Each month, the Bustle Book Club asks an author to recommend a book they think everyone should read. In August, Christina Lauren, the duo behind a number of beloved romantic comedies, including The Unhoneymooners, out now, and Twice In A Blue Moon, out on Oct. 22, recommend The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai.
The Right Swipe, out now, is a rom-com that perfectly encapsulates what dating is like in 2019. While diverse rom-coms like Alisha Rai's have seen a much-needed growth in popularity over the last couple of years, so have romances that delve into all of the many perks and pitfalls of dating in the age of the internet. Sure, Rai's characters Rhiannon Hunter (an incredibly successful app-developer) and Samson Lima (a former pro-football player) are living slightly more glamorous lives than me or you, but when it comes to love, they're just the same: Swiping right, and sort of sucking at it.
Rai's novels follows Rhiannon, the creator of dating app, Crush. While she's a master at bringing singles together, she's not so adept with her own romantic life. Her most recent hook-up with Samson Lima, the ex-NFL player who ghosted her after one night together, is proof enough. But when Samson suddenly reappears in her life — as the spokesperson for a rival dating app — they both have to rethink their ideas about love, and whether their connection is worth risking their hearts.
In the interview below, Alisha Rai talks about upending rom-com stereotypes, why she felt the time was right to dive into the world of online romance, and what she hopes Bustle Book Club readers will gain from discussing her book with others:
Online dating is nothing new, but the conversations around how people are using apps to find human connection, and the positives and negatives of that, are only really just beginning. Why did you want to explore this topic in The Right Swipe?
We have a whole generation of people coming of age now who honestly won't remember a time before there were dating apps and websites. It's so baked into our culture, it seems natural for contemporary romances to really delve into modern dating. On a selfish note, I also wanted to create my dream dating app, and I don't know enough about technology to do it outside of the confines of a fictional world.
Both Rhiannon and Samson are very compelling characters for many reasons, but perhaps especially for how their personalities subvert tropes we see in many romance novels and how they upend harmful racial stereotypes. Rhiannon is a powerful, outspoken, successful black woman while Samson is an openhearted, fiercely loyal and incredibly kind football player. Talk me through your process for crafting these characters.
I'm not sure if I ever have an actual process when I create characters, but I do very carefully consider every trait and action to try to make sure they don't fall into harmful stereotypes. Subverting them when the stereotype falsely says that the person should be unloved or not powerful — by giving them love and power — that's actually a pleasure. I like to write people, and people are rarely stereotypes. They're complicated and messy, and oftentimes never what you expect. I hope I write good people.
"We have a whole generation of people coming of age now who honestly won't remember a time before there were dating apps and websites. It's so baked into our culture, it seems natural for contemporary romances to really delve into modern dating."
This book features prominent discussions about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in those with a history of repetitive brain trauma, like football players. What compelled you to so deeply explore this issue?
I've been following the CTE crisis in pro football and other sports for years. It does not make for fun reading: the illness, the public denials, the treatment of players and former players, the billion dollar settlement, and its alleged failures. When Samson came along and I decided to make him a former football player, it seemed like a natural thing to have him grapple with CTE. This is reality, for many players and players' families. There is much to love about sports and football, but nothing is ever unproblematic, and I wanted to dig under the lights and glory to create an authentic character.
"One of the things I love about romance is how there's a built in community that comes with it."
Why do you think The Right Swipe makes a perfect book club read? Do you think readers can find extra benefits from reading romance novels with others?
I think there's a lot in there to discuss with friends. One of the things I love about romance is how there's a built in community that comes with it. If you're looking to talk to someone about your favorite reads, you will undoubtedly find someone who is happy to chat with you about it.
Do you have any additional book recommendations for readers once they've finished The Right Swipe?
Right now I'm on a re-reading [marathon] of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series which is paranormal but may be a nice palate cleanser! For contemporaries, one of my favorite books this year was Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.
Follow along with the book club on Bustle.