“The Bride Test” by Helen Hoang

Thanks to Atlantic Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is apparently the second book in a series but there was no need for me to have had to read the first book in order to make sense of this one. Saying that, I’ll probably be checking out the first one soon because I really enjoyed the author’s writing style.

Contemporary romance is really not my thing but I fancied a change and 9 times out of 10 I enjoy Own Voices Asian authors. The author herself has autism so I was interested to how this was explored in the story.

The book is written in dual perspective. We have Esme, a young mixed race Vietnamese woman who works as a hotel cleaner, and Khai, a successful second generation Vietnamese man with autism living in California.

Khai’s mother is desperate to see him married, so she goes to Vietnam to search for a wife for him. There she meets Esme in the not so glamorous location of…a toilet..and offers her the opportunity of a lifetime – come to the US for the summer to try and steal Khai’s heart.

I really liked the characters in this one. Esme is smart, ambitious and charming and Khai is sweet and endearing. The supporting characters are interesting too and I particularly liked Khai’s brother Quan (write a book about him next please?). I was also glad to see the author didn’t go with the evil mother-in-law trope so common in this genre.

The romance was smart and sexy with just enough angst to keep my interest. I did get a slight whiff of instalove but not enough to put me off. There were times I wanted to scream “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!!” but that’s pretty standard for the genre. Best of all? No love triangle! Woo hoooooo.

My only real bugbear was the plotline with Esme’s daughter, Jade. Esme undertakes the journey to try and make a better life for her daughter, and then proceeds to not tell anyone about her or think about her much at. I don’t see why she was even included, she didn’t add anything to the story and it would have probably been more effective without her character. Sorry Jade, I’m sure you’re a sweet kid.

Overall, a fun contemporary romance with enough differences to elevate it above the crowd.

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