After the glorious, angst-filled saga that was the Forbidden Hearts trilogy, Alisha Rai returns with The Right Swipe, a smart, warm-hearted rom-com starring a former football player and the tech CEO who captures his heart. We talked to Rai about her brilliantly ruthless heroine, incorporating the #MeToo movement and more.
Readers (myself included) fell in love with Rhiannon when she appeared in your last book, Hurts to Love You. What made you decide to make her your heroine in this book?
I loved crafting a character that was so many things: both vulnerable and cocky, dedicated to her family and also desperate for space from them. I knew she’d be my next heroine the second she showed up, and crafting a whole new series around a snarky dating app creator was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Rhiannon is unrepentantly dedicated to her business, to the point that she pushes through her hurt feelings to pursue a business relationship with Samson and, hopefully, his aunt. Her silent business partner, Katrina, worries that Rhiannon’s actions border on manipulation. I was delighted by this tension and conversation, as I realized I had only rarely seen a heroine act the way male billionaire characters have been acting for decades. Why do you think there’s still such a resistance to female characters whose actions aren’t perfectly altruistic?
Women in real life are rarely applauded for things like arrogance or ambition the way that men are. It makes sense that fictional women are treated the same. I love reading books where all characters are unrepentant about getting what they want and need (so long as they don’t hurt others), and I really think attitudes are shifting.
Samson and his fellow former athlete friends felt so real and so charming, and were very different from the tired stereotype of alpha male football players. Were they inspired by any real-life athletes?
No one in particular, but I’ve spent time around athletes, both pro and semi-pro, and I’ve met many who are equally charming! Every profession has all kinds of people.
Which dating app have you had the best experience on? And which was the worst?
When you’re on enough of them, you realize that pretty much the same people are on all of them, too, and I’ve had good and bad experiences on every app. I think Hinge is currently the most user-friendly for people looking for more than just a hookup. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Rhiannon’s complicated relationship with her mother, Sonya, felt extremely realistic—equal parts love and guilt, shaped by Sonya’s attempts to protect and guide her clearly brilliant daughter. Do you think their relationship improves for good after the events of this book? How do you think Sonya and Samson would get along?
I think so. And I believe Samson and Sonya would adore each other at first sight. He needs to be mothered and smothered a little.
Quite a few romance novels have been tackling #MeToo in the last few years, and without giving too much away, The Right Swipe is one of them. What did you hope to add to the conversation with this book?
I started writing The Right Swipe well before the #MeToo movement took off in earnest, but I did have to tweak it a bit in later drafts to make sure it fit into the global conversation. My hope is that readers empathize with Rhiannon’s internal struggle with her past and the choices she’s made to cope with the things that have happened to her, whether they agree with them or not. Too often decisions are seen as binary, and we don’t spend nearly enough time considering why people make the choices they do, the valid factors that go into it.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing Girl Gone Viral, the second book in the Modern Love series, featuring Rhiannon’s roommate Katrina and the bodyguard who has always loved her.
Author photo by M. Ladrigan