Book Title: First Comes Like
Author: Alisha Rai
Release date: February 16, 2021
Genres: Adult, contemporary, romance, fiction
Alisha Rai, author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral, returns with a story about finding love in all the wrong inboxes.
Makeup expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire beauty world 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 slips into her DMs…
Jia quickly falls for Dev Dixit’s poetic texts. When they’re finally in the same place and time, she figures she’s simply got to meet the man who’s seduced her with his words. One wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, Dev is accustomed to stalkers, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. It should be easy to write Jia off…but the words she claims he sent her are a little too familiar.
Between the catfishing mystery and an unfortunate photo leak, Dev and Jia quickly find themselves in the same public relations pickle. The solution: some friendly fake dating to help with his fresh start in Hollywood and dazzle her family. It doesn’t take long for them to both start wondering, though: can a romance-turned-fauxmance ever turn back into a romance?
I have not read any of Alisha Rai’s previous works, but First Comes Like has certainly stoked my interest in her. It’s a fun romance with a whole lot of sister bonding and friends-like-sisters bonding. We move through the story via the perspectives of both Jia and Dev, so that we get a well-rounded narrative.
I found the couple unusual–Pakistani American female MC and Indian male MC. The circumstances in which they meet are even more strange. What follows is a lesson in online literacy. Even the most internet-savvy of us all can fall prey to unscrupulous and anonymous online pranksters. If these mischief-makers have malicious intent, we stand to lose much more than face.
Rai addresses several conflicts prevalent in society–between traditional and modern thought, between cultural norms, and between religious beliefs.
a) Jia’s mother, Farzana, is a physician and is unable to accord Jia’s job as a YouTube influencer the respect it deserves. I see the same disdain in real life for any career option that isn’t one of the traditional ones–doctor, engineer, manager, etc.
b) Jia’s housemates are unable to understand why her family is scandalized by the thought of Jia dating when she’s nearly thirty and earning enough to support herself.
c) Finally, Dev Dixit’s parents had an inter-religious marriage–much to the dismay of his grandparents. The mother’s Muslim identity is erased by the grandparents, who barely acknowledge her. Dev’s uncle, Adil, is actively discouraged from bonding with him after the death of Dev’s parents.
That Rai weaves all these important themes into a funny, lighthearted read does her immense credit.
One of the things that I loved about the story was its hat-tip to longstanding Indian TV serials and its outrageous plotlines where the main lead can die and be reborn several times. There’s also a direct reference to a famous scene from the TV serial Saath Nibhaana Saathiya.
First Comes Like is a well-written, witty, and sensitive story featuring Asian main characters who aren’t often written about. The way Jia and Dev navigate their families, soothing egos and dismissing deep-set biases, makes for a good read.
(I received an e-ARC from Lonely Pages Book Tours with a request for an honest review.)
About Alisha Rai
Alisha Rai writes award-winning emotionally complex contemporary romance novels and is frequently sought as a speaker on a range of topics covering romance and media.
She is the first author to have an indie-published book appear on Washington Post’s annual Best Books list. Her books have also been featured on the IndieNext and LibraryReads lists, and been named Best Books of the Year by NPR, New York Public Library, Vulture, Reader’s Digest, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Kirkus, Bustle, “O”, the Oprah Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. When she’s not writing, Alisha is traveling and tweeting.