The Bride Test
by Helen Huang
Published by Berkley
Book 2 in the kiss quotient series
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.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Contemporary Romance So sweet
The Bride Test is the second novel in Helen Huang's The Kiss Quotient series, and is a standalone novel featuring Khai, Michael's (The Kiss Quotient) cousin, and "Esme", a young woman from Viet Nam. When Esme comes across a parade of crying women while working as a maid at a hotel, she also finds herself being questioned by a wealthy woman from the US. When she answers these questions to this woman's satisfaction, she gets an odd offer: Spend the summer in America, and try to get her son to fall in love and marry her. For a single mom living in poverty, it's a chance she can't pass up, despite her misgivings. Only Khai isn't what she expects. Khai is on the spectrum, and thrives on routine, and isn't one for social interaction. So when his mother drops by with loads of fruit (that he doesn't eat), and tells him he will have a houseguest for the next three months, he isn't thrilled. At the end of three months, do these two manage to fall in love?
I had my misgivings about this book, but I really enjoyed it. Original for a forced proximity romance, and an interesting and fun storyline. Seriously, there were parts that had me CACKLING -----------> like Khai's confusion on why Esme was mad at him after his first time. <-----------, but there were also moments that had me an emotional mess. I was worried that because we were being introduced to another romance featuring an autistic individual, we would get a copy and paste situation. And sure, there are similar things between the characters of Khai and Stella, but they are normal things that bother many individuals on the spectrum. The differences on how they process information made the characters feel different.
I wasn't a huge fan of Khai's obstacle at the beginning of the book. It just seemed like such simplistic thinking on his behalf, when he doesn't have a simplistic mind. By the end though, I got it. As a neurotypical, it's harder for me to understand, but for someone on the spectrum, emotions, especially emotions resulting from traumatic events, are processed differently. It made sense by the end. As for Esme, I loved her. I really did. And I love how Helen ended her storyline. -----------> Having her achieve her dreams, get an education, and bring her family to America, on her terms, and not because of marriage, was an awesome twist to this story. Love. It. <--------------. In the end, while I wasn't sure if I would like this book (it's not a trope I am overly familiar with), but these characters, with both their strengths and faults, and this crazy family, made me fall in love with it. I can't wait to continue the series on August 31st, with Quan's story.
Esme thinking she broke Khai's shower
Esme cutting Khai's hair
Quan passing Khai a condom
Khai's sex talk with Quan and Michael
The second time they had sex.
Esme's decision to not marry Khai just for a green card, as it would set a bad example to her daughter.
Quan's idea to marry Esme to help her, but also hoping that it would push Khai to acknowledge his feelings.
Esme meeting her father
Khai's reaction to meeting Esme's daughter.
Esme: "Are you a spy like James Bond?"
He blinked several times.
Esme: "An assassin?"
Khai: "No, I'm not an assassin?"
Esme: "Too bad."
Khai: "You're stranger than I am."
He'd do almost anything if someone asked nicely - case in point being his current predicament, in which a knife-wielding woman was cohabitating with him - but if they threatened him ... He and Ruthie were waging a silent battle, and he was going to demolish her. It didn't matter that she was a hundred years old.
Esme gave the sapling one more solid whack, and the trunk split in two. The leafy top of the tree crashed to the ground, and she help the cleaver up proudly, saying
Esme: "I'm good with knives."
He backed away from the window slowly.
He held himself as stiff as a mannequin. What the hell did he do? He had a crying woman latched on to him like an octopus. He couldn't help recalling that the blue-ringed octopus was one of the most venomous animals in existence.
Don't upset the octopus.
In a split second, she redefined perfection for him. His standards aligned to her exact proportions and measurements. No one else would ever live up to her.
Quan: "Did she, you know, did she like it?"
Khai: "Yeah, that part was easy."
Quan: "Really? Your first time out of the gate?"
Quan gave Khai a skeptical look.
Quan: "What are you, the King Midas of Orgasms? I've been perfecting my craft since eighth grade, and sometimes I still don't know what I'm doing down there. Women are complicated."
Khai: "What craft? It's sex. You put bodies together, and shit happens. It's like the nature channel."
Quan: "I'm pretty sure we've figured out the problem."
Quan: "My guess is she didn't orgasm."
Khai: "What are the symptoms for orgasm?"
Quan burst out laughing and drank more of his orange hangover cure.
Quan: "Only you would talk about orgasming like it was a sickness."
Quan: "Fine, since you're mature as a nine-year-old, I'll start. Sounds are really misleading. Half the time when you have a noisy woman, she's a faker, and she wants the sex to be over because she's not digging it. It's better to watch her body. When a woman is about to come, she tenses up, and her hips rise. Her skin flushes. And when the orgasm hits, she convulses hard and fast. Her whole body might shake. If you're paying attention, you'll feel is on your cock or your fingers or your tongue, whatever you've got going on. It's fucking awesome."
Michael: "What he said."
Khai: "I don't know if she did all that. I was distracted by how good it felt."
Quan: "Were you inside her?"
Khai: "Well, yeah. That's how you have sex."
Quan gave him an impatient look.
Quan: "Did you touch her clit at all?"
Khai: "What's that?"
Michael: "Oh hell."
Quan smacked his palm to his forehead.
Quan: "Her clitoris. It's where you stimulate her to make her come."
Khai: "Where is it?"
Quan rubbed both hands over his face as Michael repeated
Michael: "Oh hell."
Khai: "What? They don't talk about the 'clitoris' in health class at school."
It didn't even sound real. For all he knew, it was an urban myth, like the Chupacabra or Roswell aliens.
Khai: "Really? Sex for Dummies? You read this?"
Quan: "It gives a good overview. I like this one best, though."
Quan set the books on the table and moved She Comes First to the top.
Quan: "Don't take everything in there as hard rules. They're just suggestions. I don't agree with all of it, but it's a good place to start.
Khai reached for the book but hesitated with his hand inches away.
Khai: "Are these books safe for touching?"
Quan: "Yes, you dork, they're safe for touching. I prefer jerking off to porn, not how-to-books."
Quan: "Don't forget to apologize. First with words. Then with your tongue."
Khai: "Last night was my first time."
She shook her head, not understanding.
Khai: "My first time. Ever. With a woman. With anyone."
Esme: "You never ... ?"
Khai: "I know it's not a great excuse. I should have prepared ahead of time to make sure I did right by you, but ..."
His expression softened.
Khai: "I'm glad it was you"
Khai: "Please, don't leet me make you cry. If something is wrong, tell me so I can fix it. Please."
Her heart squeezed, and she hugged him tight.
Esme: "I'll tell you."
Co Nga: "You come to see your woman, but not your mother. I see how it is."
Khai: "Why do you roll socks that way?"
She looked down and spun the sparkly bracelet on her wrist.
Esme: "You kept ignoring me. I did it to make you think of me."
Khai: "So you don't roll yours that way?"
she said with a laugh.
He tilted his head to the side.
Khai: "It worked."
Stella: "I know."