The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Rating: 4 stars
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
You have been warned...
This book was deeper than The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test, in my opinion. Hoang states, in her author's note, that The Heart Principle is the most autobiographical of the three books, as it relates to her own journey with learning that she is on the autism spectrum. While this topic was broached a bit in The Kiss Quotient, this book also addresses issues that non-autistic folx may be unfamiliar with, like autistic burnout and not being believed by family or friends. I feel that it is also important to mention that this book contains ableism, medical illnesses, caregiving, and suicidal ideation.
I get to be the expert on me.
Despite all of this, Hoang has delivered a romance with a slow burn and instant connection between Anna and Quan. Their conversations flow easily and they seem to fit. Quan and Anna are able to give one another the compassion and empathy that neither seem to be able to give themselves, at first. Anna's need to please everyone and Quan's insecurities stand in their way but these issues make the resolution very satisfying. Their sex scenes are very steamy but not quite smut because their intimacy is directly tied to their hang-ups, which is understandable. If anything, I'd say that their connection looks like lasting love. That #RideorDie type stuff. The only turn-off, for me, was the author's use of the phrase "her sex" and "his sex" to refer to the character's genitals. I'm not a fan, but you may not mind!
Although I predicted the climax of this book, it was still hard to read! I kept wanting to stop, but I knew that I just had to get through it to get to the resolution. I'm still not sure if I liked the pacing or not. The plot moves along slowly for most of the book as Anna's issues arise and she gets comfortable with Quan, but then it speeds up at the end. I understand this might be to connect with Anna's emotions as this book is written in first-person.
I recommend this book to folx who enjoyed Hoang's previous two and are okay with taking a walk in Anna's shoes!