The Kiss Quotient: A Spicy Rom-Com Trilogy

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Nicole Tran, Editor-in-Chief

The Kiss Quotient trilogy by Helen Hoang, was published from 2018-2021. Each novel focuses on a different character in the Phan-Diep family: Michael Larson-Phan, Khai Diep, and Quan Diep. This trilogy is known for having mature themes and content which are targeted towards an older audience.

The Kiss Quotient is the first novel to the Kiss Quotient trilogy. In this novel, the audience follows Stella Lane, an economist who believes that math is the solution to every part of her life, including love, who was also diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. However, she soon finds out that is not the case for love. Because of this, she hires Michael Phan-Larson, an escort, to help her experience being in a romantic setting. This novel perfectly executes the development of Stella’s and Michael’s romance as their dialogue starts off very awkward and short but it becomes something deeper with more serious conversation such as Stella’s diagnosis and the hospitalization of Michael’s mom. Although this novel executes the development of their romantic relationship very well, major parts of Stella’s and Michael’s characterization were glossed over, such as Michael’s past with one of Stella’s co-worker’s mom and Stella’s background as a person of the upper class. This novel did make me cry as I read it just for the fact that I could relate to Stella’s struggle with being in a loud social setting and being expected of high achievements just to not be able to do it. This novel also displays Vietnamese culture due to Michael’s heritage of being half Vietnamese and half Swedish, with references to Vietnamese food and honorifics.

The Bride Test is the sequel to The Kiss Quotient and the second book to The Kiss Quotient trilogy. In this novel, the readers follow Khai Diep and Esmerelda Tran, or better known as Esme, and their trials and tribulations within their relationship. This sequel shed more light on how autism affects daily life and on traditional Vietnamese culture. For example, at the very beginning of the novel when Khai’s mom goes back to Vietnam to find him a wife instead of letting him naturally fall in love with someone. Although this book was supposed to be a separate story, I could not help thinking that this sequel was just the same story as the first book but with different genders, as there are major parallels comparing the protagonists, Stella Lane and Khai Diep, with parallels including: being an accountant, having autism spectrum disorder, and having no experience in a romantic/sexual setting. It’s the same for the deuteragonists Michael Phan-Larson and Esme Tran, with parallels including being extremely attractive to others, having experience in a romantic/sexual settings due to past encounters, and being unaware of their significant other’s diagnosis. The constant observation of these parallels ruins the experience of a new story as the reader, or at least myself, because I would constantly compare Khai and Esme to Stella and Michael.

The Heart Principle is the third and final book of The Kiss Quotient Trilogy. This novel focuses on the relationship between Quan Diep and Anna Sun. Anna’s story in this novel is her journey through her mental health and family pressures due to her instant fame on YouTube and performing in front of an audience she was not ready for. On the other hand, Quan’s story focuses on his post-prostate cancer surgery recovery and readjustment to normal life which includes working, dating, and socializing with people outside of his family. Honestly, this relationship was the best developed because it follows a strangers-to-lovers trope, meaning they went from being completely unaware of each other to becoming lovers. This relationship didn’t depend on sex like Stella’s or Khai’s; it depended on deep understanding beween Quan and Anna, such as when Anna had to go visit her family because her dad was on his death bed or when Quan was dealing with an aquisition offer that would put his job in jeopordy. Although the romance was the best developed, the pacing was much slower than the previous two novels because of the timeline this story took place which was within a year and a half.

As you know, books have star ratings which is the scale I am going to use here to express my personal rating. The Kiss Quotient has a 5 star rating for me because it was super memorable and although it is an “insta-love” situation, the novel was well written in terms of character development and plot continuity. Next, The Bride Test, has a 4 star rating as to me because of the undeniable parallels to the first novel which was irritating to read but it did emphasize traditional Vietnamese culture accurately. Finally, The Heart Principle received a 5 star review for its perfect balance of character development while keeping the plot ongoing. Overall, my average star rating for this thrilogy is 4.67 stars, which is a bit higher than the general average. According to the book review site, The StoryGraph, the trilogy average star rating was 3.98 stars.

If you’re looking for a romantic-comedy novel with well executed minimal mature themes and accurate Vietnamese representation, check out The Kiss Quotient trilogy by Helen Hoang, you will not be disappointed!