TITLE: The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)
AUTHOR: Helen Hoang
AGE RANGE: Adult
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.
I’m terrified that if I slip, if I fail, everyone will stop loving me, and where will I be then?
Sometimes, a book is so bad, it’s hard to give it a fair review. Other times, a book is so magnificent, it’s hard to put my thoughts into words. And then, there are books like The Heart Principle, which hit me so deeply that, no matter how much I loved the book, it hurts too much to review until I’ve had time to process.
This book hurt me in all of the best ways. It drew out so many little pieces of myself, some that I don’t believe even I had looked in the eye yet, and laid them all out in the light where I couldn’t avoid facing them any longer. It’s been 3 months since I finished this book, and I’m still working through a few of those shards. Helen Hoang has a way of doing that to me, though.
I haven’t hurt anyone. I shouldn’t be ashamed. I shouldn’t need to apologize. This is me.
I’m supposed to be telling you how much I love this book, too, and I do. Out of this entire series, despite having loved each and every installment very much, this was my favorite, by leaps and bounds. Quan and Anna mean so very much to me, and watching the two of them find happiness — even if they had to fight tooth and nail for it — was a journey I can’t imagine having missed out on.
The Heart Principle is an incredibly heavy, tragic read at times. There are moments where I found myself wondering how Helen Hoang could ever deliver the HEA I had been promised, because Quan and Anna are both broken in so many ways — but, much like with real people in the real world, healing isn’t an overnight process. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t pretty… but it’s doable, and it’s worth the fight.
“The only good thing this broken heart of mine can feel is love for you.”
Even with the weight of the topics this story covers, though, there are so many shimmering moments of joy and light. We get to see characters we love from the previous installments, and we meet one or two new ones that I wish we could have more time with, too. We get to watch Anna and Quan triumph over so many battles, both within themselves and in the outside world, and the love that these two find together is one of the most satisfying, hard-earned love stories I’ve read in the romance genre. If you’re comfortable with the content within (I’ll list everything I can remember in the content warnings below), I can’t recommend this book enough.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with this review copy in exchange for an honest review!
WARNINGS (no spoilers):
anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, ableism, cancer, infertility, terminal illness and death of a parent, hospice care, autistic burnout, masking, familial verbal/emotional abuse, gaslighting
Anna is Chinese and autistic, Quan is Vietnamese, many BIPOC side characters, two autistic side characters
— destiny ♥