REVIEW: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

In brief: Stella Lane is great at algorithms and her work, but thanks to her Asperger’s, she sucks in the dating department. So the most logical thing to do is make a lesson plan and hire an escort to teach her.

The good: Fun, sexy and sweet with great leading characters.

The not-so-good: Umm…really can’t think of anything except I would really like the next book in the series!

Why I chose it: Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the prize!

Year: 2018

Pages: 309

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Setting: California, USA

Rating: 10 out of 10

There are those times when a book finds you at just the right time. For me, The Kiss Quotient was that book. I wanted something fun that would consume me and I got it. This debut novel is romantic, sexy, fun, funny and all round delicious. If you enjoyed The Hating Game, you will love The Kiss Quotient. It stands out by having characters who are unique yet relatable.

Initially I was worried that I would be constantly comparing This Kiss Quotient to The Rosie Project. Why? Stella, the main character, has Asperger’s too. Stella is brilliant and sometimes says the completely wrong thing at the wrong time. But Stella is so well-crafted as a character that she stands completely on her own. This is Stella’s story and she owns it. Stella is an econometrician, which means that she’s very smart and has the ability to produce algorithms to predict customer behaviour. Because of this, she’s pretty rich. She loves her job, but socially…she’s not that skilled. And Stella knows this. Her mother wants grandchildren but Stella feels she’s not equipped to enjoy a relationship. An offhand remark by a work colleague gives her the idea to hire an escort and work on becoming better at sex. She finds Michael, who will work through her lesson plan and prepare her for a real relationship. Michael is a hot guy who happens to be escorting at night to try to pay his mum’s medical bills while working in the family business by day. But slowly, Michael and Stella begin falling for each other…

Like any romance novel, you know the ending but the pleasure is all in the getting to that point. The Kiss Quotient is one of the more pleasurable journeys I’ve read. While the initial interactions between Michael and Stella are sexual, there is a warmth that develops between the two of them that is lovely to read. Helen Hoang writes the spiritual and friendship connection between Michael and Stella brilliantly, combining the kissing with rowdy dinners at Michael’s family home. It’s a great balance that reminds the reader that Michael is a person too, not just a dead-ringer for a K-drama actor. I liked being able to get inside the heads of both Michael and Stella as reading their thoughts made them more vulnerable. It also made it easier to understand why they reacted to certain things the way they did. For example, Michael is terrified of being like his father, determined to be as honest as he can. Yet Stella takes offense when he won’t take her money – but doesn’t know his history. It’s a fascinating insight.

The Kiss Quotient is a great debut novel, witty yet sweet. I powered through this novel in just a few nights – it was an absolute pleasure to be able to come home to read about two memorable, flawed, sweet and caring characters. I’m looking forward to reading more about Michael’s family in future novels. He does have a lot of sisters, so there should be plenty to enjoy!

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