Romance is one of those categories that I think of as "I don't read much," but really it's more like "I like what I like and am meh on the rest." I am mostly into historicals and rarely read contemporary. But now that I read Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (because so good), I end up putting the ones they love on my list.
This is how I read Jasmine Guillory's The Wedding Date (also Roxane Gay's cover blurb), which was sweet but sadly did not knock my socks off. And it's how I came to be reading The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang, which may very well be my new FAVORITE ROMANCE EVER.
Big, bold statement, I know. But oh my god, I keep having to put this book down to squee. I keep telling my husband random things like "No, no, she's not stalking him, please don't think she's stalking him, it's a coincidence!" and "Sexual harassment! Where is HR?" and "When will they admit it?" It makes my little heart swell up.
Representation is a lovely and important thing that's going on here, with a half-Vietnamese hero and an autistic heroine, but honestly, that is an intellectual pleasure, and most of my pleasure here was visceral. The sex (there's a lot) was like reading my favorite fanfic, in that it's both rather explicit and also under a lot of discussion, with a lot of conversations about what people like and what everyone wants. In my experience, fanfic sex is better than published sex, but this is an exception.
What romance needs is a reason for the protagonists to believe they won't end up together, and a reason for them to be together a bunch anyway. The "fake dating" trope (catnip!) is going strong here, and while there are no reasons for them not to be together, there are believable reasons for them to think they won't end up together--real things that might be obstacles if they weren't both so wonderful.
I am writing this right before reading the end because I am so high on my excitement here that I wanted to talk about it. I love how Stella's super logical mind works, and that we see her as a whole person--the strengths that autism gives her (her ability to logic her way through a lot of things), the weaknesses (the tendency to not realize she's said something hurtful), and the neutral things that aren't good or bad, but are just her (channeling her emotions into music; knowing what she wants; not being able to handle overstimulating environments).
I love Stella so much more than a lot of the impulsive and emotional characters who don't move through their worlds with enough sense. Everyone here has so much good sense. A++, would read again.