Today I’d planned to do my April Reading Wrap Up post, but I’ve really struggled with this reading slump and I’ve only just finished my only audiobook listen of the month (my paperback has been a real slow read before bed!) so I thought I’d turn this months post into a book review because I have a lot of thoughts.
I’d seen people talking about ‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang all over TikTok – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I think my favourite genre is contemporary romance and my TikTok algorithm absolutely reflects that. But it wasn’t till a browse round Waterstones last weekend where I actually read the description of ‘The Kiss Quotient’ that it jumped right to the top of my tbr and my waiting Audible credit was used immediately.
A contemporary romance about an autistic girl who hires an escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Since being put on a waiting list for an autism assessment 18 months ago, I’ve learnt so much about it from #actuallyautistic content creators (shoutout @PaigeLayle and @rubyofmyeye) and I was so intrigued as to how to this autistic character was written, especially as the description used the term ‘Aspergers’ which has been somewhat shunned by the autistic community as a diagnosis that categorises autistic people into those that are ‘economically useful’ and those that aren’t.
Reassuringly, the term Aspergers is only used once by the protagonist’s parents, which kind of fits the narrative that she knows it’s an outdated term but they still see it as the ‘better’ form of autism, though it’s never addressed.
From the very beginning, I found main character Stella to be an accurate representation of someone who is aware of her autism but desperately wants to make sure no one else is aware of her autism. She keeps her head down, focuses on her primary special interest which is her work as an econometrician and does what she can to keep her parents and her colleagues happy. But after a comment from her mother about ‘being ready for grandchildren’ and another from her colleague about ‘needing to practice sex’, she spirals a little and ends up booking a night with a meticulously researched escort named Michael.
After proposing that he become her sex teacher, Michael has to seriously reconsider his ‘no repeat client’ rules, because he is taken by Stella in a way he absolutely can’t comprehend.
The first half, maybe two thirds of the book are some of the spiciest I’ve ever read – if you like your romance with *spice* then look no further because this book is steamy and seductive as much as it is sweet and poignant. Ever other chapter is incredibly detailed bedroom scenes which make listening to it on my way to and from work a tiny bit awkward.
But in between the detailed sex lessons, Stella and Michael are falling for each other hard and fast, whilst assuming that their ‘major character flaws’ mean the other could never be feeling the same way. Stella knows she is paying Michael for his service – he’s slept with hundreds of other women so she must just be another client to him. And to Michael, he knows that Stella is paying him so she can learn to be ‘better’ for someone else, so he assumes that their financial, educational and situational difference mean she could never see him as he see’s her.
Basically, both are incredibly insecure and are defining the phrase ‘to assume makes an ass of you and me’ because by god they cannot stop assuming they’re not good enough for each other.
But it’s written in the sweetest and most romantic way – each of them making the most of the moments, immersing themselves in the practice relationship while they have each other.
The last part of the book, where there is markably less sex but the character arcs tumble at great speed towards their conclusion, everything we love about Stella and Michael comes to light – it’s incredibly sweet, the narrative effortlessly switches between each character’s perspective and as I entered the last 45 minutes of the audiobook with so much left to happen, it was one of the most fantastically paced books I’ve read in a while.
I adored The Kiss Quotient – Stella’s representation of autism was spot on and I loved her full circle journey from ‘I am more than my autism’ to ‘My autism is a part of me and that’s not a fault’, her social encounters with Michael’s family, the scene in the nightclub and with her work colleagues were so wonderfully written between the spoken dialogue and the internal monologue. Michael’s story was so sweet and I loved that he was a little bit in love with Stella from the very beginning, rather than the enemies-to-lovers I was anticipating.
Fast paced and slow burn simultaneously, a fantastic representation of autism without leaning on societal expectations of stereotypes and incredibly written from the sexiest to the sweetest moments.
The Kiss Quotient gets a full 5/5 from me! And in writing this blog post, I found that there are two more books in the series focusing on other characters which I will absolutely be using my next Audible credits for!
Thank you for reading,