I finished "The Kiss Quotient" because I was determined that this review be done on a fully finished book rather than a DNF, however if given my druthers, I would've stopped short less than halfway through.
To be clear, I had reservations going in. The setup of the POC hero as the Pretty Woman worried me and the way the blurb went made me worry about colonizer thoughts, plus I was concerned about how Stella's neurodiversity would be handled.
Unfortunately, all of my worst fears were realized.
Not only were my worries about the whole POC guy as Pretty Woman realized, but there was Othering going on (deliberate singling out of POC), and the power differentials were troubling. The heroine has a lot of privilege and it's just sort of tossed around without really addressing the issues inherent in paying for an escort. It's an Own Voices book, but I personally felt very uncomfortable with the "use" of aspects of Stella's autism in the book. It felt like certain things were played up, other things were conveniently elided, particularly when it "suited" the plot. To clarify, I'm not saying the author Did It Wrong, but that if I weren't informed that it was an own voices book, I would not have been able to give the author the benefit of the doubt re: good faith. The heroine clearly has boundary issues and requires other people to respect her boundaries and I was troubled that she didn't seem to always extend this courtesy to the hero. In part perhaps due to Plot Reasons, but it was unsettling, combined with the power imbalance issues. The intersectional issues between Michael being POC and an escort she's paying for weren't dealt with sufficiently for my peace of mind. The writing was good, the sex very hot, the dirty talk on point, and S&M were very sweet together when they were allowed to be, but I couldn't get past the baggage.
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...