Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Release Date - June 5, 2018
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  336 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
It's summer and with that comes me wanting to devour more romance novels than I typically do. I had heard a ton of praise for The Kiss Quotient and could not resist when offered the chance to review it. All of the advance buzz this novel has was more than deserved. It's a charming own voices romance that is guaranteed to make you swoon and leave you with a smile on your face.

Helen Hoang does with this novel exactly what Salley Thorne did with The Hating Game. She instantly turned into an insta-read author for me. I think those who loved The Hating Game will love The Kiss Quotient just as much and I highly recommend it to those readers in particular. The stories are not at all similar, but the feelings the authors are able to invoke, and the light, fluffy feel while still creating a lot of substance is equally strong in both novels. Helen Hoang writing especially shines in The Kiss Quotient in that she manages to make creating the characters feel effortless. Stella has Asperger's and yet this book ensures that this is only part of who her character is. It is both important to the plot and just another thing we learn about Stella. The balance of this was great, and I feel it could have only come with someone who also has Asperger's like Helen Hoang.

This novel has all the usual beats that a romance novel should. It follows the known formula perfectly. It ensures that the reader gets exactly what they are looking for but also manages to be something pretty unique. The characters are where this novel really shines. Stella, for me, was a character that I hadn't encountered in a romance novel before. She was both compelling and interesting, and I ended up loving her. I hope that get to see more diversity in not just the characters but the stories being told in romance novels. It was never far from my mind that women like Stella might be seeing a character like themselves in a romance novel for the first time and how important that was.

Michael is exactly what a romance novel hero needs to be. He's charming, sexy, patient, has a well placed tattoo,  and just a little broody. It is easy to see what Stella sees in him. He, like Stella, is fleshed out rather well and has a lot of backstory that forms his character. I liked that both main characters had interactions and lives outside of each other. The family relationships in particular are written rather well and are important to each of the characters story arcs. It made each of them feel a little more real and I always appreciate when we see that the characters have lives outside of their romantic interests.

The synopsis of the novel immediately mad me think of a gender swapped Pretty Woman. It is easy to see the comparison. A rich person hires a sex worker in both. Michael certainly has a good heart (much like Julia Robert's Vivian in Pretty Woman). The stories both end up with them falling in love. What I appreciated about The Kiss Quotient is the amount of time that was spent getting to know Michael. We learn his reasons for becoming an escort. We get to see who he is when he's not with clients. We see him as something more than just a fantasy being offered and I think that is why this story works.

This book also sheds light on women finding pleasure in sex. Stella had some disastrous sexual encounters that were not pleasurable for her at all. She needed a partner who was patient and took the time to work at it with her. This was something she hadn't been aware of as she hadn't experienced that sex could be, and should be,  pleasurable for her. She accepted that her experience was the way things were supposed to be because of  not knowing anything different. It's really a sexual awakening for her and that was empowering to read as a woman. The story makes a pretty strong statement that your partner should care about how you are feeling. That they shouldn't ignore the signs that things are not okay. Michael's anger at the men who ignored the clear physical indicators that what was happening was not enjoyable for Stella even serves to make him even more swoon worthy.

The Kiss Quotient is simply a book made for summer reading. It's fun, sexy, romantic, and funny. Those who love a good romance read should definitely toss this one into their beach tote and enjoy a romance read that is both unique and familiar all at once. You'll immediately want to read it again and share it with others. It's one that is not to be missed for romance fans!

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