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.
Something about The Bride Test hits you right in the feels. It’s definitely not as explicit as The Kiss Quotient; there’s still smut, but it’s toned down a lot more. Instead, the focus is on the emotions at play in this relationship.
My heart breaks for Khai, spending ten years with the assumption that he’s broken and incapable of love. He loses his best friend and thinks his reaction is so out of the ordinary that it must be because of his autism. How is there no one in his life to help walk him through this? To help him realise that while his reaction may differ, it doesn’t mean he has no response or is incapable of one. Instead, his family seems to have had this conversation behind his back and just let him get on with his life, emotionally stunted in an incredibly avoidable way.
And then there’s Esme. As Hoang notes in the end, she’s really the star of the show. Does she cry way too easily and too often? Yes. Everything sets her off. But, thankfully, it doesn’t stop her. In fact, nothing stops her. Every obstacle is short-lived, and she’s already off and figuring out what to do next. She accepts and loves Khai for who he is and expects the same in return. And while she will do anything to support her family, she refuses to settle for less than she deserves. I love her spirit, and while Khai is a great character, Esme dominates this story. It’s not Khai’s fault; Esme would outshine anyone around her.
My [ORGINAL] Review:
January 18, 2022
solid, good read:
Even better than the first book!
Khai is unbelievably sweet. His story is sad and lonely but he opens up so much and so honestly, it feels real. Esme is an incredible protagonist. She’s brave and intelligent and she stands up for herself, not settling for anything less than she deserves. When an obstacle is thrown in her way, she doesn’t give up she tries to find another way around and just keeps trying over and over until she finds a way.
I loved how once again Khai being on the spectrum was part of the story but wasn’t the whole story. He was allowed to be a complex character and his ASD contributed to both his faults and his good qualities, the same as anyone’s unique traits contribute to their personality.
I enjoyed that the chapters alternated POVs so that you could see the evolving relationship from both sides. Where Khai came off as distant or uncaring from Esme’s perspective, you learned he was battling his own insecurities and inexperience. And when Esme seemed brash or oblivious from Khai’s perspective, it was easy to see from hers how she was just trying to make a place for herself in a new country and so far away from her own family.
I do wish there was a little more Michael and Stella from the first book in this one. That’s usually the best part of a romance series with the alternating protagonist – getting a glimpse into the lives of the last happy couple. And there were a few here, just not as many as I would’ve liked!
Yes, this still includes lots of very descriptive smut. I’m not sure if I’ve just acclimatised after the first one, but this one did seem a little more sweet and innocent. And after a few very graphic scenes it’s much more PG. This book seems much more of a love story whereas the first one relied much more heavily on sex.