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 loved The Kiss Quotient, so when I saw that Helen Hoang had written a book following Michael’s cousins, I knew I had to give it a read.
The Bride Test is similar to The Kiss Quotient in that it navigates romantic relationships when one of the parties is autistic. As an ownvoices author, Hoang noted that many of Khai’s mannerism and thoughts were reflective of her own; the ways in which ASD affect Khai are very different than what was explored in The Kiss Quotient, and I appreciated seeing how well Khai’s boundaries were communicated.
The Bride Test hits a lot of the tropes that I love: fake dating and forced proximity. Esme and Khai have complete opposite personalities (bubbly and cheerful vs. more negative) and balance each other well enough, however, I just couldn’t buy their progressing relationship. I didn’t feel the chemistry between them, and the very rushed ending wrapped up any miscommunications in a way that was unsatisfying.
What I appreciated the most about The Bride Test was the secondary story of Esme immigrating to America to create a better life for her family. Esme’s drive to carve out a place for herself in a foreign country was incredibly admirable, and I appreciate that Hoang drew from her own mother’s experiences when writing this story.
Overall, I didn’t love The Bride Test as much as I had expected. I’ll still read The Heart Principle when it comes out, though, because I loved Quan’s character.
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