One evening around dinner time at the Pond, Xiaolong smelled a rich, delectable aroma of something slightly tangy and warm.
“Mmm,” she mused, “I wonder what’s cooking. It sure smells great!”
She wandered in the direction of the scent to find Cuddle huddled over the fire with a ladle in her paw, stirring what looked to be an orange colored soup filled with noodles, sprouts, and various meats. The steam wafted up from the pot towards Cuddle’s face as Party sat peacefully on a log behind her, awaiting dinner.
“Oh, hi, Xiaolong, come over here! I looked up the recipe for an authentic Bún bò Huế. After I read THE BRIDE TEST, I couldn’t stop thinking about this soup. I had all this fish sauce saved up and reading that scene where Esme used it in her recipe made me want to try to make it myself. Taste it. I hope it’s good!” Cuddle shifted nervously from side to side.
“We just had fish snacks the other day, remember? I loved them!” said Xiaolong.
“No, Silly, fish sauce! Not fish snacks!” giggled Cuddle.
She scooped Bún bò Huế into three bowls: two big and one small, added lime slices, and carried them carefully over to a tree stump by the log where Party was perched.
“Speaking of THE BRIDE TEST, I loved it so much. Let me tell you more…”
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.
THE BRIDE TEST opens in Ho Chi Minh City, where Khai Diep’s mother, Cô Nga, takes Trấn Ngọc Mỹ, or Esme, by surprise, and propositions her with the opportunity to move to the Bay Area of California to date her son, in hopes of them one day marrying. Esme is not well off and lives in poverty, so with the hopes of securing a better life for herself and her daughter, she agrees and moves in with Khai, attempting to seduce him. Their story is romantic, exploratory, and well-rounded.