I have mentioned previously that I have read tractor-trailers full of romance novels this year. Well, I would have if I read actual books; since I read ebooks, it’s more like an SD card full.
Overall, though, romance sales were up 24% during the period of March 2020-21. And I’m taking credit for at least half of those sales.
Bookstore owner Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA, is quoted in the 8/21/21 issue of Fortune Magazine, talking about diversity and representation in the current crop of romances, saying:
"The sheer massive quantity of romance and the emergence of a wider array of voices and representations has meant that we have a romance where almost any reader can see themselves.”
She is absolutely correct. We are seeing more queer and gender non-conforming voices, more body-positive messages, more people of color. More neurodiversity. Which brings us to The Kiss Quotient.
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
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 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 will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
Because I read 3-6 romance novels a week (you thought I was kidding about the truckloads?), these days it takes something pretty special for one to stand out. Most of them blur into the background the minute I’m done with them. Not this one.
Author Helen Hoang is both on the autism spectrum, and half-Asian. So, she’s writing this story from a ‘real experience‘ perspective, and her love of these characters is obvious. The story is…enchanting. Stella is so bright, and so funny, and so socially inept that you just want to wrap her in bubble wrap so that nothing can hurt her, ever. And the way that Michael falls for her is an amazing, super-sweet slow burn. They are both adorably clueless, Michael because he thinks that their arrangement is all-business, and Stella because reading social cues is not her strength. When they inevitably part, it is gut-wrenching.
Now, I know how romance novels work, and I knew in my head that they would fix what was wrong, that these characters I had grown so, so attached to would get their HEA. Having said that, my heart was terrified for them. I stopped about 80% of the way through because I was so scared for Stella that I couldn’t quite breathe, and I thought that if they effed this up and broke her heart for real, well…it was going to break my heart, too.
So, kudos to Ms. Hoang for writing characters that I felt so fiercely protective of. They do get that HEA, which isn’t really a spoiler because it’s never really in doubt in a contemporary rom-com, but it is satisfying none the less.