The Bride Test
The Kiss Quotient #2
By Helen Hoang
Author’s Website: helenhoang.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
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.
Khai Diep is a successful accountant, but avoids relationships. He is a loved family member of Vietnamese-American and is on the autism spectrum. He feels he cannot be loved nor can he love.
“Even now, he could hear his cousin scoffing at him. The specific circumstances eluded him, but the words remain the same. ‘Nothing gets to you. It’s like your heart is made of stone’.”
Esme (Mỹ) is a single mother wanting a better life for herself and her daughter. When an opportunity comes along to leave Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) and go the US to meet an eligible young man, Esme takes the opportunity presented by Cô Nga (she offers to pay for Esme’s visa and trip to California in exchange for Esme trying to seduce Khai) even though it means being away from her daughter (and mother and grandmother) for a few months – anything for a better life. Esme is also hoping that maybe she can track down her biological father (definitely a long shot in my view).
What ensues is a multi-faceted story. Not only are we privy to a love story – strange as it may start out. But also a story about two people learning to accept themselves for who they are as individuals – idiosyncrasies and all.
The love story between the main characters has ups and downs. Given both of their unique ways of interacting with people it truly is heartwarming, funny, exasperating… (so many adjectives could be placed here) to see these two people who care for each other finally “talk” to each other.
I found the scene where Esme cooks in Khai’s home for the first time quite giggle worthy. The smells that Esme finds soothing and reminds her of home in essence is pungent to Khai. This brought out the feeling in me that not all compatible matches are from those with similar upbringings.
When Khai made it his mission to help Esme find her father, I found that a very empathetic gesture but also allowing the reader to see that Khai did love Esme and he had his own unique way of showing it.
The relationship between Khai and his brother Quan is like any other brother relationship. What I find refreshing is the way that Quan calls out Khai when Khai does not allow himself to acknowledge his true feelings, whether it be towards his deceased friend Andy or Esme.
“Quan aimed a pointed stare at him. “Sometimes the things people do and believe don’t make sense. I feel most alive when I might die. And you, you’re convinced you don’t feel, and the responsible thing is to avoid people.”
“That’s the way things are,” Khai said.
“No, it’s bullshit. Where was Andy heading when he got hit by that semi?”
Khai looked down at the deep scratches on the motorcycle. Those had happened the night of the accident. “He was coming to see me.” “Why?”
Khai titled his head as his chest hollowed out and caved inward. “Because I asked him to. I wanted to hang out.”
Quan arched an eyebrow. “So are you gonna tell her now?”
“Tell her what?”
“That you’re embarrassingly in love with her, that’s what,” Quan said in an exasperated tone.
I think this discussion truly shows that Khai demonstrates feelings, just uniquely – as does everyone. He just needed to have this pointed out to him. Now the question is, will he allow his feelings to come to light so that he and Esme can be together before her visa runs out?
If I had one criticism, it would be the length of time it took Esme to tell Khai about her young daughter back in Vietnam. As a parent, I would never hide the fact that I have a child. But I suppose with so much at stake, Esme felt it was the right decision for her.
Many bumps occur on the road to happiness, similar to real life. I found the writing engaging, the characters entertaining. Some heartwarming moments along with some chuckle worthy moments.
As this was my first book by author Helen Hoan, I am suitably impressed by her writing style and ability to keep me engaged throughout the book. I look forward to reading more titles by Ms. Hoan.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*