Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Posted June 4, 2022 by Kate

Review: The Bride Test by Helen HoangCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Romance, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Kiss Quotient #2
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Libby (My Library app)

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.

One of my goals for this year to actually read more books from new-to-me authors that I enjoyed!! So shortly after reading and loving The Kiss Quotient, Helen’s debut, I picked up this second book… and to no surprise, I loved it.

Helen Hoang, even after reading only two of her books, is someone I’ve come to deeply respect, especially after reading her Author’s Notes. In the Note at the end, she revealed that Esme, the main character, was originally not the heroine, but the awkward leg of a love triangle. Except Esme kept outshining the American woman, and Helen had to have a difficult conversation with herself about why she (the daughter of an Immigrant) felt the need to “Westernize” her character. I love this anecdote, and I’m so thankful she included it at the end of the book because it adds so much depth to the already layered story I just read.

The Bride Test is an incredibly sweet romance, but it also tells the story of a determined, uneducated Vietnamese immigrant, and a single mom, coming to the United States. Knowing that this heroine has the heart of Helen’s mother, who’s experiences loosely inspire the story, makes it that much better. I think it’s important to mention that this is a light-hearted rom-com, so the immigration story is rather superficial, but Helen does a great job balancing her chosen genre with a harder story. She manages to tell just enough that we’re able to read between the lines and see the bigger implications, meanings and emotions, without getting too deep and making it the central focus of the story.

Our hero, Khai, is autistic, similar to Stella from The Kiss Quotient. However, he was not a copy-and-paste representation, and his autism affects him in different ways. In addition to conversations around autism, immigration, poverty and education, I loved how Helen is able to make mutual respect and consent so sexy!

She didn’t need a rich man. She just needed someone who was hers.

Khai and Esme are both dynamic, flawed characters who I didn’t always understand. I cannot and will never understand cutting down a tree with a meat cleaver 😂😂 But they had this spark of life, and where Esme was concerned, a brave, brashness that I adored. Her literally reorganizing and moving around everything in Khai’s house, including folding his socks a different way, so he’d be thinking of her throughout his day… I cried. That was so funny! Esme was such a great character, really. I also quite enjoyed that marriage wasn’t the end-all, be-all for her, and she never gave up on trying other avenue’s.

I adored this book… but there were some things that I was disappointed by. First, I wish we got more of life outside the time they shared together. I wanted more of Khai’s family, more of Esme’s time at the restaurant and at classes, more moments of her thinking about/interacting with her child, and maybe Khai at work? The story was largely cloistered between the two of them, at home. I was really looking forward to scenes between Khai and Jade, even though the ending was very sweet, I’m disappointed I didn’t see much of that.

Finally, I wish the character’s weren’t so passive in their own relationship. I struggle with this a bit, because I was disappointed by the fact that their relationship was always moved forward by outside forces/family nudging and identifying their emotions for them… but I also realize that I’m reading a romance between an autistic man and a woman who comes from an entirely different culture and doesn’t speak the language as well. Communication issues and culture clashes were inevitable, especially with such a power imbalance, as Esme had so much more at stake. I realize this is a selfish point, but it’s how I felt nonetheless. Especially when she took so long to tell Khai about her daughter. Okay, and I also wanted to see more of Khai doing his martial arts/judo thing. What??! It was sexy when we saw him going at it in The Kiss Quotient!!

Suffice it to say, Helen is an auto-read author for me right now!! Book three, The Heart Principle, just came through on a library loan so I’ll be picking that up very soon. I’m already obsessed with Quan (like SERIOUSLY), and I can’t wait to see what meaningful conversations Hoang subtly weaves in.

Series Reading Order…


Have you read a Helen Hoang book? Let me know in the comments down below, I’d love to hear from you!

Chat with me!