Book Club: The Kiss Quotient


Rachel: 00:00 Quick disclaimer before we get into this episode.

Sarah: 00:02 Because The Kiss Quotient is a romance novel involving some mature subjects, we’ll keep our language PG as always, but some of the topics covered maybe a little more PG-13.

Rachel: 00:13 AKA if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with or any kiddos might be around to hear, you may want to pause this episode now. Or don’t. It’s your life.

Sarah: 00:27 Hi, I’m Sarah.

Rachel: 00:28 I’m Rachel.

Sarah: 00:29 And this is Unassigned Reading.

Rachel: 00:30 Where we discuss the books you’re never going to talk about an English class.

Sarah: 00:34 Right. Y.A., sci-fi, fantasy, and all the other genres you read for fun.

Rachel: 00:38 Obviously this is not a spoiler free podcast.

Sarah: 00:41 So many spoilers.

Rachel: 00:42 And this month we’re not only discussing an awesome book. We’re also celebrating our one year anniversary.

Sarah: 00:48 One whole year of talking about books every month, and we’re still going strong.

Rachel: 00:53 To celebrate we asked you all to help us pick our book this month. You voted and the winner is

Sarah: 00:57 The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.

Rachel: 01:00 Not a surprise to anyone who’s listened to our last few episodes or follows us on social media, but still very exciting because this is a book we both read last year and really loved. It got so much buzz and kind of took the romance world by storm.

Sarah: 01:14 Yeah. If you read romance and you haven’t heard of it, I’d be pretty surprised.

Rachel: 01:18 It’s also kind of the perfect book for us to discuss because it really fits into our theme of discussing the everyday books we read in a very analytical way.

Sarah: 01:26 Yeah. Romance book check, popular with readers check, occasional comparisons to Fifty Shades of Gray…

Rachel: 01:33 Which is totally unfair and we’ll get into that .

Sarah: 01:35 check. But anyway, I want to get into things, so let’s do this 60 second summary.

Rachel: 01:41 Oh, all right. You just want to hurry things along since it’s my turn.

Sarah: 01:44 You caught me. Ready and go.

Rachel: 01:47 Okay. Stella is an econometrician who is someone who kind of uses economics and statistics to look at data in a real world perspective. She’s very obsessed with her work, and she’s very, very good at it. But she’s not very good with people. And her parents really want her to date. She has a lot of concerns about this because she’s had some very unfortunate past experiences with dating and really with one nightstands that she was very uncomfortable with. So she’s not super keen on the idea of dating, but she wants to make her parents happy and also knows that this is something she’s probably gonna want to do.

So she decides that she’s going to hire an escort. This becomes a little tricky because Stella, has autism and she’s uncomfortable with touch and intimacy without really knowing a person very well. Which Michael, the escort she hires quickly realizes, but surprise, surprise, feelings begin to ensue. Especially once Stella asked Michael to be her practice boyfriend so that she can learn how to have a boyfriend. Michael’s also keeping some secrets of his own as in why he’s being an escort in the first place.

Sarah: 02:48 Stop. So I have two things to say before we get into corrections. One, you’ve made a breakthrough. You did not start this one with, oh my gosh, okay. Which is how you normally start these. So

Rachel: 03:00 Yay?

Sarah: 03:00 That was new. And then the second thing though, and this is just funny to me, you spent a full 10 seconds describing what an econometrician is.

Rachel: 03:09 Uh, I know.

Sarah: 03:09 Which is not important to the plot at all. You could’ve skipped over what she did.

Rachel: 03:14 It’s important to me because it’s very confusing.

Sarah: 03:17 Yes, no, I understand that. And we should talk about it, but this is a 60 second summary. You did not have time to describe.

Rachel: 03:23 You’re not wrong. You’re not wrong.

Sarah: 03:27 It also took you a full 40 seconds to say that Stella is autistic, which is sort of what the whole book is about. Well to be fair though, didn’t even get through like the first quarter of the book in your recap. So I think that’s fair.

Rachel: 03:41 Yeah. And I would also say that I still hit on a lot of the reasons for why she needed to hire an escort. And it kind of also I think works until one of the big themes of the book, which is the idea that you know, her autism is a part of her but it doesn’t define her.

