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The Bride Test
Cover of The Bride Test
The Bride Test
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From the USA Today bestselling 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.
From the USA Today bestselling 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.
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  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

    Copyright © 2018 Helen Hoang

    Prologue

    Ten years ago

    San Jose, California

    Khai was supposed to be crying. He knew he was supposed to be crying. Everyone else was.

    But his eyes were dry.

    If they stung, it was due to the heavy incense fogging the funeral parlor’s reception room. Was he sad? He thought he was sad. But he should be sadder. When your best friend died like this, you were supposed to be destroyed. If this were a Vietnamese opera, his tears would be forming rivers and drowning everyone.

    Why was his mind clear? Why was he thinking about the homework assignment that was due tomorrow? Why was he still functioning?

    His cousin Sara had sobbed so hard she’d needed to rush to the bathroom to vomit. She was still there now—he suspected—being sick over and over. Her mom, Dì Mai, sat stiffly in the front row, palms flat together and head bowed. Khai’s mom patted her back from time to time, but she remained unresponsive. Like Khai, she shed no tears, but that was because she’d cried them all out days before. The family was worried about her. She’d withered down to her skeleton since they’d gotten the call.

    Rows of Buddhist monks in yellow robes blocked his view of the open casket, but that was a good thing. Though the morticians had done their best, the body looked misshapen and wrong. That was not the sixteen-year-old boy who used to be Khai’s friend and favorite cousin. That was not Andy.

    Andy was gone.

    The only parts of him that survived were the memories in Khai’s head. Stick fights and sword fights, wrestling matches that Khai never won but refused to lose. Khai would rather break both of his own arms than call Andy his daddy. Andy said Khai was pathologically stubborn. Khai insisted he merely had principles. He still remembered their long walks home when the weight of the sun was heavier than their book-filled backpacks and the conversations that had taken place during those walks.

    Even now, he could hear his cousin scoffing at him. The specific circumstances eluded him, but the words remained.

    Nothing gets to you. It’s like your heart is made of stone.

    He hadn’t understood Andy then. He was beginning to now.

    The droning of Buddhist chants filled the room, low, off-key syllables spoken in a language no one understood. It flowed over and around him and vibrated in his head, and he couldn’t stop shaking his leg even though people had given him looks. A furtive glance at his watch confirmed that, yes, this had been going on for hours. He wanted the noise to stop. He could almost envision himself crawling into the coffin and shutting the lid to block the sound. But then he’d be stuck in a tight space with a corpse, and he wasn’t sure if that was an improvement over his current predicament.

    If Andy were here—alive and here—they’d escape together and find something to do, even if it was just going outside to kick rocks around the parking lot. Andy was good that way. He was always there when you needed him. Except for now.

    Khai’s big brother sat beside him, but he knew Quan wouldn’t want to leave early. Funerals existed for people like Quan. He needed the closure or whatever it was people got from them. With his intimidating build and the new tattoos on his neck and arms, Quan looked like one badass motherfucker, but his eyes were rimmed red. From time to time, he discreetly brushed the moisture from his cheeks. Just like always, Khai wished he could be more like his...

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 1, 2019
    A young Vietnamese woman seizes an opportunity to travel to America in hopes of finding a husband and a better life.Esme Tran isn't ashamed that she supports her family by working as a maid in a Ho Chi Minh City hotel, but she secretly wishes for a different life for herself and her 5-year-old daughter. After a chance encounter, a wealthy American woman invites Esme to spend the summer in the U.S., hoping Esme might be a good match for her son. Meanwhile, back in California, Khai is horrified to find that his mother has taken this drastic step, but he agrees to host Esme if his mother promises never to interfere in his life again. Hoang (The Kiss Quotient, 2018) has a gift for developing layered, complex, and dynamic characters. As a man with autism, Khai has dealt with the traumas of his past by convincing himself he has a heart of stone and is literally unable to love. Esme wants a better life for herself but wonders if Khai could ever be interested in her if he knew the truth: She's uneducated and has a young daughter she's hasn't told him about. Their misunderstandings and attempts to connect are full of grace, humor, and pathos. After an awkward sexual encounter, Khai asks his brother for sex advice in a painfully funny scene, and Esme's feelings of anger and hurt are just as lovingly crafted. As Khai and Esme spend more time together, they find that despite their differences, they are a perfect match. Their individual character arcs--Khai learning to understand his own heart and Esme's determination to pursue her goals and dreams--are just as pleasing and powerful as their evolution as a couple.A stunning, superior romance.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2019

    A genius with numbers, relationship-challenged, and diagnosed with autism, Khai Diep is horrified when his mother decides he's been single long enough and brings him a potential bride from Vietnam to consider over the summer. For Khai, it's just wasted effort because he knows he doesn't feel deep emotions such as grief and love and, therefore, would never be so unfair as to get married. But for Tran Ngoc My (Esmeralda)--biracial, beautiful, intuitive, and nothing like Khai imagines--it is a chance to make a better life for her family (including her young daughter) and possibly locate her birth father. As the summer progresses, this tender, laughter-laced pairing blooms, but is the August wedding that Khai's mother has planned really in the cards? A lively supporting cast, excellent detail, and exceptionally well-developed protagonists keep the pages turning. While a few plot points are tied up a bit too neatly, the conclusion is truly satisfying. VERDICT With care, humor, and sensitivity, Hoang dives into the very core of her characters, bringing them to life in a romance that is original, engaging, and emotionally hard-hitting. Gorgeously done. Hoang (The Kiss Quotient) lives in San Diego. [See "Spring Awakenings: Editors' Picks," LJ 2/19, p. 20; Prepub Alert, 11/26/18.]

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    April 1, 2019
    Hoang follows her well-received The Kiss Quotient (2018) with another charming and steamy romance featuring unlikely lovers. Khai Diep, who has autism, has trouble expressing emotions and doesn't think he'll ever fall in love, so his mother decides to play matchmaker. She returns to Vietnam to search for a likely bride and meets Esme, a young single mother and domestic worker living with her mother, grandmother, and daughter. She's never even met her American father, but being of mixed-race has always made her feel out of place. When Khai's mother suggests that Esme return to California with her to try to woo Khai, Esme embraces the plan as an opportunity to create a better life for her family. Drawing on her own and her family's experiences, Hoang again tells a winning love story that gives a voice to underrepresented characters. Readers will also enjoy cameo appearances from The Kiss Quotient cast of characters, including Michael and Stella. This is sure to be an ardently requested title.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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