The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
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.
I don’t read a ton of adult books, but this sounded good and I was able to get it from Edelweiss. I didn’t read The Kiss Quotient, so I can’t compare the two books. I was able to follow this one with no problems.
I do recommend reading the author’s note for this book. She explained how she was able to cover the rep and I enjoyed hearing about her mom’s story. I thought it was great that she was able to understand her better.
The book starts ten years in the past with Khai’s cousin and best friend died. We don’t learn much about what happened, but we get to see that Khai struggles with emotions. He sees everyone else crying and he thinks he just doesn’t know how to love.
Esme (the name she gave herself before going to the US) was a maid at a hotel. She’s a single mom that lives with her mom and grandma in a one room home. They have very little money, but they get by. Esme never knew her father. Her mom told her that he was in Vietnam for business and he left before she knew she was pregnant. She said his name was Phil and he was from the US. She had one picture that was taken from a distance, but he had a Cal Berkeley shirt on. So they assumed he must live in California. Esme’s daughter’s father wouldn’t marry Esme because she was below him. He had to marry a rich girl that his family approved of. So she was a very young single mom.
Khai’s mom is in Vietnam looking for a wife for him. He’s 26 and doesn’t date. At all. His brother, Quan, dated all the time and had no issues with it. But Khai is autistic. He has issues with touch and prefers a specific routine. But his mom believes he can be happy with a girl. She meets Esme in the bathroom and talks with her. She decides that Esme is the one. After a lot of thinking, Esme finally agrees and leaves for California.
At first, everything is odd. Khai is quiet and set in his ways. Esme smiles a lot and talks with no problems. He tries to avoid her as much as possible and stick to his routine. But over time, he realizes that he likes having her around. He’s worried that she’s becoming an addiction, but he gives her a chance. Everything is awkward because of his touch issues at first, but he teaches her how to touch him and when.
Esme works, but also decides to take night classes to get her GED. She keeps this secret from Khai for awhile. She told him that she was an accountant so he would see her as smart. She is also keeping her daughter secret from him.
They have three months to fall in love and marry, or Esme goes back to Vietnam. She wants a better life for her family, but she also falls for Khai. However, he can’t give her the love she wants from him. He explains that he can’t love her and it breaks her.
Khai was definitely in control in this relationship. Esme cleaned and cooked. She did everything she could to please him. When the relationship gets physical, Esme does have to help him out and she gets a bit more control in that. I also love that she decided that she really didn’t need a man, even though she loved Khai.
I personally can’t say if the Vietnam or autistic rep was accurate, but because it was own voices, I assume both were well done. I don’t know if marriages are still arranged and I’m not sure how the power/control works (I’m a white American), but I really did enjoy this book. There were times that I disliked Khai a lot. But I also felt for him. He really didn’t know how to have a relationship.
I gave this book 4 stars. Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for my copy for review.
Have you read The Kiss Quotient of The Bride Test?