Sarah: 03:55 Yeah. I think too, you were getting to the part of the book where it’s mostly like a lot of sex happens. So you did get most of the plot before that.

Rachel: 04:05 Yeah, I mean I could have just for the rest of the summary just been like sex, sex, sex, sex. Okay. They have some more sex and problems happen. They get back together. The end.

Sarah: 04:16 Yeah. But let’s go into those problems really quick, so we’re on the same page. So you’re about to explain why Michael is escorting.

Rachel: 04:23 Yes.

Sarah: 04:24 And that’s because his mother has cancer and no insurance and it’s very expensive.

Rachel: 04:32 Which is all a problem because his awful, terrible, no good father left them. He was like a serial cheater, left them and took all their money because he was also running like a Ponzi scheme or something. I don’t even know. That’s kind of, I think that gets not super developed in the book. But Michael, one of his fears, and we’ll get into this a little, I think later on too, like both of the fears that sort of hold them back from this relationship, but he worries a lot about being like his dad.

Sarah: 05:00 Yeah.

Rachel: 05:01 And thinking that he’s like heartless and terrible and just using Stella for her money.

Sarah: 05:06 So all this conflict eventually leads to then ending things. I would say they are both pretty devastated over it. But then Michael realizes that Stella actually liked him and didn’t just pretend like him and he tries to win her back and he does. And it’s a happy ending. Yay.

Rachel: 05:23 Yay. That’s what we’re always want. Okay. So should we get into it?

Sarah: 05:27 Yes.

Rachel: 05:28 Let’s get into it. Okay. So the first big thing I want to talk about, because we brought this up briefly before, is the comparisons to Fifty Shades of Gray. So

Sarah: 05:38 Which I really didn’t know about, and I’m like, I’ve just learned about this. That there were comparisons and I am shocked.

Rachel: 05:44 I don’t know how broad the comparisons were. This may have been a personal experience I had of seeing some people comparing The Kiss Quotient to Fifty Shades of Gray. And basically saying it’s the same kind of like pure erotica drivel, and I got kind of angry.

Sarah: 06:04 Yeah.

Rachel: 06:05 I may have like anger unfollowed some people on social media because

Sarah: 06:11 I mean they deserved it.

Rachel: 06:12 It’s just not a fair comparison.

Sarah: 06:13 No, it’s not. It’s not.

Rachel: 06:15 I, I’ll get a little bit more into that. But first thing I want to talk about is kind of giving a baseline for why that is my argument that you can’t, it’s not to say that you can’t make comparisons because comparisons can be useful also in showing the similarities and the differences. And there certainly are some of both of those, but for a lot of reasons I don’t think it’s fair to make that comparison.

So first let’s talk a little bit about kind of the genres these books fall under. So I really wanted to find kind of a definitive answer to what is romance when we consider it as a genre, what is erotica. And then I also found a third category, which I hadn’t heard of before, maybe you had ,that I thought was also interesting for this topic, which is a erotic romance.

Sarah: 06:54 I hadn’t really seen that. I will say trying to find a definition for what is romance and what is erotica.

Rachel: 07:01 Impossible.

Sarah: 07:01 Yeah, I would not have even looked that up because I know it’s sort of a judgment call.

Rachel: 07:07 It’s a blurry line. Well and I had definitions in my head, but I was like, Ooh, I want to be able to like say this.

Sarah: 07:12 I see this as a sliding like as a scale. So on one end you have, what are sometimes called like Chaste Romance or Christian Romance and there is absolutely zero sex. And then on the very opposite end you have erotica, which is like minimal plot, lots of very explicit sex. And then all other stuff sort of falls somewhere in between. Where in terms of how much plot there is, how strong the plot is, how much sex there is, how explicit it is. There’s just a lot of variety and romance and it’s hard to say at what point something turns into erotica. When you see erotica, I think you recognize it, but there can be line there where it’s hard to decide on which side it falls.

Rachel: 07:54 Right, so you’re kind of building up to the definition I wanted to give here with all of the things that you just said. So yeah, to me the real distinction between the two. So I’m just going to kind of condense what you said with this.

