Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Release Date - May 7, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. 
Helen Hoang's first novel The Kiss Quotient shares a few similarities with her second book. They both are romance novels that have characters who are autistic. The Bride Test, however, is not just a retread of that plot. It offers up a story that it entirely its own and a different portrayal of autism and how it effects people differently.

The heroine of this novel is a strong, brave, determined woman who I absolutely loved by the end of the book. Esme's a woman who is determined to make her own path and puts in the work to achieve the dreams that she has. Helen Hoang's strength is creating these characters that you cannot help but root for.

Esme and Khai both have to learn something about themselves as part of their journey. Esme's arc is all about her learning self confidence and finding her own way. Khai's is a little more complex, but it mainly deals with dealing with things he buried deep inside himself and healing from that trauma. Their personality traits lead to a lot of miscommunication and the introspective parts of their story are needed to bring them to a place where the both understand each other and can fully love one another.

The romance in this is one of the best I have read. It's respectful and very equal. Both Khai and Esme grow and learn from their relationship. They compromise to ensure that each person gets what they need while making concessions for who the other person is. Neither of them wants to change the other but instead fully accepts the other person for who they are. They, most importantly, get one another (at least eventually) and that makes all the difference. It's an incredibly sweet, caring romance that I found really refreshing. It also showcases consent as the sexy thing it is. This is something that was true for The Kiss Quotient as well so I happy to see it be the case again here.

The relationship between Khai and his brother Quan is a part of the story that really stands out. Their love for one other is clear and it often provided some of the more humour filled moments of the story. Quan's way of helping Khai sees things more clearly is really well written and possibly one of my favourite elements of the story.

While this book can be read without having first reading The Kiss Quotient I highly recommend that you do. Fans of Stella and Michael's story will be rewarded with a fun cameo that made me smile just as much as Esme and Khai's story.

If you're looking for a romance that is a slower burn with some wonderful characters I highly recommend The Bride Test. Helen Hoang continues to showcase why she's one to watch in the romance genre. It's the type of book that is meant for summer reading and I anticipate many will enjoy it as much as I did.

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