27 Aug / The Bride Test by Helen Hoang [in Booklist]
Helen Hoang transfers a minor character from her popular 2018 debut, The Kiss Quotient, into the spotlight in her engaging follow-up. Initially introduced as the younger brother of Quotient’s protagonist’s best friend, Khai assumes leading man status here – he’s single, movie-star handsome, successful. He’s also autistic and convinced he’s incapable of emotional attachments.
In a case of mother-knows-best, Khai unexpectedly gets a roommate-cum-fiancée when his mother returns from Vietnam with Esme, a hotel maid who’s agreed – only for the sake of improving the lives of her daughter, mother, and grandmother – to accompany Khai to a summer’s worth of family weddings. Oh, and if everything works out, the wedding hall – yes, for Khai and Esme – has already been booked for auspicious August 8. Of course, sparks fly and delight ensues … for characters and readers both.
While Emily Woo Zeller attenuates her usual overemoting, she occasionally overcompensates, resulting in monotone narration, which might vaguely seem appropriate for Khai, but disappointingly not for Hoang’s more lively characters. Although Zeller’s performance never quite rises above serviceable, Hoang charmingly keeps her audience committed to reaching that indubitably satisfying happy ending.