Sarah: 08:07 Yeah.

Rachel: 08:07 Between Romance and Erotica is how important the explicit sex scenes are. So it’s, it’s not, well first of all, are they there? Because as you said in some categories of romance, you really don’t have any, but are there explicit sex scenes is the first question we got asked and then how frequently they appear. But also, and this is the real key difference to me, is the plot of the story, the real backbone or is it just a conceit to set up the sex between the characters and I think that’s the real difference. Cause Erotica to me is the sex is the point.

Sarah: 08:38 Yeah.

Rachel: 08:38 And Romance or I guess I would include erotic romance in this now that I know that that’s a thing that exists would be the story and the characters and the relationships are the point and in sex is a part of it.

Sarah: 08:48 Yes, I’d agree with that definition.

Rachel: 08:49 And I would probably argue knowing this, I might say that this book is erotic romance because it does have a lot of quite explicit sex scenes.

Sarah: 08:57 Yeah.

Rachel: 08:57 So I definitely think there is a reason people have made this comparison to Fifty Shades of Gray because it is very explicit and it does have, I was a little shocked the first time I read it. You know, just because I actually, and this is kind of funny. We may have mentioned this on the podcast before because I think I talked about The Kiss Quotient once. I don’t think I knew it was a romance novel when I started reading it.

Sarah: 09:17 Oh that would’ve been a shock.

Rachel: 09:17 I read it before it came out. Like I read it before all the hype came out. And I was just like, Ooh, I saw somebody I know recommended this looks, you know, cute. I’ll just, I’ll give it a give it a go. And I was like, oh, okay, I see, I see where we’re going with this. So yeah, I was a bit of a surprise just how much of a role that played in this story.

Sarah: 09:37 And for me there’s a point at which there is too much sex in a book and Erotica pretty much always is going to hit that. Like it’s going to go like, okay, I’m bored of the sex. And this, I will say, toed the line for me where I was like, okay, I’m going to skip this one because like I’ve read enough about sex now.

Rachel: 09:54 I don’t want to come across like we are, you know, condemning any genre, anything that we’re being negative toward it. Erotica has its place, you know, like if you’re wanting to read that or if that’s what you’re after at like that’s totally fine. I’ve got no problem with that. So I’m not making these distinctions to be like, no, no, no don’t call The Kiss Quotient erotica.

Sarah: 10:14 I fully read all three books in the Fifty Shades of Gray series, so.

Rachel: 10:19 Yeah. Well okay, so you may actually be able to help me out with my comparisons here a little because I’ll say up front I have not read it. Again, it was not because I have an issue with erotica. My reason for not reading Fifty Shades of Gray, to be clear, is not because I have an issue with that. It’s because I knew enough about it and about the quality of it both in terms of the kind of relationships and things it was depicting and the way it was depicting them and also the quality of the writing that made me not want to read it. I was like, if I want to read that I could find something better. You know what I mean?

Sarah: 10:51 That’s what made me want to read it cause I was like it can’t be as bad as everyone says it is.

Rachel: 10:55 I read, I read a few scenes and was like, I don’t know. There was some part where they talked about like her heart doing the Macarena, I don’t even remember, but I was like oh no. Anyway this is not going to turn into an episode of us bashing Fifty Shades of Gray. Especially since I have not read it. But yeah, so I have haven’t kind of talked a little bit about the genre here and where we think The Kiss Quotient falls. I get frustrated when people compare it to Fifty Shades of Gray probably for some of the reasons you can infer from what I just said. Or the fact that I don’t think anybody’s going to be out there claiming Fifty Shades of Gray is a real quality piece of literature.

Sarah: 11:30 So, here’s what I will say. Having read both. Like we sort of talked about earlier, to me, it’s a question of plo,t and it’s been many years since I read Fifty Shades of Gray. But in my memory, like there wasn’t a ton of plot. There was some plot that was in no way related to the sex, but it was just, it sort of felt like it was in there to like…

Rachel: 11:50 Kind of secondary.

Sarah: 11:51 It was secondary. It was just there to create tension and to make, so there’s conflict. Because you still, in Romance, you need conflict. And this is something we’ve talked a bit about before.

