The Heart Principle
by Helen Huang
Published by Berkley
Book 3 in the Kiss Quotient Series
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 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.
The Heart Principle is Helen Hoang's latest addition to her Kiss Quotient series, and centers around Quan Diep, and Anna Sun. When Anna's career is at a standstill, and she can't get past a musical block, she feels like it can't get worst. That is, until her long time boyfriend decides he wants an open relationship before he settles down. Angry, and hurt, Anna figures if he can sleep around, so can she. Enter Quan - Anna's total opposite. Covered in tattoos, and rides a motorcycle. When their first attempt at a one night stand falls through, they decide to try again ... and again ... and again. Quan isn't a one night stand - he is more. He gets Anna in a way no one else does, and excepts her for who she is. When tragedy happens, and Anna finds herself in a situation she isn't fully equipped to handle, she is caught between wanting to please those around her, and being true to herself. Can she face the people she loves and tell them the truth - or will she continue to hide behind her truth, and lose Quan in the process.
I have been so excited for this book. Honestly, for a fairly new writer, Helen Hoang is so incredibly talented. Her stories are gripping, sweet, and give the reader just the right amount of feels. And hey, it also gives representation to the neurodiverse community. Popular romances that are written by a woman on the spectrum, and each book features a character on the spectrum. As someone raising three young human beings, all on the spectrum, I am all for more fiction books that feature autistic individuals that aren't all "Sheldon Cooper" robotic like. Because, fun fact - most people on the spectrum are not like that at all. So thank you Helen!
For The Heart Principle, I was surprised that we get a time jump. It makes sense, but it was surprising nonetheless. When I read the synopsis, I was equally surprised to see that Quan's love interest was a violinist. I mean ... Quan? Once we find out what has happened in the past two years in his life, it all makes sense though. --------spoiler----------> and its another example of representation. This is the first romance I have read that has a male character who is self-conscience about that fact that he lost a testicle to cancer. <-----------------. And I enjoyed Anna's character, and her story. Not only because she is a character representing an autism diagnosis as an adult, but because her story brings a level of awareness to the difficulties of being a woman on the spectrum, especially when it comes to masking, autistic burn out, and mental illness. This book hit harder than the others, because I knew instinctively that Helen Huang knew what she was writing (which is confirmed in her authors notes, and is one of the reasons the book was published late). I've also experienced one of my children struggle with it. So Anna's arc hit home. The romance - delicious. Everything Quan does in the end to support Anna and show her love, is perfect. Just perfect. My only complaint I have is we don't get enough of Quan's family. We know his mother is slightly crazy. With all the jokes about his crazy mom in the last two books, it would have been nice to see her.
If you are in the mood for a realistic romance, great story and character growth, and packs an emotional punch, Helen Hoang's newest book The Heart Principle is a great choice! I can't wait to see what else we have in store by the talented Helen Hoang!
Quan and Anna watching a documentary together, but not together
Anna learning about autism, and knowing in her gut that she is
Quan, Khai and Michael hanging out
Quan trying to figure out a way to make them both comfortable for their first time together
Making their relationship official
Quan and Anna's weekend together
Stella telling Quan he is important to the company
Anna getting her man back
Anna and her mom getting closer.
Quan taking care of Anna when she becomes depressed. Creating the butterfly garden <3
Quan and Michael's new deal
Birthday sex and cake
Anna learning to love music again
As Julian guides my head up and down, I think about how my jaw aches and I'm tired of sucking - is he even concentrating? It's been a long day, and after smiling and being bubbly for him throughout dinner, my endurance is shot. But I keep going. His pleasure is supposed to be my pleasure. It shouldn't matter if it takes forever.
Please don't take forever.
Naturally, this train of thought leads me to remember that line everyone's mom tells them at some time during their youth: If you keep making that face, you'll look like that forever. Ladies and gentlemen, if I'm going to be stuck with this sucking face for the rest of my life, you might as well kill me now.
Quan: "Just because something isn't perfect doesn't mean we need to throw it away."
Some people collect stamps. I collect quirks, stowing away secret traits about people in my mind like treasure.
Anna: "I don't want to give you a blowjob."
Quan: "That's ... perfectly fine."
She gives me a skeptical look.
Anna: "Are you sure?"
I can't help chuckling.
Quan: "Yeah, it's just a blow job. If you don't want to do it, don't do it. It's not a big deal."
Anna: "You're wrong. It is a big deal. I'm supposed to like giving blow jobs. A partner's pleasure is supposed to give me pleasure, and if it doesn't, that means I'm selfish. In books I've read, women enjoy it so much sometimes they burst into spontaneous orgasm."
Quan: "Wait, what books are you reading?"
No one should need a diagnosis in order to be compassionate to themselves.
Anna: "I can't believe i t. You're dorky."
A huge grin covers his face, though he looks almost shy.
Quan: "A little, yeah."
I touch my fingers to the fish that's inked onto his forearm and trace the scales on his smooth skin. I can't stop smiling. His dorkiness delights me.
Michael: "What's she like?"
Quan: "She's ... quirky, funny, really nice."
Michael: "You do like quirky. Remember that chick he dated who couldn't stand it when people saw her earing so she doggy-bagged everything?"
Quan: "Don't judge. Everyone's got their own issues."
Khai: "There was also the one who made him brush his teeth before kissing."
Quan: "That's just good hygiene, especially in the morning."
Michael points his glass to me.
Michael: "She also made you use hand sanitizer before holding hands and shower before sex."
Quan: "That wasn't a big deal."
Khai: "There was also the one who liked to lick him in public."
Quan: "Okay, I didn't love that."
Michael: "A smiley emoji straight off. That's a really good sign."
I narrow my eyes at him before typing 'Me too. Was thinking about you.'
Before I hit the send button, Michael looks over my shoulder at my phone and says
Michael: "What, no emoji? That's so impersonal. Add a heart."
I give him a disgusted look.
Quan: "Marriage has warped your brain if you think -"
He snatches the phone from me, body checks me when I lunge for him, and dances away, typing on my phone screen with his thumbs. When he tosses the phone back to me, the damage has been done. He sent my original message. Except there's a big red heart after it.
I'm going to kill him.
With my bare hands.
As painfully as possible.
But then my phone buzzes with a new message from Anna. 'I was thinking about you too.' And there, at the end, is a red heart, just like mine.
I stare at her message for the longest time, completely stunned out of my rage.
Michael; "Do you think she ... does she ... maybe she ..."
Michael wraps an arm around my shoulders.
Michael: "That, my friend, means she likes you. I read about this in Cosmo."
Anna: "I'm not ashamed of you. I don't want you to be like Julian. I want you to be just as you are. I love you. I don't know how I would have gotten through these past months without you. Every day in that house is hell for me, watching my dad suffer, watching him hate his life, and keeping him alive anyway. It destroyed me bit by bit until there was almost nothing I wanted to live for. I've been swallowed up in sadness and pain and hopelessness and every different kind of self hatred that exists. But you've been my bright spot. You've pulled me through. The only good thing this broken heart of mine can feel is love for you."
It never gets easier. I fight every time I set my bow to the strings but I stay true to myself.
I play from my heart.