Publication Date: May 7, 2019 by Berkley
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.
Before you read this review, I just wanted to get it out there that I’ve been on an 8-month book review slump for so many different reasons and writing this review is a big deal for me. It’s my comeback review, and friends, I am so glad to finally write one. ❤
After reading The Kiss Quotient, I was pretty sure I’d read everything Helen Hoang writes. I loved TKQ, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should.
I believe The Bride Test can be read as a standalone, but the reading experience would be more fun if you’ve read TKQ already. (Especially during that scene with a phone call because you’d totally understand why Quan had to call a certain person. *eye emoji*)
I’m sure you wouldn’t want to read a random string of uppercase letters as my review, but Helen Hoang wrote another precious book and my soft heart wants to scream a little to express my overwhelming feelings:
A A A A
A A A A
A A A A
(Okay, I’m done. Now we proceed to the actual review.)
Why I love this book:
Esme’s unfiltered self: She’s smart and funny and real. She’s so charming that Khai couldn’t help but fall in love with her, even if he didn’t realize it right away.
Khai’s journey to love: He thought he didn’t have feelings, but meeting Esme changed everything. He started to question his actions and motivations, and why he was “getting used” to Esme in his house. (Attachment. Khai got attached to Esme without even knowing it and it’s too cute for my heart!!!)
The fact that he cared for Esme’s happiness showed that he cared for her. And my dear bookish friends, Khai’s love for Esme revealed itself in many more moments.
I’ve shared some of my thoughts on Twitter:
In an interview with Lulu Garcia-Navarro for NPR, Helen shared notable things about her latest book:
On Khai’s heart of stone
Helen: I wanted to write a character and show how he may look cold, he may look heartless, he might even think he’s heartless, but he’s not.
I am soft for Khai because I felt his struggle. Past incidents led him to believe he’s not capable of experiencing grief or falling in love, but his emotions just manifest in a different way.
I think it’s important to highlight the representation of people on the spectrum. Helen mentioned in the interview that she did not handle things with “kid gloves” because she wanted to tear down all the perceptions about people with autism.
In the book, both Quan and Esme knew that there is more to Khai than what he believed is true about himself. They both gave him the time and space he needed to realize important truths about his heart, and it was wonderful to witness his feelings unfold.
On being the main character of your life and finding HEA
Helen: I want to believe that I can be a main character, I can be a leading character in my life, that I can have a happily ever after, that I can find true love, and I can get married, and conquer, and be happy.
To me, The Bride Test shone the brightest when Esme decided to take charge of her own HEA. Because her happily-ever-after didn’t only mean finding the love of her life — it also meant finding someone who would love her daughter. No wonder why she kept outshining the supposed-to-be female lead for this book.
But now, a new dream formed in her heart, one she’d never dared to encourage but wanted with breathless intensity: doing something she was passionate about, changing this world for the better, being more.
Esme is an inspiration — both to single mothers and single women trying to find their way. She wanted to make her dreams come true, so she did. She’s definitely a favorite heroine.
A piece of advice from me to you:
Do Not Skip The Author’s Note
Other things I love:
- The Great Quan Diep: I’ve become an official Quan fangirl and I’m proud of it. We need a Quan book. ❤
- All Things Vietnam: I’ve been to Vietnam a couple of times already and I enjoyed all the moments of recognition upon reading familiar terms.
- JADE: It’ll be hard not to love this kid the moment you meet her.
- The haircut scene!!!
- That phone call with — okay, I’ll namedrop — Michael: Am I building hype for this scene? YES. You’ll know why I liked this once you read it.
- The true meaning of the illustration on the cover. The realization only hit me after I’ve finished reading the book, but when it did, it hit me hard. Okay, I’m about to get emotional now.
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.
Esme deserved every bit of the spotlight she got in this book. Because the true bride test is the one that evaluated the strength of her heart, and she passed with flying colors.
The woman in the mirror wore a wedding gown and high heels, but her eyes shone with the confidence and drive of a warrior.
The Bride Test is an incredibly empowering story of love and self-discovery. Sweet, sexy, and sincere — how could I not give it 5 stars?
I even dedicated a bookish song for the book.
Final Rating: 5/5
Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since.
In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT.
She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.
Helen is represented by Kim Lionetti of BookEnds Literary Agency.