cover image First Comes Like

First Comes Like

Alisha Rai. Avon, $15.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-287815-1

Rai (Girl Gone Viral) lovingly dives into modern Desi family dynamics in this playful, good-natured story of growing into love. Beauty influencer Jia Ahmed takes the bold step of crashing an L.A. party to meet the man who has been wooing her via Instagram messages, Bollywood actor–turned–soap opera star Dev Dixit—only to discover that he doesn’t know who she is. Jia is humiliated, and to make matters worse, her family insists on traveling to California to meet her new beau after the paparazzi publish a picture of her and Dev from their one conversation at the party. Jia asks Dev to pretend to date her during the visit so that she doesn’t have to tell her family she was catfished. But in the process of learning enough about each other to be convincing as a couple, they develop a true fondness for each other. Rai offers a refreshingly balanced depiction of minor celebrity; her protagonists clearly have money and fans, but in the end, they’re still people. The personalities of the couple’s families are distinctive, but never so over the top that the novel falls into farce, and the story lands as upbeat, witty, and sincere. Readers are sure to be satisfied. Agent: Steven Axelrod, the Axelrod Agency. (Feb.)