“This was what happiness felt like. No, wait, even more specifically: this was what a family felt like.”Alisha Rai, First Comes Like
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 432
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!