Series: The Kiss Quotient #2
Published by Berkley on May 7, 2019
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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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.
Delightful! A wonderful follow up to The Kiss Quotient. I can’t wait to read more from Helen Hoang.
The Kiss Quotient was my favorite novel of 2018, and while Khai and Esme can’t supplant my love for Michael and Stella, they certainly worked their charms on me. What is amazing about story writing is that author Helen Hoang states in her author notes at the end of the story that Esme wasn’t originally intended to be the romantic heroine of this story. She was originally intended to be an impediment to Khai’s true love, but Esme charmed Helen charmed as well and the story changed to Esme and Khai. After finishing this marvelous story, I couldn’t imagine it going any other way. Esme was strong and honorable and absolutely perfect for Khai.
In Kiss Quotient, Stella as Asperger Syndrome and Michael learns to work with Stella’s quirks so they can reach a happily ever after, but Michael’s cousin Khai is just a smidge further on the autistic scale. Khai doesn’t believe that he can feel love and because of his stone heart, he has never pursued any type of romantic entanglement. So his mother takes things into her own hands and seeks to find a potential wife for him in Vietnam. She brings My over to California and gives her the summer to convince Khai to marry her. My picks Esmeralda (Esme), as her American name after her daughter’s favorite Disney character. Yes, that is the one lie of omission that brings Esme guilt throughout the story. She hasn’t confessed to Khai or his mother that she has a child. When she was a teen, she was pursued and seduced by a boy who wouldn’t marry her since her family was so poor.
Esme works hard to try to seduce Khai and he is not responsive to her attempts. She tries to make herself useful to him by straightening and doing chores, but he is unhappy with how she is doing things. She feels that her attempts to win Khai’s love are doomed to failure since he doesn’t seem to have any interest in her. When Khai confesses to her that he is autistic, she has no idea of what this means, but when he explains his sensitivity to touch, that she understands. Knowing that this is something Esme would never have guessed if Khai hadn’t told her specifically, she makes him agree to be more open with things that will bother him so she can adjust.
Once they work past this hurdle, Khai and Esme’s relationship begins to grow more intimate, except sex won’t solve all their issues. Esme sees what a kind and wonderful person Khai is and she is quickly growing to love him. But as her time in America begins to come to an end and Khai’s mother needs an answer whether there will be a wedding before Esme’s visa expires, Khai still isn’t willing to believe he could ever love Esme back.
While I liked watching Esme and Khai’s brother Quan work to break through Khai’s belief that he can’t feel emotions like other people, I absolutely adored Esme. In the beginning of the story, the one question she got right that the other candidates didn’t showed that even though Esme was dirt poor, living with her grandmother, mother, and daughter in a one room shack, she wouldn’t act sell her soul or stab Khai in the back for money or to achieve the American Dream. When Khai’s mother chased her down, she finally agreed to meet Khai and would marry him only if she could win his love.
With that opening scene, we could see the depth of Esme’s character. She tried to win Khai’s love but when she feared he wouldn’t love her back, she refused to marry just for a green card and while she continued to strive to win Khai, she took classes at the adult center to learn English and accounting to improve her life. After being tossed aside by the father of her child for an appropriate wife, Esme finds she keeps being passed over. She suffers from low self-esteem, but instead of being a sad sack and allowing life to kick her around, she fights harder every time life kicks her. And when she doesn’t believe Khai will ever love her, she is depressed, but then she starts to investigated how else she could extend her visa. She is very honorable. She cared too much for Khai and wouldn’t use him to stay in the country. Because she believed she had more value than life kept showing her, she wouldn’t accept less than his whole heart.
We also see this in the fact that Esme knew Quan was the CEO of a company but Khai never bothered to fix up his house so Esme doesn’t think Khai has money. She is convinced he has a closet- sized office and when she sees the company logo on TV and realizes it must be a big company and thinks he should be able to go far someday if he works hard, not knowing he actually owns the company If she just wanted money, she could have pursued Quan instead.
It was a delightful story and I breezed through it in a day because I simply didn’t want to put it down. If you didn’t get a chance to read The Kiss Quotient last year, do yourself a favor and grab both of these stories. You can thank me later.
Many lovely little scenes between Khai and Esme, but this scene between Khai and his brother Quan is hard to forget.
“So what is it?” Quan asked as the numbers on the digital display climbed. “You never visit me.”
Khai stretched his fingers out again before relaxing them. “I had sex last night. With Esme.”
A giant smirk stretched over his brother’s mouth. “Your first time, right?”
Khai nodded curtly. He’d never told anyone he was a virgin, but of course, Quan, with all his excellent people intuition, had known.
“Good job, little brother.” Quan held a fist out, and Khai bumped it with his own out of pure habit. Then he felt ridiculous.
“You don’t mind? I know you said you were interested, and I–“
“No, I don’t mind,” Quan said with a small laugh. “You’re my brother. I’ll always pick you first. Plus, I like her for you. I’m glad you went for it.”
Khai filled his chest with a big breath, relieved he hadn’t ruined anything with his brother through his indecisiveness but also strangely proud Esme had chosen him over Quan. If Khai were a woman, he’d pick Quan, no competition.
“She’s acting weird now, and I don’t know what to do.”
“You mean like she’s getting clingy and you want her to stop? That happens sometimes. You gotta let them down gently. What I do is–“
“No, it’s not that.” He wouldn’t mind clinging. That would be better than what was going on right now. “I think she’s mad at me, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong. She won’t tell me.”
Quan’s eyebrows rose. “When did she start acting weird?”
