Bingo Square: Listicle
When I saw the Listicle category, I figured the easiest way to find a list with something I wanted to read would be to google “Best Books of 2019” or “Summer Reads for 2019,” and Cosmopolitan came through for me. It had a few novels I had already read and enjoyed, a few that were already on my to read list, and has given me a few more novels to keep an eye out for. The Bride Test fell into the second category for me, one of those books I knew I would eventually read because I liked the author’s previous novel, The Kiss Quotient, but hadn’t been in a rush to read because I also had nitpicks with The Kiss Quotient.
While I think The Bride Test was in some ways more bland with two super sweet love interests just trying to figure out their lives, I also think I preferred this one because it was less angsty (and fewer sex scenes – which for me was a plus, because there were sooo many in The Kiss Quotient), and I felt like the communication gaps were more natural and explainable. Being a poor working woman from Vietnam, it seemed reasonable to me that Esme would have very little knowledge of what autism was or what it meant, thus not entirely understanding how Khai might react to things. Khai doesn’t believe he is capable of love because he doesn’t react to the events the way others do, and has interpreted that to mean he has no deep emotions rather than discussing his feelings with anyone and realizing he simply expresses them differently.
Khai’s mother is concerned that he will never try to meet someone or get married, so she goes to Vietnam to try to find a potential bride for him. When the women she had arranged to meet don’t pass her screening, My, the hotel’s young cleaning woman, catches her eye, and after an engaging conversation, she makes My the offer. My is very hesitant, but her mother convinces her that even if this opportunity doesn’t lead to marriage, three months in California could give her a chance to find her American father, and otherwise help her create a better future for her five year old daughter, the result of My trusting the wrong guy when 18.
Khai is very particular and set in his ways, but he also is a bit of people pleaser when it comes to his family, so he allows himself to be pushed into the arrangement by his mom. My, or Esme as she puts on her official paperwork, will live with him for three months, Khai will treat her as a fiance, spending time with her, taking her to the three family weddings that summer, and otherwise going on outings. If at the end of the summer he wants to marry her, he will; otherwise she returns to Vietnam but he has to at minimum give Esme a fair chance.
Khai quickly finds himself drawn to Esme, despite the disruption she brings to his life, while Esme thinks incredibly highly of Khai but worries about her lack of education and the huge difference in their backgrounds, trying to prove to him (and herself) that she is good enough for Khai. Khai’s best friend and cousin died 10 years before and since the memorial he has constantly doubted his ability to form real relationships or bonds with people.
As one of Michael’s cousins, the novel does allow the reader to see how Michael and Stella are doing, and their wedding is one of the three that Esme and Khai must attend. However, Stella was only mentioned in passing while Michael actually participates in a few scenes, most notably the hilarious phone call where Quan and Michael help Khai conduct an analysis of what went right and what went wrong during Khai’s first sexual encounter with Esme.
While I liked the story overall, sometimes Esme was a bit too sugary sweet and perfect for my tastes, hence the blandness factor. However, Hoang uses Esme to show some immigration and visa concerns, though obviously it all sounds much easier in this fantastical version of California than what I imagine reality to be.
I’m not sure if Hoang plans to write another story set in this family, but I’m guessing if so that Quan would be next on the list to find someone so we will see what comes next. Hoang is definitely a guaranteed easy, turn your brain off kind of read for me, but something about her just don’t get her into “must read, can’t wait for the next one” category for me.
Bingo Square: Listicle