“Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She 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. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…”
Reading The Kiss Quotient as an ace/aro woman was an interesting experience. The last time I read a romance novel (as opposed to the absolutely enormous amount of romantic fanfic I consume on AO3 every month), I was still identifying as straight. It’s not that I dropped romance fiction because I didn’t like it. Romance, especially romantic comedy, is one of my favorite genres – no seriously, three of my all-time favorite movies are Pride & Prejudice (2005), Someone Like You, and When Harry Met Sally. Really, I just stopped reading it because I was busy reading other genres. This summer I decided to rectify it by finally moving The Kiss Quotient off my TBR.
Now, as I said, reading a book with explicit sex scenes and a massive dose of insta-love (my least favorite of the romance tropes), made reading Helen Hoang’s popular novel different than my usual fare. Not in a bad way. Just different. Although I am not autistic, Stella’s decision to acquire a practice boyfriend felt eerily familiar. Before I knew about asexuality but well after realizing I was really bad at being straight, I did the same thing as Stella. Not hiring a sex worker (I was way too broke for that), but I did get into a relationship with a man I wasn’t interested in. I thought that if I could practice doing things everyone else seemed to be able to do so naturally, it would get easier. Go through the motions, do what they do on TV and in rom coms, and eventually it’ll click, right?
As much as it worked for Stella, it VERY MUCH DID NOT for me. For Stella, paying Michael to be in a relationship helped her work through her issues and separate her autism differences from her insecurities. She wanted to be loved. I, on the other hand, just wanted to feel normal. Turns out I was normal, just a different kind, the kind that doesn’t need to be in a relationship, practice or otherwise. Stella and I both got our personal discoveries and came to understand our own truths.
The Kiss Quotient has been out for a while now and I’m sure you’ve already heard the praise. All of it is well deserved. It’s charming and earnest and hard (pun intended) to put down. It’s very trope-y, but the story flowed nicely without feeling like Hoang was checking off boxes. In a just world, people would be reading this novel at the same frantic rates they read 50 Shades of Gray.
The lock on the front door clicked open when she held her purse up to the sensor, and she strode into the empty building, enjoying the solitary echo of her high heels on the marble as she passed the vacant reception desk and stepped into the elevator.
Inside her office, she initiated her most beloved routine. First, she powered on her computer and entered her password into the prompt screen. As all the software booted up, she plopped her purse in her desk drawer and went to fill her cup with water from the kitchen. Her shoes came off, and she placed them in their regular spot under her desk. She sat.
Power, password, purse, water, shoes, sit. Always this order.
Statistics Analysis System, otherwise known as SAS, automatically loaded, and the three monitors on her desk filled with streams of data. Purchases, clicks, log-in times, payment types—simple things, really. But they told her more about people than people themselves ever did. She stretched out her fingers and set them on the black ergonomic keyboard, eager to lose herself in her work.