fight for herself. Because she mattered.”
V: We’re kind of opposites here, haha. I loved Esme so much, but I found myself liking Stella a tad more. As for the unrealistic bit, I definitely found TBT more unrealistic than TKQ, for instance, the way Khai’s mom was selecting the brides in the restaurant, and then very suddenly choosing Esme. If you think about, if she wanted a “normal” woman, why would she hold an interview for these obviously wealthy, probably high-class women? With that being said, I do feel that the development of the romance was much more authentic here – it was slow-building and progressed very naturally. Not that TKQ’s romance wasn’t these things, but I certainly prefer the slow build-up we were given here.
R: Yes! That’s something I particularly loved here, the romance. I always felt it could have been dealt with better in TKQ, so seeing how things progressed here made me very happy. It was just right. To come back to what you said about his mom choosing brides, well, it gave off a very rags-to-riches vibe which I loved. It made sense that she’d try to find him someone who’d match them more in terms of wealth and education and what not, but we’re introduced to her at a time when she’s sick of all the fake, or rather, unsuitable girls she interviewed. Keeping in mind that she had to think of Khai’s past, it made sense to me why she set her eyes on Esme and decided to give this a go. It’s hardly very realistic, but it still did make sense! To me, at least. And Khai’s mom too, apparently, lol.
V: Hmm, if you put it that way, it makes sense, yes. And honestly, this is simply nit-picking on my part; there really isn’t much (anything?) to criticize here, besides the fact that we have to suspend our disbelief for some scenes… which is typical in romance, and, to be fair, most novels. We mentioned Esme and even Khai’s mom, but what did you think of Khai? I loved seeing an autistic hero in a romance, that’s something I’ve never seen before. And he was so lovely and supportive, I particularly loved how helpful he was to Esme about finding her father.
R: Same! It was refreshing seeing an autistic male lead because I feel these kind of roles are usually reserved for females in novels – and media, in general – so it sure was great reading of a male character like Khai. And he had a particularly great character arc too. I loved everything about him and I’m super happy with how his story, history, etc were dealt with.
“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours. You’re my one.”
Cameos & New Faces
V: Speaking of the characters, there was someone I missed from The Bride Test – Stella. While Michael appeared twice, Stella had no speaking parts in the book, she was only mentioned by others. I really-really wish she was given more of a role.
R: OMG YES! I so wish Stella had made an appearance and to be very frank, I almost missed the couple of times Michael popped up too! It would have been nice to be let in on how things were between them, or at least have them have more of a role in Khai and Esme’s story. This could have been a conscious decision on the author’s part, though, since TBT works very well as a standalone and bringing in characters from the previous book might have felt redundant, or worse, alienated new readers.
V: I agree with you, and that is a valid argument for leaving the characters out; it’s certainly better than introducing past characters without giving them a proper role, or building up their characters. Either way, Hoang has top-notch characters in TBT, and so there really is no need to resurrect Stella (or Michael) again and again, especially when she took the time to flesh out characters like Quân, who I *really* hope will get his own book, because the dynamic between him and Khai was so well-portrayed. I loved how they were there for each other, no matter what.
R: Quân was such a fave of mine too! I loved how he knew how to treat Khai and how he understood what he was going through at any given time. He was more of a best friend to Khai and always tried to make things better all around, and it was just…so heartwarming to see their interactions. And yes, I do so hope Quân gets his own book too!
V: Honestly, what I love about this book, besides the cutesy romance and the stellar characters, is how Helen Hoang, yet again, used her own experiences – or rather, her mother’s – for parts of the story. I don’t want to go into detail, because I think y’all should experience it on your own, but the author’s note? A must read.
R: Yes, don’t miss the author’s note because reading it made me see the story in a whole different light. Honestly, this is what I love the most about #ownvoices novels. It’s always so heartening to see a little bit of someone’s everyday life portrayed in the story, and it makes everything just that much more relatable and the characters tend to feel more real, you know? The author surpassed herself with both TKQ and TBT, and I’m really stoked for her next. Here’s hoping it has more of Quân and his tattoos!
V: It’s been confirmed there’s a third book coming, and I can’t imagine who else it could be about, so fingers crossed we get to see Quân’s story. Can you imagine getting the deets on Quân and Michael’s business!? Oh, and Michael’s sisters are alllll getting their own books, which is another thing to look forward to. Helen Hoang really has taken the romance landscape by storm, and I’m hoping for all the success for her, because with her talent and dedication to telling these stories – the romances of characters who are not frequently included in romance novels – she quickly grew to be one of my top favorite authors.
R: Yes, I have the same sentiments tbh. What with her tendency to draw from her own experiences and create super-engaging stories with memorable, unique characters, Helen Hoang soon grew to be an author to watch out for. If you’re yet to get on the wagon, do yourself a favor and hurry up because there’s just so much more to look forward to!
So, that’s all our thoughts on The Bride Test and how it compares to/ is different from The Kiss Quotient! Have you read either book? What are your thoughts, if so? Let’s talk in the comments below!