Rachel: 12:02 If it’s a story you have to have some degree of conflict.

Sarah: 12:04 Right. I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance is because it can be hard to get conflict right. Where it’s not just like communication issues, which this has. That was the conflict in The Kiss Quotient, but I thought it was well done. And Fifty Shades of Gray sort of went with murder as the conflict. Where like there’s like attempted murder. Sorry, I’m like low key spoiling this, but they’re like people trying to kill people and stuff.

Rachel: 12:26 I don’t think anybody’s that worried about having Fifty Shades of Gray spoiled.

Sarah: 12:29 Yeah.

Rachel: 12:29 Well yeah. And so I think with The Kiss Quotient, you have a book where A, I think the writing is good. It’s good writing. It’s a good book.

Sarah: 12:37 Yes.

Rachel: 12:37 The characterizations are well done. The writing is nice. You know, you’re not, you’re not cringing during the sex scenes because of the way she’s writing, which is also a big thing. There’s like, I don’t remember what it’s called, but there’s some award for like the worst sex scene in literature. It’s a thing and you should look it up because, oh, it’s bad. It’s real bad the way people can write those. And so I think she handles it well. Although I do know that some people feel that there are too many, and I can understand that. There, there are a lot, but the writing is good. The characters are interesting and deep and dynamic. And the plot is still the story about these two characters. You could cut most of the sex out of the book, and it would still function.

Sarah: 13:17 Yeah.

Rachel: 13:18 And so I think that’s a real distinction.

Sarah: 13:21 And it didn’t feel, like I said, it was on like, the agedgeof me feeling like it was too much sex, but the sex didn’t feel extraneous. Like it did feel like it was part of, it was playing a role in this plot.

Rachel: 13:31 And anytime, anytime you’re writing a story about someone who’s hiring an escort, in order to have lessons to learn how to be better at sex, there’s going to be sex.

Sarah: 13:43 Yeah.

Rachel: 13:43 That’s kind of inevitable.

Sarah: 13:45 Right? That’s unavoidable when that is your premise.

Rachel: 13:47 Yeah.

Sarah: 13:48 So we’ve talked some about Romance and Erotica. Let’s talk some about romance tropes now.

Rachel: 13:53 Yes. You touched a little on some of this even in our last thing, but yeah, I mean there are a lot. There usually in romance books.

Sarah: 14:00 Yes.

Rachel: 14:01 I mean first of all, a secret slash fake relationship.

Sarah: 14:05 That’s what I was going to identify as like the big one in this one is the fake relationship.

Rachel: 14:11 I saw. I saw it. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest one. I saw several, but that’s a big one because of course when Stella says that she wants Michael to be her practice boyfriend.

Sarah: 14:19 Yeah.

Rachel: 14:20 And they are to the outside world presenting themselves as an actual couple. Stella is introduced to Michael’s family, Michael was introduced to Stella’s parents.

Sarah: 14:29 If that’s a trope you like, you’re going to get so much of it from this book. It’s just very on the fake relationship turns into a real relationship, which is very fun.

Rachel: 14:38 Yeah. Although it does, and this is one of the things I think is interesting about this book is a lot of the tropes are twisted just a little, and this is one where I think it is a little because they really are in a relationship.

Sarah: 14:51 Oh yeah.

Rachel: 14:52 They’re just not labeling it as such. I feel like usually in fake relationship stories it really is fake and then they slowly develop feelings for each other and they’re like, oh we should really date cause they’re forced together. These two are straight up in a relationship.

Sarah: 15:05 It’s like a fake fake relationship.

Rachel: 15:07 They’re just both being like, “No, it’s fake.” Yeah, exactly.

Sarah: 15:10 They’re like saying it’s a fake relationship, but we all know it’s not. And all of Michael’s family knows it’s not. And they don’t even know it’s kind of fake. They’re like all in.

Rachel: 15:17 Literally everybody but the two of them realizes it is not fake. Another one you mentioned just briefly when we were talking about the Romance versus Erotica thing is miscommunications.

Sarah: 15:26 Yeah.

