The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang


Blurb: Anna Sun has been a violinist for as long as she can remember. Playing the violin is her passion, and she has major successes to show for it. When she suddenly loses her ability to play, the explanation is due to her being a pathological people pleaser. If Anna ever wants to play again, she has to learn to listen to her own heart, but that’s not easy when her greatest fear has always been disappointing others. Her solution is to practice in a low-stress environment. Translation: Anna is going to embark on a string of one-night stands, and the more unacceptable the men are, the better.


That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. But nothing goes according to plan. Their attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, until it starts to feel like a real relationship. As they both fall for each other, Anna begins to retreat to her old ways, molding herself into what she thinks he wants. When her old-fashioned parents disapprove of the match and the person she’s slowly discovering herself to be, Anna must choose between meeting expectations and finding happiness in who she really is.


Review: I'm a big fan of Helen Hoang's books, having previously read The Kiss Quotient and read and reviewed The Bride Test, enjoying them for their slower pace, their character development, and their diversity in terms of both mental health and abilities. I loved the first two books in this series and was exceptionally excited for Quan's book, but I never imagined I'd get this story. It was heart-wrenching, intensely emotional, and brilliantly written.


I expected emotion, given Hoang's track record, but I also expected a book focused more on the relationship between the heroine and hero. I was surprised by how much of this book focused on Anna's relationship with her family and her own internal struggles. The relationship between Anna and Quan got plenty of attention, don't get me wrong, but I found myself deeply entrenched in the connections between Anna and her sister, Anna and her mother, and Anna and her father. Watching her learn to believe in herself, learn to speak up for herself, learn to accept herself... that's what made her the star of her own story, rather than a co-star of the hero's story (which I feel happens a lot sometimes in romance novels, the heroine is just there to complement the hero's journey to self-discovery).


Still, it was incredibly delightful to break up the tense moments between Anna and her family with the heart-warming moments between Anna and Quan. Quan was so accepting of her "quirks" and struggles and willing to take it oh-so-slow. Meanwhile, Anna was equally understanding of Quan's own hang-ups regarding sex. It was truly a match made in heaven...or Tinder in this case.


All in all, this doesn't necessarily read like her other romances (probably because of the big focus on Anna's relationships outside the romantic spectrum) but the writing quality is what we're used to and the plot will hit every one of your emotional pressure points in the best way. It's another winner.


Out August 2021. Pre-order now from bookshop.org and save.