Genre: Romance; Fiction
Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.
I read this book, thought about it, wrote and rewrote this review, and have come to the same conclusion over and over. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang is not a romance novel focused on our main character Anna Sun and her relationship with Quan. This is a romance novel focused on our main character Anna Sun’s journey to self awareness and ultimately self love. All other plot lines are just side quests.
After having a video of her playing the violin go viral on YouTube, Anna Sun hasn’t been able to step out of the pressures of international stardom and play through a full song on the violin. Although she practices every day, she’s so focused on perfection it’s impossible to make it to the end of a piece written just for her.
Queue her dickhead boyfriend, who thinks this is the perfect time to have the “we should see other people before settling down together” talk, and from the start of the book our sweet Anna is in for one hell of a ride.
The author uses Anna’s long time boyfriend to show a difficult side of romance, especially for women. Our protagonist talks about suffering through orgasm-less sex, but it’s clear she’s never had the self confidence to vocalize what it is she needs in bed. I think all women (and men) can relate. We all have a point in our life where we not only have no idea what it is we need or want, but don’t even remotely have the ability to speak up and tell our partner.
For me, this is one of the more relatable aspects of this novel. Helen Hoang doesn’t paint some impossible picture of perfect sex with perfectly timed orgasms from the start. She shows the struggles we sometimes face to achieve the perfect climax with our partners and how difficult it can sometimes be.
After her boyfriend cuts ties, Anna makes a bold, out-of-character move and decides if her boyfriend is going to see other people then she will too. That is when Quan steps into the story. He has tattoos (we love it), and he rides a motorcycle (we love it even more). He’s nothing like her boyfriend.
Anna and Quan quickly fall for each other, and the romance – while rocky at the beginning – shifts into something gorgeous and serious.
But the most brilliant and romantic aspect of this novel isn’t the romance between Anna and Quan – it’s watching Anna really start to understand herself and love herself enough to begin to take care of herself. Throughout this story we watch as Anna shifts from a quiet woman who allows her family to dictate her life into a woman who boldly sticks up for herself and speaks up for what she wants.
This is where we see that boldness Anna develops in her sex life bleed over into her other relationships, especially with her family. Her entire life she’s remained quiet and done what is expected, regardless of how it makes her feel. This completely changes as Anna interacts with her family throughout the novel, and it’s one of the most “YASSS GIRL” moments. I saw her boldly stand up for herself and wanted to experience that empowerment in my own life.
Overall, The Heart Principle is messy. There’s romance, grief, family conflict, and burnout. One moment we are experiencing a steamy scene between Anna and Quan then the next we are enraged by Anna’s family constantly gaslighting her.
But while I use the word messy, I don’t want to diminish the beauty of this story (both in the plot of the story and in Helen Hoang’s writing).
I don’t read much romance, but this one definitely set the bar high for all future romance novels I pick up.
If you haven’t already read one of Helen Hoang’s novels, I highly recommend you take a stroll through the romance section the next time you’re at the bookstore. Her writing is full of emotion and love. I know I will be heading her way next time I’m at the bookstore to pick up more of her novels.