Rachel: 15:26 Which is another huge trope in romance because it’s very, very often what is just as the major conflict between the characters.

Sarah: 15:36 And I’ve talked before, I think it can be handled well and not well.

Rachel: 15:40 I think this is. This book does such a great job of that because, and I’ve also seen some people like, oh, it just does the miscommunication thing again. I think it does a brilliant job of it because one of the issues with miscommunications, it’s so often you’re reading the book and you’re like, just talk to each other like you could solve everything. But these two both have very valid reasons. Because Stella’s autism and her fears about Michael, how Michael will react to knowing that she has autism, and Michael’s very real fears about his father and his family and protecting his family. I think give them very valid reasons for their misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Sarah: 16:17 Right and that’s miscommunication done well. It’s not, I”‘m not going to text him because of reasons,” which is what you see a lot of times. And it’s very hard to like get a miscommunication in a contemporary romance when you could just text him. It’s zero effort to text him. But here they really both have compelling reasons for why they’re not communicating something. And I think it really works as a miscommunication.

Rachel: 16:40 Yeah. I also think one of my favorite of the tropes in this book is kind of a reversal that I don’t think I even would have pinpointed this as a trope when I was first reading it, but as I was sort of going through and thinking about tropes, it popped out to me. And it’s kind of a reversal of the healing power of love trope because we get the opposite of that really in this book. You know?

And it’s this idea that you see in a lot of romance and even some stories that aren’t romance, that love will heal anything. You know, like if you’re depressed, if you’re, you know, whatever’s wrong with you, love will make your life better. And in this book we all actually have like a very intentional push back against that. Where Stella realizes toward the end of the book that not only is there nothing wrong with her and that her autism is just a part of who she is.

And it’s this idea that you see in a lot of romance and even some stories that aren’t romance, that love will heal anything. You know, like if you’re depressed, if you’re, you know, whatever’s wrong with you, love will make your life better. And in this book we all actually have like a very intentional push back against that. Where Stella realizes toward the end of the book that not only is there nothing wrong with her and that her autism is just a part of who she is.

She actually actively decides to stop trying to change herself because previously after she had broken up with Michael, she was kind of trying to um, interrupt her routines and change certain aspects of herself that she thought, where she was kind of blaming her failures in this relationship on her autism. And she decided, no, this is who I am and nothing’s wrong with me. So you got this kind of reversal where the disillusion of this relationship I think actually eventually helped her to realize, or really, not even realize, but almost alongside it to see that she was fine the way she was. And also the fact that Michael never tried to change her. Was always actually more accepting of who she was, I think even then she herself was.

Sarah: 18:07 Yeah, yeah, I didn’t catch that. I love that you bring that up. That’s really good.

Rachel: 18:11 Yeah, I thought that was great. And then of course we also get the HEA, the happily ever after, and the little epilogue where Michael’s fashion business is booming, and Stella and he are engaged, and Stella finally has a promotion. So yeah, it’s a really sweet ending as well.

Sarah: 18:25 Yeah.

Rachel: 18:25 So one of the big things that people also talk about in this book, and if you’re read the author’s note, as we always tell you you should on this podcast, you will know that Helen Hoang often compares it to a gender bent Pretty Woman, which now that you’ve heard that probably makes sense. So I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen Pretty Woman in a really long time, and I think I may have only seen like parts of it.

Sarah: 18:50 Well you are beating me, who has seen zero of it. So.

Rachel: 18:56 Hey. Well I went on Wikipedia and looked back up the plot summary just so I would feel like.

Sarah: 19:02 That would’ve been a really good idea. I was just gonna like lean into the, I don’t know anything about this.

Rachel: 19:08 It’s almost like I prepared for this.

Sarah: 19:09 I assumed that Pretty Woman is exactly like this book. Right? It’s just.

Rachel: 19:13 Yeah, you were like, it’s exactly that. Just gender flipped.

Sarah: 19:15 I assume this is basically just the novelization of Pretty Woman.

Rachel: 19:20 Yeah, exactly. That’s it. The gender flipped novelization. Wow. You know, I think we should just skip this topic now because I want you to go on thinking that.

