Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Date published: June 5, 2018
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
I did the thing! I read an adult book! And it’s a backlist book! And it was fluffy! And a romance! And I really liked it! Who even am I anymore? I’m reading books outside of my comfort zone and am inspired to read and write things that are not YA? Oh wait, the writing is another post topic. Let’s get back on track here.
THE KISS QUOTIENT is not my first foray into adult romance, but it is the one I’ve liked the most, other than a couple manuscripts I read as an editorial intern with Entangled. I’m slightly torn because there were some writing craft things that bothered me but also I just enjoyed it so much and was so entertained?? So this book is still four stars for me if I was the type of person who did book ratings, which I am not. Okay, onward with the review…
One of the main selling points on this book is the diversity elements, and I think both characters were handled really well. I can’t speak to the actual rep for Autism because I am not autistic, but I can say that Stella was written really differently than any other autistic character I’ve read. In most other books I’ve read with an autistic character, the story was all about them being autistic, and it became the only part of their personality, but in this book, Stella was definitely a full person who just struggled (sometimes) with autism. I thought the book did a really great job of explaining how Stella’s autism effected her without making her entire personality about autism. It also showed her having a full range of living experiences outside of her autism, even though it was still a part of her and something she dealt with, in a full way. I personally learned a lot about Stella’s form of autism through this book, and I think people would read this and be reminded that autism is different based on the individual person and doesn’t mean just one thing for everyone.
I also really loved Michael and his family. I thought Hoang crafted a really compelling backstory for Michael and that she made his escorting not necessarily “make sense” but seem more sympathetic to readers who might otherwise write him off for doing sex work, which I appreciated. One of the writing things that bugged me a bit was that what happened with his father and finding out who his father was happened so late in the book. Realistically, that would be in someone’s mind all the time, so revealing it later on like that just didn’t make emotional or logical sense to me, and I personally don’t really like it when you’re with a particular character in a story for a while and then find out something in a “twist” way later on even though they logically would’ve been thinking about it the whole time. I think this is probably just a nitpicky, “me” thing, and it definitely didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
On the Michael note, I adored his whole family. Their dynamics were so entertaining, especially the girls who were not twins, and his relationship with his mom was so sweet. Every single scene with Michael’s family just warmed my heart. I always like it when book characters have close relationships with their families (probably since I’ve read so many abusive and absent parent YA books), and Michael’s family was just delightful.
I also really appreciated how important consent was in the book. Michael really cared about making sure Stella was comfortable any time they did ANYTHING, even kissing, and took great care with her emotions. He also got so incensed when finding out that other men had sex with her when she was visibly in a bad place, which made my heart soar and melt. All the sexual stuff was actually handled really well, and I wasn’t actually as uncomfortable with it as I usually am while reading anything sexy, probably because it was handled with such sensitivity and consent was a huge part of every sex scene.
Plus I shipped them?? So?? Much??? I loved that Michael knew right away that Stella was basically his dream woman, and took the time to get to know her and be sensitive to her needs, even when he didn’t know she was autistic. One thing I will comment on is I found the changes in their relationship often abrupt, like they suddenly decided sex wouldn’t be a part of it, then kissing wouldn’t but he immediately kisses her again, then they suddenly decide it’s a practice relationship and not practice sex. I would’ve just liked some more consistency or flow in terms of the changes in their relationship status.
Obviously I have a lot of Thoughts about THE KISS QUOTIENT, but I guess I will end this review here before it gets too long and is basically a five page essay about how much I loved it. I am very happy that my first venture into adult romance in 2019 was a success, and I am also very excited that Helen Hoang is coming out with another book this year, THE BRIDE TEST, which I will definitely read immediately and may even possibly preorder, because that is how much I liked THE KISS QUOTIENT.