“You can kiss me,” she said, her voice half whisper, half husky rasp. “Anytime you want, you can kiss me.”
Damn it, Helen Hoang. This was so good. Reading this stole a perfectly good day from me! I mean it was worth it, but I couldn’t put this book down.
The Bride Test, like its predecessor (not prequel) The Kiss Quotient, is probably one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year.
Hoang’s second novel follows Vietnam-native Esme Tran on a journey across the world to meet Khai Diep, who she may very well decide to marry, if all goes well.
Khai has no interest in marriage though, whatsoever. He is reserved, exacting, and convinced he can never actually love someone else. Khai feels that his autism means that his heart is cold and made of stone, and incapable of love or grief or a number of other emotions. However, his family knows otherwise. His mother, in fact, is all the way in Vietnam looking for a bride for him, convinced that her son can be happy too.
Esme Tran, a mixed-race Vietnam native, works cleaning rooms at a hotel and lives her life to support her family and her young daughter, Jade. On an auspicious day at work, she meets a woman with an intriguing proposal: Come to America, meet her son and potential husband, and see if love blooms. Wondering if this could be the opportunity that she, her daughter, and her family need, Esme can’t turn down the offer.
Meeting Khai, let alone getting inside that quiet exterior, is more work than she expected it to be, but there’s something about him that makes her want to know him more deeply. And there’s something about her that might just make Khai finally realize that he can love in his own way, and that he can love with all of his heart.
The Bride Test was an absolute delight to read.
The story is charming, relatable, romantic, and the perfect amount of sexy. From beginning to end, the characters draw you toward them like a moth, and the pacing sets a smooth, easy rhythm that I couldn’t break out of.
A few of our favorites, from The Kiss Quotient, make an appearance (Stella and Michael are getting married!!), but mostly we are treated to an introduction to the other side of the family we were only given a glimpse into before. The characters that make up Khai and Esme’s families are every bit as special, wonderful, and real as I expected them to be, coming from Hoang. Each character, even side characters, sounded and felt like a whole being, and by the end of the book I was heartbroken to part with any of them.
I also love to see a story that encompasses so many voices that we don’t hear often enough, from the immigrant and neurodivergent communities in particular. Hoang’s personal experience gives her an innate and spectacular talent of letting her readers peek inside the mind of someone who’s different from themselves, and this book was no exception. Understanding Khai was Esme’s goal in this book, but it also becomes the reader’s reward; every piece of information we glean from him, every moment inside his thoughts and feelings, is precious and paints a new world for her readers. For Khai and Esme too, as they fumble and trip over themselves to know one another.
I personally love how Hoang can take a character who lives in their own world and introduce them to a new one, while never compromising who they are. Her books make me want to be more honest and accepting of myself, look for the good in people and, yes, have some steamy moments too!
This sweet strangers-to-love tale will take you through a spectrum of emotions throughout its rollercoaster of a ride, and will leave you incredibly satisfied at the end. Hoang delivers exactly what she promises in The Bride Test, a beautiful and romantic story about love, the importance of family, and the value of each of our unique perspectives.
“Everyone deserves to love and to be loved back. Everyone.“