Book Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

“This was what happiness felt like. No, wait, even more specifically: this was what a family felt like.”

Alisha Rai, First Comes Like

Publisher: Avon
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 432
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

Blurb (From Goodreads):

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

This is the third (and final?) installment of the Modern Love series by Alisha Rai. While I really enjoyed The Right Swipe, I found Girl Gone Viral fell a bit flat for me. This one fell somewhere right in between!

This follows beauty influencer Jia, who has been making YouTube videos since she was a teenager. After Bollywood star Dev slides into her DMs, she falls for him hard, without actually meeting him. After going to a party to surprise her online beau, she is heartbroken to find out he doesn’t recognize her, and she had been cat-fished by a stranger using Dev’s account. However, the paparazzi photograph the entire ordeal, and soon dating rumors spark. In order to save face, Dev and Jia decide to begin fake dating to hide the fact she had been cat-fished.

There were lot’s of things that I liked about this book! First off, I loved the fact that Jia was a hijabi heroine. I believe this is the first romance novel I’ve read with a hijabi heroine. Alisha Rai’s books always have outstanding representation, and this book was no exception. Dev is also from India, and has moved to America to film a new TV show. There is some conversation about American’s perspective of India, and how so many Americans don’t even consider non-western countries as significant.

Another aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Jia’s desire to wait for having sex until marriage. This is something I have never read in a romance novel before, and I loved it. Dev was totally on board with waiting as well, and never pressure Jia into anything. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book just approached sex in such a realistic way. There were mentions of using protection, how sex plays into Jia’s religion, and how it can be uncomfortable at first. This is probably what stuck out to me the most, because there are so many books where the story revolves around unrealistic sex. This book definitely revolves around Jia and Dev’s relationship, and how religion and culture plays into it.

I did think that Dev and Jia’s relationship was very cute, even if it was a bit unrealistic. They both moved very quickly, but the pace of their relationship did make sense because of the cultures Jia and Dev belonged to. Even so, the whole thing just felt a little bit too good to be true, making the stakes not extremely high.

Along with that, I also loved seeing Jia’s relationships with her sisters. Jia is the youngest of 5 sisters, and they were just so much fun to read about. Their banter back and fourth felt very realistic, and it was great seeing them ready to defend Jia and kick Dev’s ass if needed. If Alisha Rai does end up continuing this series, I would love to see a love story about Jia’s twin sister. Not only that, but Jia also has an amazing found family with her roommates, who are the heroines of the previous two books. It was a lot of fun to see where their relationships were heading.

While I wish I could say only positive things about this book, I did find it to be a bit boring. The synopsis pitches this as a fake dating story, but the fake dating only lasts a very short amount of time. In fact, it really doesn’t play into the story at all because the characters are essentially real dating by the time the second date rolls around. It also just felt like it took awhile for anything to actually happen. Most of the action took place in the last 25% of the book, and even then, it just felt a bit slow.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you are looking for:

  • Diverse characters
  • A hijabi heroine
  • A not-so-steamy romance
  • Marriage for convenience trope

But I would skip if you are looking for:

  • Fake dating
  • Fast paced and action packed romance

Let me know what you thought of this book in the comments below!

To read my review for The Right Swipe, click here.
To read my review for Girl Gone Viral, click here.

Book Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

2.5 stars

Katrina, an ex-model, spent most of her childhood in the spotlight as a model. Now, after the death of her husband, she has created a space of anonymity for herself. That is, until one day, a man approaches her at a busy coffee shop and asks to sit with her. He’s cute, but Katrina isn’t ready to date, so she politely turns him down when he asks. She thinks the interaction is over, but the next day finds out that an observer at the next table documented the entire thing on her Twitter- included with a photo. Next thing Katrina knows, she is going viral as the #CafeBae and people all over the world are trying to uncover her identity. So when her bodyguard, Jas, suggests a weekend away, that sounds exactly like what Katrina needs. However, the more she spends time with Jas, the more she realizes that the sparks between them are undeniable.

This is the companion novel to The Right Swipe (full review here), a book I was pleasantly surprised by. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling this book quite as much.

I really liked reading from Katrina’s perspective. She was lots of fun and had an interesting back story. In fact, I wish we would’ve gotten more about her backstory. The author added a few details, such as an abusive father and a kidnapping, but I wish she would’ve gone a bit more in depth into water her childhood and pre-marriage life was like.

This was a dual perspective novel, so although I liked Katrina’s voice, I didn’t like Jas’s as much. I found him quite boring and monotone compared to her. Even by the end of the book, I felt like I didn’t know that much about him, and I also didn’t understand how his feelings for Katrina had come to be. From the start of the novel, he’s such crazy for her, and I wish I would’ve been able to see a build up of those feelings. He had so much family drama going on, and I felt like that’s the only part of Jas’s character that was really developed.