“I think…” He looked to the side as he searched his memories. “I think right after we, uh, after the sex.”
Quan’s eyebrows rose even further before his expression went blank. “Maybe that’s it, then. Did she, you know, did she like it?”
“Yeah, that part was easy.”
“Really,” Quan said in a dry tone. “Your first time out the gate.”
Quan gave Khai a skeptical look. “What are you, the King Midas of Orgasms? I’ve been perfecting my craft since eight grade, and sometimes I still don’t know what I’m doing down there. Women are complicated.”
“What craft? It’s sex. You put bodies together and shit happens. It’s like the nature channel.” He did bad on the emotional front, but he’d gotten that part right, dammit.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve figure out the problem,” Quan said.
Khai shoved his hands into his pockets. “Tell, me, then.” He was ninety-nine percent certain Quan was wrong.
“How do you know she came?”
The elevator dinged, and as they walked down a narrow hallway toward Quan’s place, Khai cleared his throat. “She made sounds. Those kind of sounds.” Really good sounds.
“Anything else?” Quan stopped at his door and turned the key in the lock.
“What else is there?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, come in and sit down.”
Quan opened the door to his bachelor pad. Khai stepped inside carefully, half convinced he’d find sperm on the walls, but it was mostly neat. There was definitely no sperm. That he could see. If you analyzed the black leather couches closely, who knew what you’d find. He didn’t take his shoes off before he followed Quan to his kitchen.
“Have a seat. I need to fix my hangover.” Quan puttered around his modern kitchen, breaking eggs into a blender and adding orange juice. Once he’d blended the mixtures to a froth, he poured it into an old giant Slurpee cup and joined Khai at the kitchen tale.
“Want some?” He held it out toward Khai. Khai grimaced.
“No, thanks. Don’t you have Advil?”
“Nah, ran out.” Quan chugged half of his concoction, set the cup down, and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. “Okay, back to the sex. My guess is she didn’t orgasm.”
“What are the symptoms for orgasm?”
Quan burst out laughing and drank more of his orange hangover cure. “Only you would talk about orgasming like it was a sickness.”
Khai drummed his fingers on the table. “Can you just get on with it?” “Okay, okay, okay.”
Quan took a deep breath before he chuckled, shook his head, and scratched at the morning scruff on his jaw. “First, she–wait, wouldn’t it be awesome if Michael was here? He’s a pro at this shit. I know let’s call him.”
“What? No. Can’t you just tell me?”
Quan waved has fingers toward Khai’s pockets. “Get you phone out and call him. He can verify what I say, so you can stop looking at me like I’m cheating off someone’s test answers.”
“You call him.”
“He won’t pick up if I call him. It’s Sunday and not even eight yet. If you call him, he’ll think it’s an emergency. You never call anyone.”
Rolling his eyes, Khai fished his phone out, dialed his cousin, and hit the speaker button. There was no way in hell he was doing the talking alone.
Michael picked up on the fourth ring. “Hey, Khai, how’s it going?”
Khai held the phone toward his brother, and Quan said, “Michael, we need your expertise. It’s about orgasms.”
“What the hell? Are you kidding me?” A frustrated sound crackled through the speaker. “I’m going back to sleep.”
“We’re not kidding,” Khai said quickly.
There was a long pause before Michael said, “What did you want to know?”
Khai took and released a tight breath before asking. “How do you know when a woman is orgasming? What are the sym–signs?”
“Wow, okay. Orgasms. Um…” He cleared his throat. “There are lots of signs, but not every woman is the same. Generally, she’ll…” He cleared his throat again. “Why is this so hard?” He laughed a little.
“Fine, since you’re mature as a nine-year-old, I’ll start,” Quan said. “Sounds are really misleading. Half the time when you have a noisy woman, she a faker, and she wants the sex to be over because she’s not digging it. It’s better to watch the body. When a woman is about the come, she tenses up, and her hips rise. Her skin flushes. And when the orgasm hits, she convulses hard and fast. Her whole body might shake. If you’re paying attention, you’ll feel it on your cock or your fingers or your tongue, whatever you’ve got going on. It’s fucking awesome.”
After another pause, Michael said, “What he said.”
An uncomfortable feeling crawled over Khai’s skin as he stared at the phone and then his brother’s face. “I don’t know if she did all that. I was distracted by how good it felt.”
“Were you inside her?”
“Well, yeah. That’s how you have sex,” Khai said. They taught that in fifth-grade health class.
Quan gave him an impatient look. “Did you touch her clit at all?”
“Oh hell,” Michael said.
Quan smacked his palm to his forehead. “Her clitoris. It’s where you stimulate her to make her come.”
“Where is it?”
Quan rubbed both hands over his face as Michael repeated, “Oh hell.”
“What?” Khai asked. “They don’t talk about the ‘cliroris’ in health class at school.” It didn’t even sound real. For all he knew, it was an urban myth, like the Chupacabra or Roswell aliens.
“They really should,” Michael said, sounding pained.
“Why don’t they?”
Michael and Quan both fell silent.
“So maybe she didn’t orgasm. Is that enough reason for her to be mad at me?”
“Who is this we’re talking about?” Michael asked.
“Esme,” Khai said.
“Oh,” Michael said.
“Who else would it be?” Quan said. “At the end did you hold her? They need a couple minutes of that.”
“The fuck, Quan?” Michael said. “You should have prepared him better.”
“Prepared me for what?” Khai said.
Quan scrubbed a hand over his buzzed head. “Shit.”