Read In One Sitting! The Bride Test by Helen Hoang Review
Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book from Penguin Random House for review. My views and opinions about the book, however, are entirely unbiased. Some light spoilers ahead!
Title:The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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.
Rating: 4.5 stars!
The past couple of years may have turned me into a slow reader, but that hasn’t stopped me from devouring Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test in one glorious sitting!
Hard to believe, I know, especially since it now takes me at least a week to finish any given book, but here we are.
I tried to pace myself, I really did, but in the end, the book’s fluid pace, arresting characters and giddy romance won over my self-control. (But then again, what’s new, right?)
In The Bride Test, we follow Khai, a reserved workaholic with a strong aversion to women (especially the ones his well-meaning Vietnamese mum sets him up with) and Esme, a hardworking girl from the slums of Ho Chi Minh who has dreams of changing the course of her life.
What happens when their paths cross?
Can Khai learn how to love, despite believing that he doesn’t know how to, because of his autism?
Is marriage to a virtual stranger the key to Esme’s dreams?
There’s a lot to love about The Bride Test, and to be honest, I enjoyed this one more than The Kiss Quotient. For one, I found the story to be more vivid and it was, overall, more neatly tied together than its predecessor. I found it funnier, too, and more relatable.
One of my favorite parts about The Bride Test is how it succeeds in depicting many important narratives.
On one hand, it tells the story of Esme— the “mail-order bride” who jumps at this very odd opportunity to go to America just to make a better life for herself and her family.
Esme’s story— albeit told in a light tone in this novel— is not an unfamiliar tale.
See, for many people here in Asia, America is basically paradise.
It’s the Garden of Eden.
The land of (processed) milk and honey.
A ticket out of poverty.
That’s why in real life, scores of young Southeast Asian girls throw caution to the wind just to set foot in the States. They’d marry virtual strangers (who are usually several years older than them) just to get a green card and send money back home.
These real-life girls have a lot in common with Esme. Esme faced similar struggles and in so doing made these Southeast Asian girls more human to the audience.
Esme’s journey even touches base on stuff that one doesn’t normally consider romantic, like the struggles of immigrants, the lives of mixed-race Asian kids with absentee fathers, and being a young parent in a developing country. It’s crazy how one character arc can show all this and I’m so happy that the author pulled it off beautifully.
Then we have Khai, this drop-dead-gorgeous-reluctant-potential-husband who just so happens to have Asperger’s.
Again, Hoang does her magic by writing Khai as a fully-fleshed out human being. Sure, we can chalk up his a-la Kpop star good looks to the romance plot of everything, but beyond that, the reader also gets a good view of what it means to be someone with autism in the world today.
Khai is the perfect foil to Esme: he’s an Asian boy who grew up with all the comforts of America, but is still somewhat different from the people around him.
I love how the author lets us see how Khai responds to different situations and emotions. Personally, reading about Khai gave me a deeper understanding of how people with Asperger’s deal with things like grief, happiness, and love— and I, again, appreciate how the author wrote his character with much heart and vibrancy.
It’s Not A Conventional Love Story But It Is A Love Story And I Love It
I enjoyed The Bride Test so much because it wove all the “serious” elements above into a giddy love story. Want an honest-to-goodness Enemies to Lovers trope? It’s here. Moments to swoon over? Covered. Steamy romance? Also covered.
As we say in Filipino, it’s kilig to the bones. Hoang injects humor and balances it with just a little bit of angst and heartbreak to create a contemporary masterpiece.
If you loved The Kiss Quotient, you will for sure enjoy The Bride Test.
The pace is nice and even, the characters are relatable despite their different circumstances, and the romance simply makes you keep turning the page. Before you know it, you’ve finished the entire thing in one sitting and are now left with this deep feeling of satisfaction.
Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was literally one line. It’s the one that had something to do with debit and credit, but I can forgive this book for that major cringe.
It’s still a 5-star romance for me!