This is something new I’m doing! Especially if I’ve binged read a series! I’ll review all the books in one blog post! They’ll be split up in case you only want to read one review and a little shorter than my normal ones! However, it’s only right that I start with my most recent read series!
This review will go through The Kiss Quotient series by Helen Hoang in their respective order. However, I do believe each book can be read as a standalone.
I will separate each review in case you do not want to read the review for the next book. I will do my best not to include spoilers and will add trigger warnings if necessary.
All of these books are 18+ and very steamy in places!
The Kiss Quotient
It’s high time for Stella Lane to settle down and find a husband – or so her mother tells her. This is no easy task for a wealthy, successful woman like Stella, who also happens to have Asperger’s. Analyzing data is easy; handling the awkwardness of one-on-one dates is hard. To overcome her lack of dating experience, Stella decides to hire a male escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend.
Faced with mounting bills, Michael decides to use his good looks and charm to make extra cash on the side. He has a very firm no repeat customer policy, but he’s tempted to bend that rule when Stella approaches him with an unconventional proposal.
The more time they spend together, the harder Michael falls for this disarming woman with a beautiful mind, and Stella discovers that love defies logic.
I devoured this book. Literally. Devoured it in a day.
I added to this book to my ‘Best Romance Reading List‘ as there’s so much hype surrounding it but I’ve never actually gotten round to reading it. I was in a reading slump and this book brought me out of it so quickly!
I’ve never read a romance book that explores and portrays disabilities so well. Helen Hoang does so incredibly well that I want to stand up and applaud her.
With Michael and Stella, I was captivated by their story. Filled with themes of romantic love, acceptance, guilt and more, Hoang delves into the ‘fake relationship‘ trope giving us a romance that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Yet despite this being a romance, each character has their own set of issues and charactertistics that make them unique to the reader. From the cultural references to the portrayal of Stella’s disability, Hoang poured her heart into this book and it showed from the very start.
“If you can’t stand being with a woman who’s more successful than you, then leave her alone…If you actually love her, then know the value of that love and make it a promise. That is the only thing she needs from you…”
I have to talk about how much I loved Stella. Stella’s very brash way of talking and logical thinking was so heart-warming! I adore when authors give their characters something to obsess over as I personally love the human side of things it adds to the storyline. With Stella, Hoang nailed her love for Maths and we saw how it literally consumed her. It came across in her work, her everyday living and even, in her love towards Michael. It was honestly my favourite thing about Stella and I hate Maths.
Reading about Stella’s Autism made me realise that I honestly don’t know enough about it. Hoang introduced me to a whole new world. It emphasizes that people will experience the world differently to you. They will have different triggers and remembering to be cautious and think of others, is something I try to anyway. This novel only reaffirmed that I need to do it more.
I honestly think Michael is probably one of my favourite male romance characters ever written. He was kind, sweet, gentle and ever so patient with Stella. I truly saw the Vietnamese cultural references come alive with Michael and I adored reading about his relationships with his sisters and cousin. Even his love for fashion was incredibly beautifully portrayed.
Hoang framed this around a theme of ‘trying to be good enough’ and this idea that you need to be perfect in order for someone to love you. I think it’s something that happens in a lot of relationships, where we often change parts of ourselves to appear perfect in the eyes of the one we love.
Hoang firmly kicks that idea out of the park.
“She could change her actions, change her words, change her appearance, but she couldn’t change the root of herself. At her core, she would always be autistic. People called it a disorder, but it didn’t feel like one. To her, it was simply the way she was…”
It’s not necessary. She shows that with Stella. And then with Michael. Real love is accepting the person for who they are, and loving them entirely.
Both Michael and Stella are firm portrayals of this message. I adored this story and I can safely say that it lives up to the hype surrounding it.
If you’re looking for a super sweet romance novel, this one is for you!
The Bride Test
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?
Whilst, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as The Kiss Quotient. I was still very much invested in Kahi and Esme’s story.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Khai. We don’t hear much from him in The Kiss Quotient but all we know is that he has autism too.
I loved how Hoang really made me love Khai’s character. He came across as a silent but strong character. And it became clear from the very start of Khai and Esme’s arrangement that they were the opposite in every sense.
Yet, I adored Esme. Although she’s working her ass off to be liked by Khai, there’s not a time where she compromises her morals and what she wants from the relationship. She clearly wants the best for herself and her family. Her determination to take things into her own hands (as shown at the end of the novel) was when I truly began to adore her. She seemed manoeuvre every setback with grace and patience, I only wish I could have. And whilst, this is only fiction, I do think there’s a lot to be learned from Esme as a whole.
“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this? Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.”
If anything from Khai’s character, we’re introduced to grief. Whenever I think of grief, my stomach gets into knots because it’s something every single person on this earth can relate to. We’ve all experienced or will experience some sort of grief at one point in life.
