5 “could not find sleep as I wanted to go on reading” stars!
“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this?
Her history didn’t define her. Her origin didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.
But people didn’t see who she was inside. They didn’t know. And she had no way to show them without an opportunity.”
Is this book flawless? No. I think some things we learned in the story could have been developed further (at some point Esme gets bad news from home and then we hear nothing anymore about it for example) BUT it gave me all the feels and made me really see the world through Esme/My’s eyes and that to me deserves 5 stars!
I don’t want to speak a lot about the plot, let’s just say that you have read the synopsis and know that Esme comes from a poor upbringing in Vietnam and will be convinced by Khai’s mother who visited Ho Chi Minh City to come to the US for two months and try to seduce her autistic son.
Stated like that Esme/My seems like a gold digger but she is so not one! Yes she wants to seize an opportunity for her family but she does not try to trick Khai nor is Khai unaware of her mom’s scheming! And yes Esme kept some things secrets but she always regretted them and wanted to confess everything to Khai.
Now let’s get to the important part of this review: the feels, the impression, the reading experience!
This book won me over from the very beginning!
I could not stop thinking about the book, even when I had to sleep my brain refused to shut down and just wanted to resume reading.
We got another autistic character but very different from Stella and it showed how we should not reduce autists to a “one kind of affliction” but there are as many variations as there are “normal” people. That’s something I truly look after in my reads to be more aware, more conscious of other people’s world, lives and struggles.
Helen Hoang truly did an amazing job making me see the world through Esme’s eyes and she could not be more different than I am culturally and socially speaking. Aside a character’s driven story the focus of the book is very real and contemporary, broaching the immigration problematic, the huge difference in wealth and way of living between some “rich” western people compared with many individuals living from nearly nothing in other countries.
I know many are infatuated with Khai and yes I did love him indeed but be warned that here below you’ll have me all fangirling over Esme! Because I so dig that girl!
Esme or My has no college education, she earned her life scrubbing toilets but when given the opportunity, she really did try to give more to her family. She was humble in the way poor people or less educated people often are but she was also smart and courageous. She was hard working and determined to be worthy.
When she had setbacks, when she was confronted to Khai’s sisters or other educated and poised women she doubted as many would. It’s hard not to feel lacking when you had her origin and were suddenly uprooted in another country, in another language, in another social environment.
Yet Esme/My had pride and determination. That’s what I admired most about her.
“No more. She was done. She wasn’t rich, classy, or smart, but she wasn’t something you could use once and toss away. She had value. You couldn’t see it in her clothes she wore of the abbreviations after her name or hear it in the way she spoke, but she felt it, even if she didn’t entirely understand where it came from. It pounded inside her chest, big and strong and bright.
She deserved better than this.”
I can’t explain Esme better than what Helen Hoang wrote in her author’s note:
“Esme was brave, and she was fighting for a new life for herself and her loved ones in every way she could. She had reasons, she had depth, but she also had a striking vulnerability. All of her “drawbacks” were not due to her character. They were things beyond her control: her origin, her education level, her lack of wealth, the language she spoke – things that shouldn’t matter when determining the value of a person.”
As Helen concluded: “It was impossible not to love her.”
And the love story you say?
Of course as a romance reader I have to talk about the love story!
It was brilliantly written as Helen had two very different and unique characters. But she made it work! It also gave us some of the steamier sex scenes, like in The Kiss Quotient, due to Khai’s innocence and inexperience. When you are gifted with such characters you usually end up with deeply moving sex scenes as they compensate with enthusiasm and authenticity what they lack in experience.
Their story was a slow burn, the kind of romance that I do prefer!
Witnessing their growing attraction and feelings was delightful! A real treat for a romance reader like me. It felt real, right and I swooned many times.
Recommend it? Hell yes!
Have you read it? Or the Kiss Quotient?
Thanks for reading!