A romance novel with depth and decent writing? Welcome to 2019! Though I never read romance, I’m currently in a rom-com kick, and The Kiss Quotient grew too buzzed for me to ignore. As an #OwnVoices story, author Helen Hoang writes herself into Stella Lane, our heroine, a thirty-year-old mathematician whose Asperger’s makes it difficult for her to be in a relationship. After a date gone wrong, Stella arranges for male escort Michael to be her “practice boyfriend” until the two discover they aren’t really “practicing” anymore… It’s a sweet, enjoyable story that made me smile continuously.
From the back cover:
Stella Lane comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s or that French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional–which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. With the looks of a K-drama star and the martial arts moves to match, the Vietnamese-Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer. And when she comes up with a lesson plan, he proves willing to help her check off all the boxes. Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
“She had a disorder, but it didn’t define her. She was Stella. She was a unique person.”
-Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient
The Kiss Quotient surprised me with two very real, personable characters that I quickly became attached to. I loved Stella, specifically the way Hoang treated her Asperger’s. She addressed the ways Michael and the public might judge Stella’s actions as socially-awkward, even though as the reader I was able to attribute Stella’s quirks to her high-functioning autism (though the scene at the Larsen family dinner still made me cringe!). I also fell in love with Michael’s character and the complex interpersonal conflict Hoang creates for him. Not only is he trying so hard not to be like his deadbeat father, but he also takes care of the women in his family, and works as an escort (ugh, that word makes me uncomfy!) just to pay his mother’s hospital bills. Talk about a knight in shining armor! Both characters are extremely well-written that, if not for the R-rated content, I can imagine this book being shelved in fiction rather than romance.
“All the things that make you different make you perfect.”
-Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient
Like a gender-swapped Pretty Woman, Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient is a fun, breezy romance novel that really surprised me with great character depth and a complex love story. I really appreciated the Asperger’s representation, and though I think the novel may be slightly over-hyped, I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable yet complicated romance novel!
Find this book on Goodreads.