Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Date published: May 7, 2019
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.
Since THE KISS QUOTIENT became a surprise favorite for me earlier in the year, you can imagine how psyched I was to receive an eARC of THE BRIDE TEST. I had super high hopes for this book (maybe that was one of the issues??) but overall, they were not met and I had quite a few problems with it. Let me try to sum up my thoughts:
- I really wasn’t sure what the tone of this book was supposed to be. I think it was supposed to be a romantic comedy? But there were certain scenes and aspects of the story that I found upsetting, and I couldn’t be fully invested in the fun tone I think it was possibly supposed to have. I found Khai’s characterization of having no feelings upsetting throughout the book, and the whole concept of their romance just bothered me.
- I felt like I couldn’t fully ship the romance, and they had no chemistry. I don’t think I shipped Khai and Esme from the get go because the basis of their relationship happened because Esme felt forced and icky. Their whole relationship felt really forced for me, probably because it kind of was forced on them, but the whole time, even as they got to know each other, I found myself unable to believe that Esme really had feelings for him that weren’t manufactured by the situation. She decided just looking at his picture that she would seduce him, so it was hard to believe in any real feelings for me, especially since Khai was also really reluctant for most of their romance. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and weird consent-wise.
- Esme’s motivations fell flat for me. At the beginning of the book, it seems like Esme is motivated to go to Khai because of her daughter, Jade, but then talk of Jade seems to fade somewhere in the middle. Though Esme does somewhat talk about feeling guilty for leaving Jade and for lying to Khai about her in the middle of the book, overall I feel like Jade was kind of forgotten about and it became unclear why Esme continued the relationship when Khai was being awful to her.
- I didn’t connect with either of the characters. I just felt painfully uncomfortable for them when I was reading, and I do not like secondhand embarrassment when I am reading or watching something. I didn’t feel the same connection I did with them that I did with Stella and Michael, and I didn’t feel as much for either of their characters because I was just so uncomfortable by their actions and the basis for their relationship.
Overall, I had a lot of issues with writing and romance craft stuff in this book. It did not seem as well put together and thought out as THE KISS QUOTIENT, and I definitely didn’t ship the romance as much as with THE KISS QUOTIENT. It is really hard to like a romance novel when you are not a fan of the romance, so unfortunately I will probably not be recommending this one even though I loved its predecessor.