THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient, Book 3

From the publisher:

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.

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 herself has just started to understand. 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.


This is the latest entry into one of the best contemporary romance series. While there are three books in the series, I think that each stands alone. To prove my point, the second book in the series is from 2019, and honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about it other than the main points – a main character on the autism spectrum and an emotional journey to the happily-ever-after. And that I loved the first two books, so I was thrilled to find this new one. There is an author’s note at the end of the book explaining why there was two years before publishing, and I must insist that if you read this book, and you should, you should also read that note.

I don’t know a ton about autism. That the main character in this series is on the spectrum means that I learn more about it and I think that is a very good thing. For instance, I learned that Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a diagnosis; instead, the diagnosis is “autism spectrum disorder.” But more importantly, I learned how this woman lives with her autism and deals with it. Interestingly, the author is also on the spectrum and that just makes it more real.

Anna is a concert violinist in San Francisco. She started learning as a child, but was no prodigy – but a viral video turns her into a sensation, and a famous composer even writes her own piece for her. But Anna has taken a leave of absence from her job because she is stuck. She can’t play her own piece all the way through. In fact, she can’t play anything all the way through other than scales. As soon as she makes any kind of mistake, she has to start over, leaving her playing in a loop and very, very frustrated.

There is also frustration in her personal life. For one thing, Anna has spent her life trying to fit in with her family and even with her boyfriend of five years. Julian tells her he wants to marry her, but first wants to sleep around a lot to make sure he’s not missing anything. He wants an open relationship. Anna isn’t happy about it, and then she gets angry and decides what’s good for the gander is good for the goose and downloads a dating app, She decides to have a one-night stand or even better, a bunch of one night stands. The first guy she finds is just perfect – Quan is very good looking in a very bad boy way. But when she goes to meet him at a bar, she has a panic attack.

Quan has his own issues as a cancer survivor. He’s not looking for a relationship; he just wants to get back in the saddle again, as it were. Anna is sweet and beautiful and quirky, and as all she wants is a one night stand, kismet. It doesn’t work out like either one of them planned, so they decide to try again. Meanwhile, they talk and text and watch documentaries together while texting. The second try also fails, but they are both enjoying each other’s company and keep it going. And for the first time in her life, Anna is being herself and not just trying to please someone else.

Anna has been in therapy for a while to try and deal with her violin issues, and it’s not helping. On the other hand, she tries very hard to tell her therapist what she thinks she wants to hear. It’s not very useful and eventually the therapist tells her she believes Anna has been “masking”, trying to fit in, and gives Anna articles and a book about women on the autism spectrum.

Then Anna’s father has a massive stroke. Despite the fact that the doctors want to call in hospice, her mother and her much older, very dominating sister decide to bring him home and take care of him themselves. Anna moves home and is assigned an eight hour shift. She hates living there, hates taking care of her father not because she doesn’t love him, but because it is just so hard for her to try and fit in 24/7. To make matters worse, she thinks her father hates living like this and wants to die. He has a feeding tube, diapers, he can’t talk at all and it just breaks her heart.

Her sister thinks that autism diagnosis is crap and that Anna just needs to work harder. She also is planning a big birthday party for their father and wants Anna to play her violin at the party. Anna has fallen in love with Quan, but her wealthy Chinese family is not thrilled with this Vietnamese non-professional man. Julian is a doctor and his parents are good friends with Anna’s parents so they are invited to the party. But nothing goes right for Anna, and her struggle is real.

This is the type of book that is almost impossible to put down. That said, the crisis point of the story got me so emotional that I had to put it down and just cry. I avoided going back for a couple of hours, but then steeled myself to keep going and get to the happy ending I knew was coming.

Caretaking is a big issue in this story. In fact, the book is divided into three sections; before, during, and after [the stroke.] These characters wormed their way into my heart and there they stay, especially after reading the author’s note. I loved this book so much – I think it is the best book of an already excellent series, and everyone should read it. This is a wonderful romance with lots of humor, pathos, and hot sex, but it is the emotional journey that means everything here. It was worth the two year wait! Don’t miss it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang. Berkley (August 31, 2021). ISBN: 978-0451490841. 352 pages.

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