The very thought makes me want to be sick.
As grief can be all-consuming. It can lead to so many other illnesses and a mental shift in mindset. At times, as we witness through Khai, we put walls up and refuse to let anyone in as a way to protect ourselves from this horrific feeling.
But like Hoang shows…this is impossible.
Khai is a representation that grief is unavoidable and that we all deal with it differently. But that taking time to heal is exactly what we should do. I know it’s easier said than done to face grief and thus, I won’t be suggesting that. However, Khai teaches readers that love is stronger than grief, which is somewhat ironic as arguably it is the very cause of grief.
Through Khai and Esme, we witness that everyone deserves love.
It’s healing. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful.
“Everyone deserved to love and be loved back…”
I can’t pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like about this book. I think Hoang could have gone deeper with the immigrant experience and the ending seemed too much like a ‘fairytale’.
Nevertheless, I do think this is still a great romance read and helped to bring me out of my slump. Helen Hoang is becoming one of my auto-buy authors and I’m terribly excited to start The Heart Principle next!
The Heart Principle
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex – he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her.
Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
*This e-ARC was kindly sent to me by NetGalleyUK and Atlantic Books, please read our disclaimer policy for more information!
Before we even get into this one I think I need to point out that this is probably a lot darker than her other two books. There are quite a few trigger warnings in this book but this is probably one of my favourite stories by her.
You could just tell that this book was personal to Hoang.
Considering this is the only book in the series written in the first person…It’s safe to say that Hoang poured her heart into this one.
From The Kiss Quotient, I’ve been waiting for Quan’s story. If you’ve been reading these books in order or even read ‘The Bride Test’ before this one. You’ll know just how much of a loving and fundamental character Quan has been from the start. He’s been my favourite for a while and I was overjoyed to finally read his story.
But gosh, did this one break me.
Anna. Where do I even start with her? There were parts of Anna’s personality that simply spoke to me. My whole life I’ve been told that I’m a people pleaser and I do the utmost to make sure that those around me are happy. My family and friends are my whole heart and even now as I type this review, I can think of moments where I’ve done something in order to please them, knowing that I haven’t wanted to do it. These last couple of years, I’ve been trying to train myself to establish boundaries with people.
Something that is incredibly hard to do if you’ve spent your whole life not doing so.
“Is anyone really living their life or are we all reading lines from a giant script written by other people?”
Society places such a burden on expectations. From the way you dress to the words that come out of your mouth, there are things that are socially acceptable and those that aren’t. Whether it’s within family, friends, your work or even the expectations you have for yourself. Much of life is driven by them.
I am expected to be a certain way as a woman…as a Black woman…as a daughter…as the eldest daughter, a niece, a granddaughter, a god-daughter, the eldest cousin, a friend…and even as a blogger. You all expect a certain level from me too.
And so, reminding yourself that these expectations shouldn’t be the driving force behind your very being is much harder than it sounds.
It can take years of unlearning. Years of letting go.
“The truth is art will never be as effortless as it used to be, not now that people have expectations of me.”
Watching Anna try to do the same thing was deeply personal. This alone made me connect with Anna on a completely different level. But yet, reading about Anna’s late diagnosis of autism honestly made me want to cry. Between this, her relationship with her family, caring for a terminally ill family member and Quan’s backstory…it’s a wonder how I wasn’t a sobbing mess throughout.
This book reaches emotional peak levels.
Hoang started an open and honest dialogue about caregivers and the pressure they feel. The guilt they feel for asking for help or even admitting they are struggling…Hoang covers it all. Caring for someone that is ill, let alone terminally ill, can be extremely emotional and mentally draining. Through Anna, Hoang portrays how we should never suffer alone and asking for help doesn’t make us weak.
It’s probably the bravest thing you could do.
You need to be the best person you can possibly be to care for that person. But how can you if you’re struggling yourself? Hoang delves deeper into the depression and anxiety that follows watching someone you love and care for deteriorating before your very eyes. And she does it so so well. My heart was aching for Anna.
Quan’s journey was so much more emotional than I anticipated it to be. In the previous novels, I don’t think we truly see this side to him but I loved it. I don’t want to go into too much detail but learning to love the body you’re in after major life-changing surgery can be extremely hard.
Consequently, Quan and Anna’s acceptance and reassurance for each other was everything.
“That’s what you do when you love someone. You fight, no matter the cost. You fight even when it’s hopeless.”
The ending felt a tad rushed and I would have loved for it to have been rounded off properly, which is why it dropped a star for me.
Nevertheless, I don’t feel as if this takes away from the raw emotion and humanity that this book exudes. Hoang is officially one of my auto-buy authors. This series was truly something special and I am in awe.