Sarah: 19:29 No, please tell me how wrong I am, and what Pretty Woman is actually like.

Rachel: 19:34 Well, I’m not going to go like super into what Pretty Woman is like, cause like I said, I am by no means an expert, but basically I’m gonna kind of go through some of the similarities, which again I think anybody who’s familiar with both will see, is that you have someone who’s, you know, hiring an escort basically because that’s what happens in Pretty Woman. The story.

This is from Wikipedia, basically centers on a, or paraphrasing from Wikipedia, on a sex worker, Vivian Ward, who’s hired by Edward Lewis, who is a wealthy businessman to be his escort for several like business and social functions. And then they develop a relationship over the course of her stay with him. So obviously some similarities there, but she had this gender swapped, Pretty Woman kind of in the back of her mind for a long time, but she hadn’t been able to figure out why a beautiful successful woman would hire an escort.

And then as she was researching autism and autistic traits, after again read the author’s note, she learned that her daughter might be on the autism spectrum. She found that trouble with social skills was a very common trait for people with autism. And that was something that she could definitely empathize with. And also a very good reason that a beautiful successful woman would hire an escort.

So that’s kind of how the idea for this book came along, which I love so much. Also love, just as an aside here again, for anyone who hasn’t read the author’s note, she learned that she had autism. She got like a diagnosis during the writing of this book, like toward the end of when she was finishing it up, which I think is just kind of amazing how that all came together. So yeah, a few other. Do I still have you?

Sarah: 21:07 I’m still here. I’m just enjoying this description of Pretty Woman.

Rachel: 21:10 Okay, so a few other similarities, like the little tiny things that we see show up that I think are great. Again, having not really remembered Pretty Woman very well, but there is a no kissing on the mouth rule in Pretty Woman, and after Stella and Michael’s first encounter in this book, Stella decides that she is going to institute a similar no kissing rule with Michael because she feels that it’s too intimate. Especially when she realizes she’s like becoming obsessed with him.

There are also characters named Philip in both books who kind of inhabit similar-ish rolls of almost like pseudo villains, and in the movie he is Edward’s lawyer and also tries to assault Vivian toward the end of the movie, which was, yeah. And then in the book he’s a pretentious coworker who wants to date Stella after she started dating Michael, which is also pretty gross.

Sarah: 22:03 Yeah.

Rachel: 22:04 Because I’m pretty sure his reasons for doing that are not good ones.

Sarah: 22:08 Yeah, that’s pretty clear.

Rachel: 22:09 Yeah, I think, I think it’s really interesting once you kind of see some of the comparisons between the two. And I just loved that that’s how the idea for this book came together in her mind.

Sarah: 22:19 Yeah, I love that.

Rachel: 22:20 Yeah, and obviously we’ve talked a little bit, this book has some really great representation. We talked a little bit about the autism representation. Stella is autistic, and Helen Hoang herself is autistic. And it also has some great Vietnamese representation because Michael’s family in the book is, well his mom is Vietnamese, his dad is like European American and so they are a mixed family. So Michael’s Vietnamese, half Vietnamese, half white and Helen Hoang is Vietnamese.

So I think you know, it’s safe to say that historically and also currently representation is definitely something that has been lacking in not only the romance genre but you know in, in really in publishing in general. It’s, it’s a big issue and we are starting to see some improvements but it’s slow going and it could certainly be better than it is. So I think it really, you can’t minimize like how important a book like this is.

Sarah: 23:17 Oh yeah.

Rachel: 23:17 For people to be able to just see these things in literature and to see it normalized. I think that’s really, really amazing. And especially to see it from a woman who has experienced these things and really understands and clearly all to put a lot of thought and research into writing it. So I think that’s really awesome.

And we are starting to see some more representation in the romance genre, I think. And you could maybe even talk to this a little more, but I know you know we’ve got amazing authors like Alyssa Cole. We’ve talked about quite a bit on this podcast because you love her. And I would very much like to read.

Sarah: 23:49 And I’d also add Jasmine Guillory, who I’ve just started reading her books.

Rachel: 23:53 Jasmine Guillory, yes.

Sarah: 23:53 She’s fantastic.

