When it comes to people of color I think romance is a genre that’s passed over for incorporating other races. I highly recommend romance novels with diversity as much as possible because I think being able to see yourself in the character you’re reading can make you connect with the book even more and establish a deeper connection to reading. While I’ve read interracial romances and they’ve done a beautiful job of making the relationship like any other (that the color of your skin doesn’t matter), The Kiss Quotient is in a league of its own because this is the book the romance world has been waiting for.
Helen Hoang has had a love for romance since a young age, like many of us. In 2016 she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and what was formerly known as Asperger’s. Hoang is an ethnic American woman who has written a Vietnamese character with uniqueness as I’ve never read before and a heroine (Stella Lane) with ASD as well. One of the best things about Hoang that thoroughly justifies her award of Goodreads Choice Awards Best Romance in 2018 is her motto being, “Romance from a different perspective. Celebrating love, diversity, and open minds.”
Goodreads describes The Kiss Quotient as followed: “Stella Lane comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases - a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice - with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses but to crave all the other things he's making her feel and their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense.”
Stella and Michael’s authenticity reinforces that everybody deserves love. Backgrounds don’t matter, color doesn’t matter, whatever disability a person has is insignificant when it comes to love. Helen Hoang gives people hope that there are romance authors out there that want to represent love in more than one way, and have a love story like any other but with a deeper meaning behind each word.
When it comes to romance, it's hard to go wrong with an inexperienced hero/heroine who hires an escort to teach him/her the ins and outs of sex. This sets up for the couple to be intimate right away and leave time to develop the relationship. It also adds an element of humor that only an author who either does their research thoroughly or has the disability themselves can interject. Having Stella be socially and conversationally awkward is a trait of ASD but one that Hoang has dealt with herself. Stella’s bluntness when it comes to sex is comedic but honest. Hoang also crafted Michael in a way that reveals character details little by little, allowing the reader to slowly fall in love with him, just like Stella. I could see why she became obsessed with him–who wouldn't?
Along with a love story, this book does not shy away from giving a reader a look into the life you might not see or expect someone with autism to have. Stella is a very smart, logical, goal-oriented woman. Her quirks were shown in social situations but Hoang also showed that someone with ASD has dreams and wants like any other woman. Just because she has autism doesn't mean she has to be noticeably different.
Hoang also gave Michael's character the authenticity usually lacking in the romance world. Hoang herself is Asian, so writing about a boisterous Vietnamese family–their meals and interactions with each other–made me believe this was a genuine look into another Asian family. It wasn't written on stereotypes but from real experiences. Michael was understanding, loving, passionate, possessive (in the perfect way), and true to himself. The appeal of Hoang’s books is that she gives adaptations of real people who you could meet in your own life. While Michael’s profession and passion might be emasculating in our society, his love fashion keeps the story encapsulating and unique by breaking the romance genre’s male stereotypes.
If you feel compelled to read The Kiss Quotient, Hoang said in an interview that there will be three books total in this series of standalones. A quote from Hoang’s interview with Entertainment Weekly said, "Yes, the second book is about Khai, and he's on the spectrum. He has the misbelief that he doesn't have feelings. I wanted to confront that stereotype that autistic people don't experience empathy and don't have emotions. That we're cold and heartless. Because it's wrong..."
This book is particularly special because Hoang subtly addresses the prevalent stereotype of people with ASD, a goal that is beautiful in itself. Please, enjoy this read.
Unless you have a lot of time to spare, don't start a book conversation with Maxine, because she can talk for hours. She's an avid reader, primarily contemporary romance, but every once in a while she'll pick up a suspenseful thriller. She's been writing since high school, mostly fiction, and thinking of characters and situations to put them in for as long as she can remember. Her motto is "everyone deserves love," and therefore her dream is to help push representation for different races, disorders, and disabilities in the romance genre.