My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A romance with characters that express so much more than just physical attraction, but also grasps the heart of the reader with the tender emotions that are portrayed…
Once this beauty landed in my hands, I knew that there was no backing down of putting everything to the side and start it. That’s what Helen Hoang does to you once you get a small glimpse of her writing. I remember last year how hesitant I was about reading The Kiss Quotient because of all the hype and love it kept getting. When it comes down to novels that are hyped too much, I like to back away from them and maybe read them in a month or so once the hype calms down. Thank the heavens I didn’t, because I would have never encountered upon Helen’s marvelous and unique way of putting so many in depth emotions to the page. I would have never gotten to understand, that even individuals whom may be different in some way, socially, physically, emotionally… anyway. There is still a fighting chance of finding love, cherishing that love, and grasping it for dear life. That’s what Khai has demonstrated in this compelling romance novel that will have you running for more tissues.
In my reviews, I really don’t like to talk about the story plot of the characters. I like to focus on the way the story plot comes to be and how it changes my mind and mood. Helen does so by implying this new character, in which we came across in The Kiss Quotient during Stella’s and Michael’s story. Khai. That intriguing and mysterious autistic young man, that had picked my interest from that small glimpse we got of him. His way of living is structured, has a routine that he follows every single day and should not be tempered with. From the point of view of his family such as his mother, brother Quan (whom shall be brought up in a moment), and his sister Vy (whom shall also be brought up in a moment…) he is a simple man who enjoys his lifestyle as an accountant, takes his shoes off once he arrives to his two bedroom home and enjoys the feeling of his old carpet against his feet. It’s the little things that one would not be able to understand why they are so important in which in that unique side of him, his extended family never understands. Emotions is something that Helen touches a lot when it comes to Khai. He does not come to a realization that, even though he states he cannot comprehend emotions in general; anger, happiness, sadness, disappointment, and love—he truly is a strong human being whom expresses all those feelings.
That’s when Mỹ, aka Esmeralda, aka Esme comes along. A twenty-three year old young lady from Việt Nam whose dreams had to take a pause because life came in the way. Supporting her mother, grandmother, a special someone who shall not be named for the sake of spoilers, is what Mỹ had been doing before she encountered upon Khai’s mother whom was looking for a bride for him. She is instantly drawn to Mỹ and offers for her to come to the states for the summer and try to seduce her son, Khai. Mỹ of course has to think about it because she has to support her family. But after a very thorough decision, she decides to accept the offer and goes to the states to try and make Khai fall in love with her.
At first, meeting Esme with the circumstances he was put in by his mother, is not something Khai is pleased with. She moves in with her, but he is also instantly drawn to her natural beauty. Her eyes captivate him in the best of ways, making his body react in ways that have never acted before. The attraction is there and it’s beautiful to read that a gentleman such as Khai, whom does not believe he can ever love anyone, expresses these feelings towards Esme;
“Strange, incomprehensible, beautiful woman. She said the funniest things and smiled all the time. His fingers itched to touch that smile, and he sipped away out of self-preservation…”
Weeks pass and Esme and Khai learn how to adequately be with each other. That does not stop Khai’s body from acting in a non-gentleman way of course. Which I find so endearing to read from the third point of view. He knows he cannot deny that attraction, but he also knows that he shouldn’t act upon it;
“She was already a song that payed on endless repeat in his head. If he started having sex with her, this thing would escalate into pure addiction, and what the fuck would happen when she left at the end of the summer?”
Once feelings expand, that’s when the struggles begin to form for Khai. Things take a turn when Esme comes across wanting to have a life in America, a life in which she can set as an example for her next in kin. Her dreams come back to life and want to expand and explore everything that is out there for the world to offer to her, but she knows that if she doesn’t fight she will not get far. That includes Khai’s love towards her as well.
Overall, as previously mentioned… Helen has created a story that has truly gasped my heart and pierced it with her words. It made me cry, made me giggle, and made me swoon over the love and admiration Khai has towards Mỹ. Stories such as this one are not found very often and that’s why they need to be cherished in the best of ways. Thank you so much to Berkley for being so generous with this advance copy. And as previously mentioned, Quan and Vy better come next. Vy’s story should be mysterious to read because we really don’t know much about her. But Quan however… **sighs** he is the rugged brother, with sexy tattoos that will have me drooling over him once Helen writes his story… that’s IF she does it… **wink wink Helen Hoang**
ARC galley kindly provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review…
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Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since.
In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT.
She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.