Well, friends and readers, a month of nonstop work and no play, which, for this feral spinster, means barely romance reading since mid-August other than a slog through Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe (not to say that the novel was sluggish). But it wasn’t a shining star of the romance universe either; the romance-reading torpidity was all me. I can safely say to you, my readers, that The Right Swipe was better in concept than execution. It certainly hit a lot of the cool-romance-gestalt buttons: the heroine, Rhiannon Hunter, CEO of a date-matching app, Crush, out to buy the tried-and-tested-and-first-now-dated app, Matchmaker; the hero, Samson Lima, a mild, muscular beta, former football star, nephew to Matchmaker’s owner, Annabelle Kostas. Honestly, I started the novel such a long time ago, I barely remember the beginning, other than to say Samson and Rhi are thrown together at a tech con, Samson having taken a promotional role in his aunt’s company. Ah, but dear readers, there be a past history here. Thanks to said apps, Samson and Rhi spent one night together months ago. Though Samson asked to see Rhi again at the end of the night, he never contacted her. As she thinks in the first chapter, he “ghosted” her … cool-romance-element, check two.
But, but, but, dear readers, Samson does come with the bestest of reasons for the “ghosting”: he’d been caring for his uncle, also a former football star, as was Samson’s dad, who died of Alzheimer’s and ALS. Samson was devastated. (This made me think Rai is paying a little homage to my three favourite films, Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight … when Celine doesn’t show up for her reunion with Jesse because her beloved grandmother died. Really, if you haven’t seen them, do, they’re great.) When Samson explains why he didn’t contact Rhi, she does sort of forgive him. But, Rai definitely set out to create a difficult, closed-off, and prickly heroine, so Rhi agrees to sleep with Samson (the intimacy is great and was), but no emotions, strictly come-hither-babe and we’re done once this con is over. Samson, on the other hand, is an emotional dude; moreover, he’s a one-women-kind-of-guy and anything but a player, as we learn: “He’d been single and entirely celibate for almost five years before That Night. A modern Lothario, he was not.”
Business throws and keeps Samson and Rhi together, with the whole app-world laid out in the novel, which this old fogey found boring. Other than the fairy-app-godmother role played by Samson’s aunt, Annabelle, which was delightful and fun. She was wonderful. While Samson and Rhi enjoy a hands-on relationship, things truck along the check-list of cool-romance-requirements: vulnerabilities are revealed. Samson has trust issues; Rhi, on the other hand, has trust-blocks, with good reasons, like gaslighting and mental abuse from someone she thought she could trust, someone she loved. Things come home to roost by the end of the novel, there is a Big Mis between Samson and Rhi, so the hand of romance’s Achilles’ heel rears its ugly “head”? (Let’s face it, heels aren’t the most attractive of bits.) But there is a mild HEA, with requisite cool-not-PIV-sex and cutesy avowals of lurve.
This is definitely a romance that many romance readers will enjoy and applaud. I found the Samson-Rhi romance lacklustre and sporadic. It felt like there were so many other things important to Rai, the “ghosting,” the CTE issues in football, which become central to Samson’s story, Rhi’s asshole former BF and what he did to her ability to love and trust (which also has roots in her schooling). While I admit to some liking for Samson, I found Rhi difficult, not because she was prickly and weird and had a penchant for wearing hoodies (which I admit I have an unreasonable dislike of), but because Rai took so long to let us know what made her tick. I did sympathize with Rhi … by the end, but the revelations came so late that I’d already invested in a long novel (it felt long to me) without much reader-payback. I don’t regret reading Swipe, but I won’t be following the series. With Miss Austen, we say Rai’s The Right Swipe is “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey.
Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe is published by Avon Books. It was released August 2nd and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC of The Right Swipe from Avon Books, via Netgalley.