You all knew this was coming. You knew I’d been looking forward to this. It was in my anticipated books post, Helen Hoang’s debut, The Kiss Quotient, was a Book of the Week and one of my favourite books of last year. It is on my bullet journal list of 2019 books I want to read and only came out two weeks ago. The reading list yesterday was short. Doris Day died and I’ve been watching romantic comedies and being nostalgic. This was the perfect book to be reading last week and the perfect BotW pick.
So, Khai Diep doesn’t have feelings. Not like everyone else seems to anyway. The big feelings that everyone else gets, he doesn’t seem to. Or at least he doesn’t think he does. So it wouldn’t be fair on him to have a relationship with anyone – because he can’t give them what they need. Except that his family knows better – he feels things, it’s just that his autism means he doesn’t process them the same as everyone else does. So that’s why his mum makes a trip to Vietnam to find a woman for him. Esme Tran has always felt out of place in Ho Chi Minh City – as a mixed race girl in the slums. So when she gets the chance to spend a summer in America, she just can’t turn it down. She could make a better life for her family, she could try and find her father. But Khai isn’t what she expected. There’s a language barrier and a culture barrier sure, but there’s something else as well that’s making Khai hold back. But holding back isn’t a problem for Esme – everything that she’s doing to try and make Khai fall for her is only making her fall for him more. And Esme’s on a clock – she’s only got a tourist visa and if she doesn’t make Khai want to marry her by the end of the summer, it could all have been for nothing. How will these two get to happily ever after?
I loved this. Esme is a fantastic heroine – she fierce and determined and resourceful and she’s taking an opportunity to make her life better. Her story mirrors that of many immigrants from around the world – who are looking for a better future. You’re willing her on every step of the way. Khai’s family are the other end of that migration story – they’ve been in America, they’ve arrived, they’ve set down roots and they’ve started the next generation. And Khai is a fabulous hero – smart, but clueless, generous and caring but in ways that people don’t always recognise. They make a great couple and it’s a real treat watching them work out their relationship.
There’s a lovely afterword from Helen Hoang talking about how her mother’s life inspired and informed elements of Esme’s life, and it shows. What also shows is the care and attention Hoang has taken with Khai. Like Stella in The Kiss Quotient, Khai is in the autistic spectrum, but the two of them are very different and that is absolutely as it should be. Austism comes in many forms and we need more representation of neurodiverse characters in books. I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of books who feature heroes and heroines who I can see myself in – and everyone in society and the world deserves that for themselves too. Books have also always been one of the ways that I expand my horizons and my understanding – so having more books (and knowing where to look for them) about people who don’t look like me fills me with joy.
This would make the perfect holiday read – I’m almost sorry I didn’t manage to save it for my next vacation. The next book in the series just can’t come soon enough – especially as it’s Quan’s story and I’ve been itching to find out more about him. I know I’ll be pre-ordering it just as soon as it that’s an option.
My copy of The Bride Test was pre-ordered on Kindle, which is good because at my library the hold list for the ebook is currently around 19 weeks. But it’s available now on Kobo (£1.99 at time of writing) and Kindle (only £1.19! total bargain) or you can pre-order the paperback – which comes out on June 6th – from Amazon, Book Depository or wherever you buy your books. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Bonus photo: The aforementioned upcoming books master list in my journal.