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.
When I think about it, there’s a lot in The Bride Test to nitpick about. Particularly Esme who is not even Esme. She’s Mỹ, a maid who unwittingly passes a bride test of Khai’s mother and flies to America in hopes of securing a husband and a better future. She is quick to embrace the new name of Esme. She lies to Khai about her occupation in fear of not being accepted. She also hides a huge truth that she has a little daughter back home.
And yet, I couldn’t help but feeling for Esme. I grew to be fine with all her deceptions and flaws, and began to root for her very early. I disapproved of many of her actions, yes. But I felt like a protective big sister, wanting her to triumph. And when I read the author’s note at the end that her initial concept of the story had Esme as the Other Woman acting as a nuisance in the main romance between Khai and an American girl, my feelings were solidified. Esme is a real character. She’s imperfect and dishonest at times. But she’s a fighter. And that’s what me loving her character despite the initial misgivings.
If you’ve read The Kiss Quotient, there Michael talks about his autistic cousin there. khai is that cousin. He’s extremely reserved, intent on maintaining distance with everyone, and finds himself incapable of love. And yet he’s considerate and kind, despite his unawareness about social cues. As his mother advises Esme, he only needs to be told in clear terms to understand things. There are reasons behind Khai’s reservedness and it’s not until the end that we find out why he finds himself incapable of feelings.
Khai and Esme somehow worked perfectly as a couple. I always love it when it’s the hero who’s a virgin. That just makes for such an interesting reversal! And here, it made Khai’s hesitance even more adorable. Khai’s growing feelings and his inner battle with his own conflicting emotions provided for the best kind of angst. Also, a special mention for Quan, who was an amazing brother and wingman to Khai. I’m hoping that the next book will be about him!
The ending might have been a little too cheesy and the resolution too easy, but I didn’t mind it. I’m happy to report that this time I was perfectly in the mood for the book, which sadly wasn’t the case with its predecessor. The Bride Test is just perfect romance with equal amounts steam and cuteness.