Rachel: 23:54 She is huge, has been just wildly popular in the romance genre lately.

Sarah: 23:59 Which I mean, it’s not good though, cause I just named like the three I’ve read recently.

Rachel: 24:05 It’s when you can name the, the top ones that come to mind in, you know, not even a full hand fingers, it’s not great.

Sarah: 24:12 Yeah.

Rachel: 24:12 So as I said, it’s an issue. But that’s why we should support the authors who are out there.

Sarah: 24:18 There’s a lot of work to be done. I think both like obviously on the publishing side, but also on the consumer side.

Rachel: 24:25 Oh for sure

Sarah: 24:26 Like making sure that we’re not just reading books by authors that are like us, and then reading romances that are sort of typical, you know, try and do broaden our horizons even within our genre that are our favorites.

Rachel: 24:38 It’s always important to check what you’re reading and make sure that you’re not, as you said, only reading from your experience. You know, even if you’re only reading a certain genre, like even if you don’t like to push the boundaries with genre, even if you only like to read romance for instance, you can still push yourself to read people and experience outside of your own. Like we talked about, Ayesha at Last recently on this podcast. I think we were talking about a lot of the great um, diverse Pride and Prejudice retelling.

Sarah: 25:06 There’s so many I want to read.

Rachel: 25:07 Coming out recently and that are continuing to come out.

Sarah: 25:09 I’ve got a long list of awesome, like Pride and Prejudice retellings I want to read.

Rachel: 25:13 There’s also an Indian Emma retelling coming out later this summer, which I am super excited for. I should probably look up the title of that really fast since I just mentioned it. Polite Society, which is coming out in August and has been described as Emma with a touch of Crazy Rich Asians.

Sarah: 25:31 Oh yeah, you told me about this. All I know about it is what you’ve told me, and I want to read it so bad.

Rachel: 25:38 I want to read it too. I’m like waiting for the day. It drops on net galley. You don’t even know.

Sarah: 25:42 I mean, I’m waiting for it to actually come out as a book because I’m not signed up for net galley because I could not keep up. I could not keep up.

Rachel: 25:52 I can’t keep up. Have you met me?

Sarah: 25:54 Yeah, but I read less than you do so and I read a lot.

Rachel: 25:58 Questionable. You reread more than I do.

Sarah: 26:01 I do. I stress reread, but I count that in my totals, and I still read less than you counting my rereads. You read a lot.

Rachel: 26:08 Maybe that’s true. So speaking of all these great books, we should probably also mention that the companion novel The Kiss Quotient came out very recently, The Bride Test. We’ve both read it. It was amazing.

Sarah: 26:23 It’s so good. And I will say…

Rachel: 26:27 It’s so good. I think one of the things you worry about a lot with sophomore novels is especially one where the debut novel was as hyped as this one was. Will it be able to live up to that? And I think this one really did.

Sarah: 26:39 Oh, yeah, I definitely think it did.

Rachel: 26:40 In my mind it was as good or better than The Kiss Quotient. I can’t believe I’m saying that.

Sarah: 26:45 I’ll say, if you thought this had too much sex, I think you will be happier with The Bride Test.

Rachel: 26:50 Yes.

Sarah: 26:50 There is less.

Rachel: 26:52 There is, there is still quite explicit.

Sarah: 26:54 It’s still very explicit. Like she hasn’t changed how she’s writing, but just due to the plot.

Rachel: 26:59 No, the writing style is the same, but it’s pulled back a bit possibly in part because part of the conceit is not about hiring a male escort.

Sarah: 27:07 Yeah.

Rachel: 27:08 So that may help some.

Sarah: 27:10 Different plot, different amounts of sex, which makes sense.

Rachel: 27:12 Yeah. And for people that loved, you know, the representation we were just talking about. We’ve still got autism rep in this book. We’ve still got Vietnamese rep. It actually is telling the story of Khai, Michael’s cousin who is how he’s kind of familiar with autism and how to best help someone with autism and interact with someone.

And, it’s the story of him and the quote unquote, I hate to even use the word, but the bride that his mom brings home from Vietnam, it’s much more complicated than that because actually, uh, as Mỹ, who is the young woman who comes from Vietnam to spend the summer with Khai is, you know, she’s not being married off to him.

