When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
One was smutty, two was sweet, and three was serious.
Like, really serious. Anna is having a serious mental health crisis, accepting a new diagnosis, caring for a loved one in a way she disagrees with, in an unwanted open relationship, trying to be more honest in her life and relationships, and stuck masking and playing the perfect daughter and sister. It’s a lot, and Hoang handles it beautifully and honestly.
For that's the only place where true perfection exists—the blank page. Nothing I actually do can compete with the boundless potential of what I could do. But if I allow the fear of imperfection to trap me in perpetual beginnings, I'll never create anything again.
The way Quan and Anna respect and care for each other from day one is absolute perfection. They make space for the other to struggle and make mistakes while respecting their own standards and beliefs. It’s not easy – this kind of relationship takes a lot of effort from everyone involved – but it is clearly worth it. They both (well, mostly Anna) make some big errors in judgment, but it’s hard to break a pattern you’ve followed your entire life, even if it’s all you want to do.
I appreciate the honesty of the ending. Serious issues aren’t solved by finding the right boy and falling in love. They take time, work, and patience.
The check-ins over the two years after the death of Anna’s father demonstrates this perfectly.
Unfortunately, this took away from the story’s momentum for me. Because of how intense the relationships are throughout the book, these glimpses into the after feel vague and disconnected and lack the depth of the before and during. This is my only complaint, though.
There were a few quick check-ins with Michael and Stella, which were awesome – but only one with Khai, and where was Esme?!
I loved The Bride Test, but I’d say that The Heart Principle is marginally better – likely due to the serious content matter. Hoang’s writing has evolved throughout this series, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.