I’ve discovered a side effect to my intense mood reading in December is that my brain is more committed than ever to not following a plan for my reading. So instead of getting reviews for the three books I have advanced copies of that came out on February 2nd, you’re getting reviews today for First Comes Like by Alisha Rai and Back in the Texan’s Bed by Naima Simone. The good news is that I really enjoyed both of them and you can at least already get Back in the Texan’s Bed in e and on Tuesday, you can get it physically. Thanks to Netgalley and Avon/Harlequin for the review copies!
Back in the Texan’s Bed by Naima Simone
Naima Simone just achieved such a feat in making me really get behind a secret baby romance. I shouldn’t be surprised. I think Naima Simone is one of the best, if not the best, writer in the Harlequin Desire category line (I haven’t read enough of any other line to say). She captures the emotions of her characters so well. She writes the heat and chemistry between her leads flawlessly. These characters come alive even with their rich people problems and over the top soap opera drama at times.
Essentially, three years ago Charlotte left Ross behind and moved to California, where she had his baby. She’s back in Royal now and neither of them are coping with this new reality particularly well. The chemistry between them is still there, but so is a fierce amount of anger on both of their parts. Ross’s dad is a trash can of epic proportions and makes things quite difficult for Ross and Charlotte. I loved the cast of side characters in this one though, I mean, aside from Rusty. But even he is well done. I suppose you could argue he’s one-dimensional, but honestly, he felt real to me.
My only complaint is that I wish the ending had been longer. I feel like that’s my most frequent complaint anymore. But with the dark moment and then the reconciliation coming so quickly, I just have a few concerns about the HEA status of my new beloved characters. I think I at least needed an epilogue! But aside from this tiny quibble, I thought Back in the Texan’s Bed was excellent! And it’s always nice to have proof that in the hands of an extremely talented author, I really can like even tropes I hate.
Also, can we talk about how Naima Simone is the perfect person to kick off a multi author series? She always makes me so invested in the side characters, I need to continue on even if I don’t know the other authors!
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
It’s no secret that I love Alisha Rai. I’ve loved her self-published works that I’ve read, A Gentleman in the Street is one of my favorites, and Hate to Want You is in my top three romances of all time. Her Modern Love series has been different than the work she’s done in the past and I think that was especially true in this installment. Specifically, this book is both lighter in tone, more plot heavy, and had fewer sexy times than most of the books she’s written in the past. Fortunately, it still worked for me really well, mostly because of how much I loved Jia. I do think I would have liked more time spent developing some of these plot points because there were a lot of changes throughout this book, but there’s not a ton of time spent in any particular place. And yet, this book made me really happy and that’s something I need so desperately right now that I have a hard time saying I would make changes.
Jia has been DM’ing and then texting with a famous Indian actor who is now in the States and hasn’t been willing to commit to meeting up. Tired of his weirdness, Jia attends an event where Dev is also in attendance, but when she goes up to him, he has no idea who she is. When Dev and Jia are photographed by paparazzi, they wind up fake dating. There’s actually a lot of external forces sort of conspiring to get the two of them together throughout this book. It reminds me a little of the song “Bright” from Echosmith.
I think, for me, what really made this book work is that I felt like both of the characters made sense to me. I understood what was important to them. Dev has taken custody of his teenage niece after his brother died, for example, and prioritizes her care and happiness over and over again. He also has his uncle living with them and despite the fact that he likely could easily find a woman to marry quickly so he could get his inheritance from his grandfather, he’s not really overly invested in actually pursuing that option. Jia desperately wants to have the approval of her parents, but as the baby of the family and as the one who dropped out of med school to move across the country and pursue her career as an influencer, that’s a steep road to climb. I really felt like their motivations made sense. Jia is also a fairly devout Muslim, who is maybe demi-sexual even though the words didn’t appear on the page. There’s a line in here about how until Jia met Dev, she never really considered that waiting for marriage before having sex was difficult. Although I’m not Muslim, I really appreciated some of the lines related to her religion because they rang true for me.
Also, I just have to mention that because Jia is Sadia’s youngest sister, we got to check in with her and the elation I felt!!! Anyway, all of this to say, I really enjoyed this book, which isn’t really a surprise, and I hope you will too.
Have you read either of these? I would love to know your thoughts if so!