Name: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Publication date: June 2018
Length: 323 pages
Tropes: fake relationship, insta-love, woman in STEM
Steam level: ✦✦✦✦✧ (open door, multiple sex scenes, but vanilla)
Final rating: ★★★☆☆
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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is one of those rare romance books that crosses boundaries and ends up falling in the laps of people who normally don’t read romance – an introduction to the genre, if you will. And as an introduction, I don’t think it’s all that unsuitable. We follow Stella, an econometrician with autism who is bad at sex and relationships. She decides to hire an escort named Michael, a Vietnamese and Swedish stunner who agrees to check all of the boxes on her lesson plans. But the lesson plans are soon cast aside..
This is a really fun romance book with interesting and diverse characters. I especially loved seeing Stella’s autism. How it was such a big part of her life, but also wasn’t the only thing that defined her. Michael’s Vietnamese family also felt really vivid and super fun to read about! Something cool about this book is that it was purposefully trying to subvert a lot of common tropes: we have a woman in STEM and a man who is a dressmaker, both professions that would traditionally be for their opposite gender.
I also thought Michael’s issues with his father were interesting — I feel like plenty of writers would choose to give this trait to their female main character under the guise of ‘daddy issues’ (which by the way, is a term I have a lot of problems with, but that’s a conversation for another day). There was also some good representation for male sex work. I never felt like the fact that Michael was a sex worker was negatively brought up in the story or that his character was unfairly judged by the narrator because of it.
My main issue with the book was that it was very insta-lovey. There is attraction between them from pretty much page one, and they start liking each other the very first time they meet. As a person that doesn’t really like insta love, this can really kill a story for me. Because in a novel where the relationship between two people is the focal point, that relationship has to feel natural and believable. When there is a lot of insta-love, it always feels less believable to me.
Another case of concern for me was the secondary male character Philip. First of all, he was extremely one-dimensional. He was just a dick for the sake of being a dick, and I felt like he was only in the story so that we could root for Michael only. But worst of all, he sexually harasses Stella in the beginning of the novel and even kisses her without her consent at a later date. I was waiting for Stella to hit up HR and they would fire him, but she never did! Although Philip does face some repercussions in the end, it is not from his employer. I really wish that this issue was resolved, because if I was in Stella’s shoes I would NOT feel safe at my workplace after something like this happened.
So in the end, I closed this book with mixed feelings, hence the middle of the road rating at the end. There were some parts I really enjoyed, but then others that soured the story for me. In some specific cases, I’d still recommend this book, but it’s definitely not the best in the genre if you ask me. I’m still planning to check out the other two books in this series though, because who knows. I might enjoy them more.