Helen Hoang’s The Heart Principle was everything I wanted and more.
Our heroine Anna Sun is going through it. She is a violinist stuck in a loop after a performance video goes viral on YouTube. With every practice session, she wants to replicate that moment with precision. She ends up burned out and unable to finish the song. She is attempting therapy to find a breakthrough. Later that day, her boyfriend asks to “see other people” as an excuse to know that he’s ready to marry. WTF. Anna reluctantly agrees but is understandably worried about their future. In anger, she boldly decides to have a one-night stand too. She gets on a dating app and arranges to meet Quan.
Quan is the brother of the love interest in The Bride Test and the cousin of Michael from The Kiss Quotient. Quan and Anna meet and have an unexpectedly sweet connection. He is so patient and lets Anna set the pace. He goes home with her, but no sex. They decide to take things slow and be in the moment. Anna doesn’t know, but Quan is recovering from surgery. He was hoping to find some confidence after hooking up. Instead, he finds a sweet and intriguing person worth getting to know. One date turns into three, and they find something more. While going through major life changes, they find joy in the small things together.
Much of the middle of the book is devoted to Anna’s family dealing with her father’s illness. Her mom and sister cope in totally different ways. They attempt to make Anna bend to what they think is best. Anna is autistic and struggling with masking to fit in. Add to that her family doesn’t accept Quan. They prefer her previous boyfriend who is more “respectable”. Anna has too much on her plate. Under the pressure of caretaking and relationship expectations, she crumbles. The most beautiful part of the book is how she puts herself back together.
This story gripped my heart and didn’t let go. I adored how they bonded over nature documentaries and wandering around San Francisco. Quan may not look like what Anna’s family wants for her, but he’s exactly who she needs. They realize they have to work on themselves to make the relationship work. Hoang’s writing is so thoughtful and personal in this book. There’s so much sweet with the serious, which really worked for me. As I did with The Bride Test, you can read this book as a stand-alone if you choose. I only went back to The Kiss Quotient after reading that novel. The audiobook narration by Natalie Naudus is amazing and highly recommended. This is a romance that will make you swoon while also making you cry but in a good way.
Read more of my writing on my blog, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict.