RIQ‘s Editor in Chief, Rachel Hyland, is currently working her way through a 365-book Goodreads challenge, attempting to read a book a day from her TBR pile in 2019. Yesterday, she read and reviewed The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang over at her blog, and her thoughts seem relevant, so we’re reprinting them here…
The pre-release buzz for this book was so effervescent that I pre-ordered it just on that basis. An autistic, math-genius heroine who hires an escort to help her learn social cues and romantic interactions? Sign me up.
Then, just six months after its release, this book was acclaimed as the Best Romance of 2018 in the annual Goodreads poll, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. I run a magazine called Romantic Intentions Quarterly, after all, AND THIS WAS THE BEST ROMANCE NOVEL OF LAST YEAR.
Shame on me.
So why didn’t I read it before now? The answer is, simply, sex. I am not one who likes too much steam in my romance novels, and I certainly don’t like graphic descriptions thereof interrupting my narrative. Of course, a lot of romance readers love highly-detailed sex scenes, they love the frankness and/or the euphemisms and/or the pages upon pages of painstakingly-described orgasms. I never have. To me, it feels super-voyeuristic. And it just makes me uncomfortable to be so privy to the deepest fantasies dwelling in anyone else’s mind.
I should make it very clear, here, that I am more than happy for my heroes and heroines to be having sex. And if heroes are having sex with heroes and heroines are having sex with heroines, or there is any other permutation of such going on among anyone on any part of the sexuality spectrum, yay, great, hooray. This is not, for example, a faith-based objection. There is no so-called moral imperative at play. I’m just very much a close the bedroom door, fade to black, pillow talk afterwards, let’s get back to the story kind of gal.
To each their own, right? (RIQ is almost entirely peopled with staff who strongly disagree with me on this, by the way.)
So when I started hearing about how gosh-darned sexy this book was, how hot was Stella’s education at the hands of professional lady-killer Michael, I put it aside, not sure I’d ever pick it up again. But then two of my staff writers from RIQ, the wonderful Maura Tan and Clara Shipman, separately and enthusiastically endorsed the book and all-but insisted I read it immediately, and so here we are.
I totally get it. I see what they — and most everyone else in Romancelandia — loved about it. The high functioning autistic Stella is a thoroughly unique personality, and the Pretty Woman-esque plot totally works for me–just as it did in Asking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young back in 2000, and a score of others since. I loved that Michael is mixed-race: half Vietnamese, half-Swedish and all delicious. And I especially loved that Stella’s high-powered job as a creator of delicate algorithms made her so financially independent that she was able to live her life on her own terms. I love that she uses her money not as a source of happiness, but to help her find her way there — even if it all begins mostly because her mother wants her to settle down. Also, this book is very sex worker positive, and yes, sex work is a legitimate profession for anyone who might choose it and there should not be any shame associated with it at all. (One day, we’ll live in a Firefly universe, where registered Companions have the highest of statuses in society.)
So, absolutely. A lot to like. A lot to love. But there is also A LOT of graphic sex in this book. For many, if not most, romance readers, that is no doubt among its biggest selling points. For me? No. But I can appreciate enough of what is going on around it to overlook the many, many pages I ended up having to skip — flip, flip, are they still doing it?, yep, flip, flip, ooh look dialogue, blush!, flip, flip — and remain pleased at having read it, regardless.
Especially since everyone else apparently has.
TBR DAY 27: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
TIME ON THE TBR: ~ 8 months.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.