Two fun, flirty rom-coms with celebrity characters have hidden depths beneath their glittering surfaces.
Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series comes to a close with First Comes Like. Jia Ahmed is a beauty expert and influencer. She’s well-versed in fashion and camera angles and promoting posts—in short, she knows how to highlight not only the best parts of her look, but also the best parts of her life, the pieces she wants to amplify and share with the world. And when she takes up an epistolary romance with a hot Bollywood soap opera star through her direct messages, Jia is on cloud nine. He’s heir to an influential family, he’s giving her the romance she didn’t know she needed and he’s oh, so dreamy. He’s also oh, so fake.
Dev Dixit doesn’t have time for romance—between moving to America, closing out his brother’s estate and taking on the care of his niece, his schedule is full. But when he realizes someone is catfishing Jia, his sense of honor kicks in and he decides to help. It's not that she’s beautiful and compelling and interesting—he’s just a great guy. Really. So, of course when they’re photographed in a sultry position, Dev has no option other than to agree to her request that they fake date for a bit, just to get the paparazzi off their backs.
Every page of First Comes Like is bursting with fun, especially for pop-culture junkies, but Rai also addresses deeper questions about fame and access and culture. Online personalities and romances versus real-life relationships; imposter syndrome; microaggressions about heritage and culture and Bollywood cinema. The large cast of characters surrounding both Jia and Dev are lovingly and individually drawn, and it’s hard not to feel swept up into both of their families. All that, and there are helpful tips for selfies courtesy of Jia!
Former Hollywood actress River Lane travels to the tiny town of Moose Springs, Alaska, in Sarah Morgenthaler’s Enjoy the View. Determined to keep a stake in the film industry, River has shifted to working behind the screen and plans to direct a documentary about Moose Springs. She grew up in Wyoming, so the rugged landscape isn’t as daunting as the people of Moose Springs, who don’t want publicity about their little slice of heaven. River’s got a lot riding on the success of her directorial debut, which explains her short temper and brashness. She’s bold and she’s brave, and, thanks to local hottie Easton Lockett, she’s got an in for her Moose Springs documentary. The mountaineer agrees to guides River’s team into the Rockies to climb Mount Veil, their local 14er. Perennial peacemaker Easton is a lot nicer and more receptive to outsiders than other men in Morgenthaler’s series, but he’s no less cautious and protective of Moose Springs.
Morgenthaler's romance is pure escapism and competence porn, full of adventure, beautiful mountain vistas and knowledgeable alpine climbing guides. It’s like “Northern Exposure” meets Cliffhanger; River’s reckless bravery keeps her on the edge of the mountain and readers on the edge of their seats. As a woman in Hollywood, River has walked a fine line between nice and pleasant and not making waves, because too much of the latter meant her career would be over. But now that she doesn’t have to walk that particularly unfair tightrope, she’s unsure of the right balance to strike in her life going forward. River and Easton have an adrenaline-filled journey to their happily ever after, but it’s the boldness and patience, community and independence they learn from each other that makes it the most satisfying.