Nothing is agreed upon. They’re just getting to know each other. But that’s still kind of where the title comes from. And she is obviously an immigrant from Vietnam. She has a young daughter, which is one of the big sort of secrets and issues of that book. And that part of the story is also very heavily inspired by Helen Hoang’s mother’s refugee story of coming to America from Vietnam during the war.

And again, read the author’s note because she actually writes a really beautiful and moving author’s note, um, kind of in memory of her mother and her mother’s experiences and story. So yeah, it’s definitely worth reading. And we’ll also link, we’ll also link, I think there’s at least one interview that dives a little bit more into that, that will link in the description.

Sarah: 28:38 And she has also announced the title of her next book.

Rachel: 28:41 So many more books.

Sarah: 28:42 Well she’s, she’s got a deal for a ton of books.

Rachel: 28:45 She’s doing books for like all of Michael’s sisters, which I’m very excited about.

Sarah: 28:48 Yes. But the next book is not for one of Michael’s sisters. It’s for Quan, Khai’s older brother.

Rachel: 28:53 Yes. So excited for that. I love Quan from the moment he showed up in The Kiss Quotient.

Sarah: 29:00 Yes. So that will be very exciting. And I hope maybe we’ll get it next year. I don’t know that they put a date on it, but it seems like we’ve been getting a books about one a year from her.

Rachel: 29:10 So are you going to tell us the title or are you just gonna leave us hanging?

Sarah: 29:13 I don’t remember the title, so I was hoping you had it open.

Rachel: 29:16 I’ve got it. Wow, you’re just really leaving me to do all the work here, aren’t you?

Sarah: 29:21 Yes.

Rachel: 29:22 The title is The Heart Principle, and in an interview on Entertainment Weekly, she said that it’s kind of a cross between a gender swapped Sabrina and Say Anything.

Sarah: 29:33 I don’t know anything about either of those movies either, but I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic.

Rachel: 29:37 I’ve seen Sabrina. I don’t even know what Say Anything is.

Sarah: 29:40 I think that’s the one where it’s a bunch of stories so… Oh no, that’s Love Actually. I have no idea what Say Anything is. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of it. Maybe I need some work to do before that book comes out. Maybe I need to educate myself a little more about romance movies.

Rachel: 29:57 It’s possible. You do, you do seem, you know, you read a lot of the romance books, but your romance movie and all that seems to be a little bit lacking.

Sarah: 30:05 Yeah. Missing out on some classics.

Rachel: 30:07 Apparently I’m more into romance movies than you are.

Sarah: 30:09 I mean I’ve watched a lot of them, I feel like, but I’m missing some of the classics.

Rachel: 30:12 Well not these.

Sarah: 30:15 Well I think that just about wraps it up for this episode.

Rachel: 30:18 I think you’re probably right, so I’d like to give a big thank you to Sahara Sky for the use of our theme song, Never Long Time Goes By from the album Escapism.

Sarah: 30:25 And thanks for listening. You can get in touch with us by tweeting @unassignedpod over on Twitter or emailing us at unassignedreadingpod at gmail dot com. We’d love to hear from you.

Rachel: 30:36 Tweet about the show or leave us a positive review over on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of this episode or any of the others.

Sarah: 30:41 You can also find transcripts and links to all our social media at

Rachel: 30:45 And I’d also like to give a shout out to all of you who are out there listening. Especially those of you who’ve been listening since the very beginning. We’ve really loved going on this journey with you so far, and we can’t wait to continue discussing even more awesome books and celebrating more anniversaries in years to come.

Sarah: 31:00 Definitely. And we’re going to continue on with the anniversary celebrations with a Q and A episode next month. You can find out which books we were banned from reading as kids and how we decided to start the podcast.

Rachel: 31:11 And for our book discussion, we’ll be digging into Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. An incredibly fun contemporary romance novel picked especially for pride month.

Sarah: 31:20 In the meantime, we leave you with these words of wisdom.

Rachel: 31:23 “I like you better than calculus. And math is the only thing that unites the universe.”

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