Our heroine, Stella, doesn’t have a lot of experience with romance – French kissing freaks her out and she’s much more comfortable with equations than with people. She also has Asperger’s, which obviously adds another layer to our complex leading lady. She decides she needs romance lessons … so she hires an escort.
And here’s the thing, Helen Hoang, like her heroine Stella, has Asperger’s, but she wasn’t diagnosed until she was an adult. She’s quoted as saying, “Ever since I was little, I’d been watching others and struggling to emulate them because I didn’t think I was acceptable the way I was. Discovering that there are entire groups of people who have similar quirks and experiences as I do changed everything.”
Reading The Kiss Quotient, you’re immediately and totally immersed in Stella’s world. You feel her stress, her confusion, and her pain; but also her triumphs, her sensuality, and her drive to truly enjoy and make the most of her life. She is unique, multi-layered, and fascinating. It’s so lovely to read female characters who are written true-to-life. We deserve to have our stories told, with all our ideals and hopes and failures and challenges. Hoang said of writing Stella, “When I wrote Stella, I embraced the parts of myself that I’d always been trying to change or hide.” Yes.
There is a scene in the middle of the book, in which our hero, Michael, brings Stella over to his mother’s house for a meal. Michael is half Vietnamese and the richness of his culture and heritage flows off the page. At the same time, you see Stella struggle with being in the crowd of his family. You can feel it all – the commotion, the anxiety, and the love. These characters are brilliantly drawn as real people. There are no clichéd she’s-just-too-adorkable-for-her-own-good or he’s-an-absolute-prat-for-no-reason-at-all plots to navigate around. Michael and Stella are incredibly specific – they are what they are, right down to their own quirks and eccentricities and doubts – but also incredibly relatable.
Also, as the story is ultimately a romance, there are steamy love scenes a plenty. I just wouldn’t recommending reading those parts when you’re on the bus … ahem.