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 as well as way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that she has Asperger’s and that French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. She decides that she needs lots of practice–with a professional–which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese-Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and he 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 also to crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges convinces Stella that love is the best kind of logic.
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I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it last year. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time you’ll know I love romance. It is definitely my favorite genre. I love love stories. I love reading about characters who learn from their mistakes, and grow in order to open themselves up to love.
THE KISS QUOTIENT is a perfect example of everything I love about romance. The story centers around Stella and Michael (it’s dual POV!). Stella is an econometrician who happens to have autism. She is being evermore persistently pressured by her mother to get married and give her grandchildren. One of the things Stella deals with because of her autism is an aversion to touch. She doesn’t love it. She tolerates it when necessary; like when her mother hugs her with her overwhelming Chanel perfume, or holds her hand for too long. Stella doesn’t know how she’ll give her mother grandkids when she can hardly stand being touched by another person.
A passing comment from a jerk of a coworker leads her to hire an escort to teach her how to be good at sex and relationships.
Enter Michael. A Swedish-Vietnamese escort who has issues of his own. Although we don’t know exactly what those issues are until later. Right away the reader knows Michael doesn’t love being an escort. He does it because he needs the money due to the fact that he has a never-ending pile of bills coming every week.
Something about Stella strikes Michael right away. She’s different. She’s interesting and sweet, and he’s drawn to her immediately.
Their arrangement slowly morphs from Michael teaching Stella how to be good at sex to Michael being Stella’s practice boyfriend… and I think I’ll leave it there so you can find out the rest of it for yourself. 🙂
I loved these characters. Although I don’t have autism, I feel like I could relate to Stella and some of her insecurities. Stella’s such a caring and sweet soul, and you want her to have everything she’s ever wanted. Which soon becomes Michael.
I don’t think there are enough good words to use to describe Michael. Caring, thoughtful, attentive, gorgeous, loving, funny, tender, creative, smart… you get the idea. He definitely has things he has to work through though. He has issues with his father and has to learn that just because his father is a terrible human, doesn’t automatically make Michael one as well. He is his own person and won’t become his father —> but Michael has to learn that on his own.
Both Stella’s and Michael’s individual character growth was lovely to read. Seeing how these characters navigated new situations, unexpected feelings, and stepping out of their comfort zone, was one of the reasons why this was just an enjoyable and unputdownable story.
I loved how Stella and Michael were as a couple, even if it was just ‘practice.’ They were so sweet together and you could tell as a reader that this wasn’t as much as a practice relationship as it was a real one.
A big part of the story is consent, but it’s done in a way that shows that it doesn’t hinder the romantic aspect of consensual sex. It actually makes the scenes that much hotter in my opinion. Michael uses consent as a way to figure out what Stella is comfortable with and to get her comfortable with being intimate. He never does anything she isn’t okay with and instead of trying to convince her, he consistently tells her to let him know if she’s uncomfortable and that they can move onto something else. He listens and pays attention to her verbal and nonverbal cues in a way that shows he truly cares about her. It is a great example that shows that consent doesn’t ruin the mood, it only adds to the intimacy.
All of this is a testament to Hoang’s writing and storytelling ability. She brings you into the story right away by exposing Stella’s vulnerabilities. You can’t help but feel compelled to read to find out what happens. I did my best to drag out my reading time on this. Even going so far as to leave the epilogue to the next morning so it wouldn’t be over.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love romance, if you love a great story and even better characters, read this book!
Small little disclaimer for those of you who don’t normally read romance. You should know this one is quite steamy. In my opinion, it added to the story and was necessary for the characters’ journeys. Personally, I don’t like sex scenes for the sake of having a sex scene. They have to have a greater purpose, and I think these did. Just wanted to give y’all new to the genre a heads up!
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This commission helps to maintain this blog.
“You’ve watched Pretty Woman too many times. Kissing doesn’t mean anything, and it’s always best if you’re not thinking too much in bed. Trust me,” he said.
Her mouth thinned into a stubborn line. “This is too important for me not to think. I’d rather not kiss anymore if you don’t mind.”
Michael’s irritation redoubled, and he forced his hands to relax before he popped all his blood vessels. How the hell had he gotten himself into this? Ah yes, he’d been worried about his escort colleagues taking advantage of her. Stupid of him. His life was complicated enough without worrying about his clients. This was exactly why he had the one-session policy.
He would have backed out—it was tempting—but he’d promised. He always carried through on his promises. It was his way of balancing out the universe. His dad had broken enough promises for the both of them.
“All right,” he made himself say. “No kissing.”
“Do the other plans look okay?” she asked.
He forced himself to read them and found them pretty similar, only she’d moved from hand jobs to blowjobs and changed the sexual positions.
Amused despite himself, he said, “I’m surprised you used the terms ‘doggy style’ and ‘cow girl.’”
Her cheeks went bright red, and she adjusted her glasses. “I’m inexperienced, not clueless.”
“Your plans are missing something important.” He held his hand out, and she placed the pen in his palm with wary motions.
She tilted her head to the side as she watched him write FOREPLAY at the top of all the plans in capital letters. As an afterthought, he drew a box in front of each iteration with hard stabs of the pen.
“But why? I was under the impression men don’t need it.”
“You do,” he said flatly.
She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “You don’t have to bother with me.”
He narrowed his eyes. “It’s not a bother. Most men like foreplay. I do. Getting a woman hot is satisfying as hell.” Besides, he was not having sex with her if she wasn’t ready. No fucking way.
Swallowing, she stared down at the menu. “So you’re saying I don’t have a chance to improve.”
“What? No.” His mind scrambled to figure out why she might say that and came up with nothing.
“You saw how I reacted. It was one button.”
“And then you slept with me all night. You were basically naked, and you cling.”
“Are you two ready to order?” the waitress interjected. Judging by the amused glimmer in her eyes, she’d caught the last part of their conversation.
Stella perused the dinner options, her nails picking at the fabric edging of the menu.
“We’ll have the special,” Michael said.
“Wise choice. I’ll leave you to it.” The waitress winked, gathered the menus, and disappeared.
“What’s the special?” Stella asked.
“I have no idea. Let’s hope it’s not woolly.”
A troubled frown bracketed her mouth, and she leaned forward hesitantly, meeting his eyes for the briefest second. “What exactly do you mean by ‘cling?’”
Michael grinned. “It means you like to cuddle when you’re asleep.”
She looked so horrified Michael couldn’t help laughing. “I confess to liking it.” Which was the truth, and unlike him. Cuddling was an obligatory thing he did for his clients because he understood they needed it. He usually spent the time counting the seconds until he could leave and go home to shower. Holding Stella had been nothing like that. They hadn’t had sex, so there’d been nothing to wash away, and the trusting way she’d curled into him had made him feel things he didn’t want to think about.
Meet the Author: Helen Hoang
Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.