Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (eARC)

The Bride Test

Author: Helen Hoang

Publication Date: 07 May 2019

Genre: Adult – Romance

Pages: 320

Publisher: Berkley

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’m going to preface this review by saying that I did not read The Kiss Quotient prior to reading The Bride Test. I don’t think it’s necessary in order to enjoy this book. With that being said, I was so completely enraptured by Helen’s spellbinding story that I currently have The Kiss Quotient in route, and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.

What immediately grabbed my attention in this story was the complexity of the characters. Both characters were raw, honest, and flawed. Khai Diep is a Vietnamese-American with a booming career and is autistic. Following the death of his best friend years prior, he has convinced himself that he is incapable of love and thus has no personal relationships. Esme Tran is a biracial (Vietnamese and White) cleaning woman from Vietnam who is caring for her daughter in poverty alongside her mother and grandmother.

Like most mothers, Khai’s mother is worried that he will never settle down and raise a family especially since his autism puts him at a disadvantage when it comes to personal relationships. She ventures to Vietnam to find a suitable wife for her son. She offers Esme the opportunity to go to California for the summer to get Khai to fall in love with her. If Esme is unable to succeed, Esme would return home to Vietnam. While Esme hesitates with the proposition, she ultimately decides that this opportunity may be the only way to offer her daughter a better life.

When Esme and Khai finally meet at the airport, Khai makes it clear that he does not desire a future wife, but he has agreed to keep up pretenses for the sake of his mother. This puts Esme and Khai in a bit of an awkward position because once Esme is exposed to this brand-new world outside of the destitute life she left in Vietnam, she is willing to do whatever it takes to stay…even if that means catering to Khai’s every need without any sort of emotional relationship.

Watching Khai and Esme’s relationship evolve was mesmerizing because of all of the challenges that they had to overcome. There was no head over heels, love at first sight. Esme and Khai literally started out as two strangers/roommates under one roof and progressed to lovers harboring secrets. The passion that these two had was unbelievably. I was definitely blushing during some of those steamy scenes!

One of the other relationships that I loved in this story was the bond between Khai and his older brother Quan. Even though Khai is a man of few words, the love that he has for his brother tugged on my heartstrings (even if Khai didn’t realize it was love). In the same respect, Quan would do anything for Khai, including protecting him against people who don’t understand someone like him.

Overall, this beautifully flawed romance captivated my heart. By the end, the characters felt like they were a part of me, and I was so disappointed when the story had to end. I can’t recommend this book enough. I’m already looking forward to rereading this book when my finished copy arrives.

Thank you Berkley Publishing and Edelweiss for an eARC of this book. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.  

Have you read The Bride Test? Is this one on your TBR? Let’s discuss!

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