The Bride Test // Helen Hoang Has No Sophomore Slump, This Was Perfect

24 May 2019

Published: 7th May 2019 (6th June 2019 UK Paperback)
Source: Netgalley/Purchased
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
My Rating:
From the bestselling author of The Kiss Quotient.

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, 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 refuses to consider a relationship, 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. So when the opportunity arises to go to America and meet a potential husband, she can't turn it down. This could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn't go quite 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.

As Esme's time in the United States dwindles, will Khai let his head catch up with his heart? Will he find the strength to let go, and let love in?

The Bride Test was one of my most anticipated reads of this year. After reading (and loving) The Kiss Quotient I couldn’t wait to see what Helen Hoang had in store for us next and I am pleased to say this book was so so good. I didn't think Helen Hoang could beat The Kiss Quotient, I was actually scared this may book may suffer from the sophomore slump but it was utterly brilliant. I'd been excited to learn this second book would be Khai's book as he was an utter sweetheart and I wanted his HEA but I don't think anything could have prepared me for this book.

The basic premise is Khai’s mom goes and interviews potential wives for him in Vietnam as he has shown no interest in finding a wife (or even girlfriend) for himself. She luckily comes across My and pays for her to travel to the US and to complete a trial as Khai’s girlfriend and try and convince him to marry her.

I know, it sounds like we shouldn’t like it. That is the premise. But turns out it is genius. My (who changes her name to Esme, short for Esmerelda, when she goes to the US) was someone I was a little uncertain of at first meeting her. I admired how hardworking she was and how she was wary of accepting an offer from a strange, rich lady to travel to the US as a mail-order bride of sorts. She didn’t want to accept something which seemed too easy, so when she changed her name, her outfit, and began to act almost opposite to how she had first appeared I was scared she would lose all sense of self in the US. I was utterly wrong and Esme charmed all over again with how nice and hardworking she was and how she never once judged Khai, maybe because she had no idea others would in her situation. She knew nothing of Khai’s autism and even when she did learn of it not once was she critical of him, she simply acknowledged it as another facet of who he was and I adored that.

Esme was strong-willed and always wished to succeed by herself and it was so believable her path to find her place in the US not defined by Khai but instead for herself. There were so many roadblocks stopping her, even more now with the new administration in place in the US who wish to prevent people from coming in. And although she had a major inferiority complex she did not deserve as she was awe-inspiring at how hard she worked at absolutely everything, she never became downtrodden. It was very interesting how she was comparing herself to people at home and in the US. She had a US father she never met so she was mixed race and this mixed heritage left her very conflicted. She was not like those she grew up with, she viewed herself as having large hands and being ugly, but then when she saw women in the US she was nothing like them either. It was very interesting seeing her look at this new side of her heritage she had never seen and feeling she did not fit there as well. She continually felt out of place and this led to her quest to find her father, which was a brilliant side story which may have not developed quite as I expected but really enjoyed. 

I could write pages on my love for Esme and how her character grew and developed. I know I said I was excited about Khai’s story but I couldn’t help but feel that this book was far more Esme’s than anyone else's as she struggled to find her place and a home she belonged to. She broke my heart and made me feel like a total slacker with the amount of work she did each and every day and still she felt like she fell short. I swear, on some pages I wish I could have climbed in and shaken some people. Esme needed protecting!

And now I feel I should talk about Khai as I did say this was his book. I think part i loved most about Khai’s story was how his autism was represented. We had autism written in a new light for The Kiss Quotient as the way women present can be very different to men, but then Khai himself presents differently to how someone else might. I think I really admired how Hoang showed the nuances of it and how he experienced it. He himself knew he was autistic and brushed off many of his personality quirks as just being his autism and as he got to know Esme and explained things to her I think he learnt new things about himself I really admired. Khai was extremely successful in running a company that made money and worked for him. He did not have a massive social circle but he had friends and family and was not incapable of social interaction, he just did not interpret all social cues and tBut it was just as much Esme's. Many might say Khai didn't come across as autistic but then many would have said the same thing about Stella in The Kiss Quotient. I really appreciate how Helen Hoang shows autism is not one set of rules. Each person has a different experience and she shows that here. In many ways, Khai is extremely successful. He uses his intelligence to run a successful company and plays to his strengths. He is not incapable of social interaction he just prefers not to. He processes some emotional things differently and he is adverse to touch. Especially a gentle touch. He has his own boundaries he has when it comes to touch. There was an amazing scene when we first more about his preferences with touch when Esme offers to cut his hair. I knew I was going to adore Esme and Khai together as he made himself vulnerable and explained he was averse to a gentle touch like a soft brush of his hair and she tested different pressures to get it right. It was such a simple scene and could have easily been overlooked but I was a goner then.

Their romance was spectacular. As they grew closer (even when Khai didn't want to) I was cheering as they were so sweet and they had so much chemistry. I was so fully invested in everything that happened. This pair had me cheering when things were going well and broke my heart and had me crying at their lows. It was a complete rollercoaster and didn't even want to put this book down to work.

I didn't think she could beat The Kiss Quotient for me but The Bride Test was just as good if not better. Now I just want to know what Helen Hoang will write next?

Have you read this and did you enjoy it? What were some of your favourite moments?
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