Khai was supposed to be crying. He knew he was supposed to be crying. Everyone else was. But his eyes were dry.The Bride Test, Prologue opening
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 Goodreads
Helen Hoang delivers a charming, heartwarming contemporary romance that crosses continents. With communication and emotion as pillars of the story, readers fall in love with the sweet characters, meaningful message, and quality writing. This adult romance brings neurodivergence to the forefront with main character Khai’s Autism spectrum condition and tackles the unique personal skills, challenges, and assumptions he faces not only day-to-day but as possible obstacles to a close romantic relationship with a neurotypical woman.
Esme, the female lead, is unexpectedly scouted in her home town of Ho Chi Mihn City as a strong match for Khai, an attractive man in sunny California, and is offered an opportunity in America. She makes the incredibly difficult decision to leave current job, her daughter, and everything familiar for a few months with the chance to build a better life in the land of opportunity. Esme sets out to win over Khai and maximize her short stay, but the task proves much more difficult than she expected. Right away it’s clear Esme is tenacious yet kind. She’s a very loveable character with incredible ambition, easy to read and connect with. Her efforts to win Khai over by doing chores and tidying was one of the most sweet but hilariously ineffective series of scenes to read about.
Khai, the male lead, has a bit of a rocky start. He’s woefully unaware of his mom’s most recent elaborate efforts to get him a wife, and his life is suddenly overturned by the beautiful but confusing Esme – a feeling further compounded when he learns she’ll be staying in his house for the summer as a trial engaged couple. Khai has already made peace with the fact that he processes emotions differently, and feels he isn’t capable of the type of love a life partner would need. He’s unselfishly determined not to lead Esme on, but slowly finds her sweet personality drawing him in. Khai leans on his more experienced, knowledgeable brother and friends to help him navigate the ins and outs of a relationship and how to approach handling Esme. What follows is an endearing and inspiring story that emphasizes the huge importance of communication and openness in relationships.
The Bride Test was such a great breath of fresh air – no over-the-top shocking plot points or contrived drama. What you get instead feels strikingly real. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys romance featuring neurodivergence.