In Hoang’s previous book, The Kiss Quotient, Stella Lane, a 30-year old attractive and smart woman with Asperger’s living in Palo Alto, California, ends up in a relationship with Michael Phan, a half-Vietnamese, half-Swedish escort who looks a Korean martial arts movie star from her favorite film genre.
This book, related to the first, is about Khai Diep, Michael’s cousin. Khai is also on the autism spectrum, and has trouble expressing or even recognizing emotions. He is 26 and very handsome, but has never had a girlfriend. He is overwhelmed by insecurities from knowing he is “on the spectrum,” and doesn’t think it would be fair to impose himself on someone else. He considers himself a “lone sock.”
Khai’s mother, Cô Nga, decided to take matters into her own hands, and traveled to Viet Nam to find someone suitable for Khai. Cô Nga staged a “bride test” at a fancy hotel, but wasn’t satisfied with any of the entrants. Instead, she settled on 23-year-old Tran Ngoc Mỹ. (Vietnamese names put the family name first followed by the middle and given names. Thus Mỹ is the first name.) Mỹ wasn’t taking the “bride test”; rather, she was working as a cleaner in the bathroom of the hotel. But Mỹ was the only one who met Khai’s mother’s criteria, and Cô Nga offered Mỹ a trip to California for six months plus expenses to see if she and Khai “fit.” She told Mỹ, “If you don’t, no problem, you go home. At the very least, you’ll go to all our family weddings and have some food and fun.”
Mỹ accepted, leaving behind her five-year-old daughter Jade in the care of her mother and grandmother. Mỹ’s mother was all for this trip: it could be a chance to make a better future for Mỹ and Jade. Taking the more American sounding name Esmeralda Tran (“Esme” for short), Mỹ left for California. While there, she also hoped to locate her father, a man she never met but who went to Cal Berkeley.
Esme doesn’t expect to fall for Khai, but she does. Khai is attracted to Esme and grows to like having her around, but wouldn’t know how to recognize love if it hit him on the head. Once again, Khai’s family must intervene; Khai’s brother decides to deliver a metaphorical hit on the head to Khai. Khai needs to understand that sometimes, what he thinks is the “flu” may just be an experience he thinks he cannot have.
An Epilogue that takes place four years later will satisfy everyone.
Discussion: Hoang revealed in an Author’s Note that this story was greatly shaped by the lives of her own parents. Her mother was a hard-working immigrant from Vietnam, and her father is on the autism spectrum. It is perhaps for this reason she draws her characters with such empathy and love.
In particular, Hoang emphasizes her pride in her mother, and how “with no money, no connections, broken English, an eighth-grade education, and no help from the men in her life, she was able to work her way into owning not one, not two, not three, but four successful restaurants in Minnesota.” This admiration is brought to bear on the development of Esme’s character, who believes she is worthwhile in spite of her poor background. Like Hoang’s mother, Esme is determined she can achieve anything if she works hard enough.
As in Hoang’s previous book, sex comes first, then the romance, and eventually love. And by sex, I mean: a great deal of sex. It is not portrayed distastefully, however, as in so many adult romances, and there is not one “throbbing member” to be found anywhere.
Evaluation: This is a very sweet story, with lots of humor, lots of romance, and with endearing characters you would like to see again.
Published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2019
Your description of sex scenes made me laugh! The author’s mother reminds me of my own grandmother. This book sounds like fun!
This sounds a little like The Rosie Project books and I loved them. I actually have The Kiss Quotient checked out from the library now but I haven’t started it. I’m going to stat after reading this.
There’s no throbbing member but is there an ear tuck? Lol
Just posted my review of this as well. I felt the same way in a lot of senses – I really really enjoy Hoang’s romances!
Sounds such a good book. I like the ” hard working immigrant” stories so this is one for me. Thanks for the review.
This *does* sound fun. I always read the author’s note because it often provides extra insight (as it did here).
I can’t wait to read this! I love a good romance novel, and everything I’ve heard is that this is a terrific one.