I’m going to borrow from Joey of Friends acclaim to summarize Helen Hoang’s fantastic The Bride Test: a sexy, kind, smart, hero and heroine who want someone to accept them? Good. The funniest scene with hammer pants that one could conceive of? Good. Lots of scenes with Khai’s brother Quân? Good.
Like lots of other people, I was bowled over by Hoang’s first release, The Kiss Quotient. The Bride Test definitely avoids the dreaded second book will-it-live-up-to-the-hype question—smashes it to smithereens, in fact.
It starts with our hero Khai’s mother, presenting our heroine, Mỹ, with an offer: to leave Vietnam and come to the United States as her son Khai’s fiancé, and convince him to go through with the engagement. Though Esme—as Mỹ calls herself in the US—has a huge motivation behind her decision to accept the proposition, she also has a tough task ahead of her: Khai does not believe that he’s capable of loving others, and he does not want to marry. Ever.
The relationship between Esme and Khai took me on a tour of all the feelings: hilarity (see hammer pants above); frustration; pride; lust; and lots of secondhand happiness. Given how she’s presented Esme and Khai earlier in the book, Hoang portrays the evolution of their relationship authentically, and beautifully. It doesn’t just happen; it requires trust and work, and that’s something lovely.
It also requires that Esme and Khai believe in their own value, something that Esme has trouble with at first. Seeing her grow throughout the book as she becomes her own heroine is its own kind of rush.
And the cherry on top of it all? How Hoang surrounds Esme and Khai with an amazing set of interesting, nuanced family members—characters who are characters. They are loving and quirky and fun to watch/read. And also hot. Thanks, Quân.
There was one small aspect of the reconciliation at the end that bothered me—it seemed a little too easily resolved, especially since the deception in question was kind of a big one, in my mind—but everything else was wonderful, offering further proof of why Helen Hoang is one of the best romance writers out there.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via the publisher, but all opinions provided are my own. Thanks, Berkley!
Q: What second book are you excited to read this year?
Give me that HEA, please.
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