S01E04 – The Kiss Quotient

Can you practice romance? Stella Lane thinks so. In this episode, we talk about The Kiss Quotient, a romance novel by Helen Hoang. It tells the story of Stella Lane, an econometrician with Asperger’s, who decides to hire Michael Phan, an escort, to teach her intimacy and romance. We discuss Autism Spectrum Disorder, the relationship between core beliefs and miscommunication, and the importance of being a decent human. Priscilla adores this one, but can see Elise’s point that we can raise the bar for our leading men.

Mental health issues covered (and trigger warnings): Autism spectrum disorder (in particular, its social impacts and resulting anxiety); toxic relationships; and sexual content, including discussion around sex scenes, consent and sexual anxiety (we struggle to keep this episode PG – our ACOMAF episode (S1E3) was a bit more successful!).

Listen to the episode:

About the Book

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…

About the Author

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. Visit the author website: https://www.helenhoang.com/

Recommended Reading

Relevant mental health resources:

  • Yellow Ladybugs is an Australian-based organisation that runs regular informal social events for girls with ASD, generally between the ages of five and sixteen. They aim to foster a sense of belonging and to connect the girls with their tribe. They also have a page with a registry of practitioners who may be able to assist with girls and ASD.
  • Dr Tony Attwood is a psychologist who specialises in girls and women with Asperger’s (or now known as high-functioning ASD). He has written several publications on Asperger’s syndrome. Here is a video of Dr Attwood talking about good mental health for autistic girls and women.
  • Aspect is an Australian-based organisation that provides information about ASD as well as how to find support.

More books like The Kiss Quotient:

  • If you enjoyed The Kiss Quotient, you may also enjoy the next book in the series, The Bride Test. The Bride Test features a male protagonist with ASD. The third book in this series, The Heart Principle, will be released in 2021 and will feature Kwan, one of the characters in The Kiss Quotient.
  • Other books featuring characters with ASD include Jodi Picoult’s House Rules and Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series.
  • If you are after another ‘fake dating’ storyline, check out To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – also featuring a very cute mixed race couple!
  • If you enjoyed the ‘practice relationship’ trope, you may like Tessa Dare’s A Week to be Wicked (fair warning: it’s fairly steamy).

Voices from Lived Experience

We checked out some reviews of The Kiss Quotient from readers and bloggers who also have ASD. What we found was pretty mixed. If you have read the book and also have ASD, please let us know what you thought!

All in all, I thought it was great Autistic representation! … Stella was not a stereotype. Her entire personality was complex and varied. She’s not just a list of “deficits” from the DSM. Her struggles with issues of internalized ableism and navigating the dating world while also respecting her own needs were very compelling.

Mamaautistic

The Kiss Quotient felt like an ill-informed use of the Romance space to reinforce several stereotypes. I don’t need the joy of seeing myself represented on a page if it comes at the price of a character that remains deeply ashamed to be the way I am.

Love in Panels

Other reading

This story is a gender-flipped version of Pretty Woman, a film which has been somewhat controversial. We want to acknowledge the voices of sex workers in this conversation – such as this article from Marie Claire.

On the TBR Pile

  • C.G. Drews (also known as paperfury in the book blogging community) has compiled a list featuring stories about people with autism. We haven’t read most of the books on the list yet, but let us know what you think if you have!

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