Now, let’s continue with the romance. The idea of a bodyguard romance sounds super intriguing, but this really didn’t work for me. I didn’t understand where Jas and Katrina’s relationship stemmed from, it just kind of appeared. It didn’t seem very real to me. The author tries to cover for this by saying they had been into each other for since the beginning, but I still didn’t really feel it. This made the whole story feel kind of insta-lovey. Not only that, but the two also claim to love the other after the first time they kiss. It just didn’t feel super real.

Although this wasn’t my favorite, there were some things I really did like about this book! Gia, Katrina’s roommate, is so precious and I am so excited for her to get her own novel! I also loved the mental health representation in this book! Katrina struggles with anxiety, and the author goes into detail about how this affects Katrina. However, I love the fact that even though Katrina has anxiety, she is still crazy successful! She has amazing friends, financial security, and by the end a great boyfriend. I feel like there is a stigma that people with anxiety cannot be successful, and the author totally erases that prejudice.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

WWW Wednesday

I’m super excited for this post because it is my first WWW Wednesday!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, all you have to do is simply answer the 3 W’s.

WHat Are You Currently Reading?

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris- I read Heather Morris’s first book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and was gifted this companion novel, so I decided to pick it up. It’s definitely not as enticing as the first book, but I hope to finish it today or tomorrow so I can pick up something new.
The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren- I’m reading this book via audiobook right now. So far it’s okay, but probably my least favorite Christina Lauren book to date.

What Have You Recently Finished Reading?

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai- This is another companion novel that I didn’t love. It did have its moments but I really didn’t connect with the male love interest which made it hard to get through since it was duel perspective.
The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll- Honestly this one was a challenge for me to get through. I totally get why this book is a classic because it is totally genius. I just didn’t really want to read 270 pages of it.

What Will You Read Next?

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- Honestly, I have no idea what this book is about other than it’s a thriller set in 1950s Mexico. I don’t read many thrillers so I am anxious to see if I will like this.
Gi
rls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan– This is a book that has been on my TBR for ages and I finally got my hands on a copy. I’m not sure what this is about, except that it is a YA fantasy with a f/f romance. The sequel also recently came out and has a glorious cover.

Leave your WWW Wednesday in the comments below!

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

4 stars

“It’s not a weakness to take care of yourself. Asking for and taking what you need to function should never be considered a weakness.”

Alisha Rai, The Right Swipe

Rhiannon Hunter straight up doesn’t have time for a romantic relationship. Even though she is the CEO and owner of the company Crush (the hottest dating app of the modern world), romance is the last thing on her mind. However, the occasional hookup isn’t out of the question, and when one of those hookups happens to be retired NFL player Samson Lima, how would anyone resist? Unfortunately, things go downhill after her ghosts her the next night.

Months later, Rhiannon is positive she is over the hurt of being ghosted, until he reappears on a team with her business rival, Matchmaker. Samson asks for forgiveness and a second chance, but how can Rhiannon trust someone who’s ghosted her?

TW: sexual harassment, cyber bullying

Okay so first of all, can we appreciate this gorgeous cover that prompted me to pick this book up in the first place? And let me tell you, the story inside is just as cute as the cover on the outside!

I loved so many things about this book, but one of my favorite things was the discussion of race and gender in the workplace. Rhiannon is literally one of my favorite people I’ve read about in a romance novel. As a black woman in the business world, she handles the topics of racism and sexism with such grace and integrity. This book addressed so many important issues and put them into a real world context. Rhi is just a badass woman and I love her!

Also, can we just talk about how amazing the representation was in this book? The main characters were black and Samoan, Rhiannon’s assistant was Indian, her best friend Korean-American and plus sized, and Samson’s two best friends were black as well. How incredible is that?

I fell like the author took everything in this book and made it an important topic of discussion. When I found out Samson was a retired NFL player, I thought I would be less invested during his perspective because I’m not a sports person. However, the author incorporated the importance of safety and the dangers of concussions and created a whole new topic of discussion! This is a topic I have never heard being discussed before, and I didn’t even know there were problems surrounding it.

The same goes for the topic of sexual harassment. Of course, this is a delicate topic and the author could have steered clear of making it part of her plot, but decided to go at it and really brought it to the forefronts of people’s minds. She addressed why some women don’t come forward, and why it can ruin a woman’s life.

Also, this romance was just so swoon worthy! Samson and Rhiannon are so precious and their relationship was actually believable. I liked how the author brought in Rhiannon’s past hurts and Samson’s insecurities and it made the couple stronger. It was one of the healthiest relationships I have read about and both respect each other and their boundaries, but also want to help the other overcome what’s hurting them. My heart couldn’t take it!

Basically, pick this book up! It is fun, meaningful, and just so dang cute! I am so excited to read the sequel soon!