Esme Tran has grown up in Vietnam always feeling like an
outcast. The white father she never knew has always been a
mystery - the only thing he left her with was green eyes.
She lives in a one-room apartment with mother, grandmother,
and her young daughter, Jade. For a living, Esme cleans at a
fancy hotel, and it's there that she meets the very rich
and glamorous Cô Nga who is looking for a wife for her
stubborn son, Khai Diep. Intrigued by Esme's charm and
hardworking nature, Cô Nga thinks Esme may be the perfect
bride for her son and offers to pay Esme to go to California
with the intention of seducing her son. Esme agrees, seeing
an opportunity to make a better life for her family.
When his mother tells him a woman from Vietnam is coming to
live with him for the summer and attend three family
weddings with him, Khai is stunned that she's going this
far to find him a wife. Khai has autism, keeps his life on a
strict, regimented schedule, and the prospect of living with
someone who he doesn't know or understand is inconvenient
more than anything. While Esme is beautiful and endearing,
Khai knows he'll never be able to truly open himself
completely and love someone.
As the summer continues, Khai and Esme slowly discover more
and more about each other. Esme learns how to comfort Khai
when he's stressed, and Khai realizes there's more to her
than just a pretty face. But when Esme's feelings become
real and Khai believes he incapable of love, will they put
their differences aside and take a chance on a relationship?
The follow-up to last year's wonderful THE KISS
QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang, THE BRIDE TEST is an
interesting contemporary romance. Khai is a forthright and
loyal man, and even though he's put off by his mother's
meddling, he lets Esme into his life. He learns so much
about himself, and begins to experience feelings in a
visceral and complete way. Esme takes the far-fetched setup
in stride, and fully intends to keep her end of the bargain
- she brings light and fun into Khai's life, even though
she's dealing with being apart from her daughter in a place
she's only dreamed of, and has an opportunity to find her
biological father. Esme's story also includes her
realization that she is capable of amazing, accomplished
things, adding a different storyline of growth and
self-worth. At times, the things both of the main characters
come to understand about themselves outshine their
relationship, but their individual developments were
important and lead to their abilities to be vulnerable and
honest. Nonetheless, when Khai and Esme finally begin to
figure each other out, their chemistry is hot and their
feelings are genuine. There's an amazing author's note,
where Hoang explains the inspiration behind this novel, and
it's a lovely addition to the overall context of the story.
From the critically acclaimed author of The Kiss
Quotient comes a romantic novel about love that crosses
international borders and all boundaries of the heart...
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.