First Comes Like
First Comes Like is the story of two people finding love on the internet, albeit differently than either of them intended. It is a sweet, funny book with winning characters and a decidedly unconventional love story.
Jia Ahmed is a YouTuber and beauty influencer who started out making videos in her bedroom. Going against the grain, she quit medical school to make makeup content online and moved across the country to LA. Jia is pretty successful, but she’s starting to feel ancient in the online space, where teenagers have millions of followers and she’s an outlier at twenty-eight. When her numbers start falling and the sponsors stop flowing as freely, Jia feels like she’s lived up to her reputation as the family failure. The last thing she needs is to experience the humiliation of being catfished by an Indian soap opera star.
Dev Dixit is one of the remaining Dixits – a family of Bollywood royalty, famous, rich, and attractive. Following the premature death of his brother, Dev moves to the US to make a fresh start, and gets a job on an American show. He has to build a stable life for his niece with the help of his maternal uncle, a widower. Dev isn’t exactly looking to date, but when he meets Jia he wants to make an exception – until she acts as though he’s wronged her in some way. Then he needs to know what happened, and how he can see her again.
Jia and Dev are both really great, both of their perspectives are fun to read and they each have compelling problems. Dev’s issues with his family are intense and his feelings about loss are dealt with in a really complex way. While a lot of romantic heroes are shaped by tragedy, Dev finds a healthy way to deal with his losses and makes the people he loves his priority. He’s also not afraid to watch YouTube videos about makeup, and supports Jia unconditionally. He puts Jia first, and tries to make things as easy for her as possible, which really wins him points. In terms of their relationship, they have the same level of fame, at least in the US, which means that power imbalance isn’t a factor. Readers might be wary of the famous-dating-non-famous trope, but in this case they just reach different audiences, and both are independent and capable of making a living. Neither is particularly star-struck by the other. Their age difference is also reasonable, he’s a little older than her, but they’re both successful and know what they want from a relationship. The only imbalance that might bother readers is that Jia is sexually and romantically inexpeirenced, while Dev has had relationships and liaisons in the past. While it is realistic for a religious woman in her late twenties to wait for intimacy, it does seem very zero-to-sixty in some ways. Jia claims to have never been attracted to a man in the way she is attracted to Dev and never to have been tempted sexually before meeting him. This seems a little weird considering she isn’t exactly cloistered – she lives independently and went to college, even to medical school for a while. The idea that she never met anyone that she was interested in sexually from her teen years to her late twenties just seems a little unrealistic.
Jia’s issues with her parents also seem a little glossed over in the book. She has the reputation in the family as being a flighty character, despite all of her decisions leading to success. All her relatives treat her like an unruly child, despite her being a self-reliant woman. It’s really infantilizing for them to get on the phone to “discuss” her actions and tell her how she’s doing everything wrong in her life. This is excused by saying that they love her, and they do threaten people on her behalf, but they still act as though Jia can’t run her own life. Dev stands up for her with them, but he shouldn’t have to – they should value her regardless of a man telling them she has value. Jia also describes her family as “not too conservative”, but her parents both complain about how their daughters didn’t have arranged marriages.
While the story is really strong from the beginning, the end is pretty anticlimactic, and doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the book, leaving a lot of threads unresolved. There is also a secondary character who is introduced for a single scene and is totally forgotten after that. The catfishing also seems a tad out of character; Jia, while fanciful, is timid about being involved with men. The messages between Jia and Dev get really romantic, and it seems odd for her to allow it to continue considering her inexperience and discomfort with dating. The beginning is also vague and a little murky; if a reader hasn’t read the previous books in the series, jumping in with this one might be a little rocky.
First Comes Like is a quick, sharply-written read about finding love in unusual circumstances. The main characters are charismatic and sympathetic, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a really enjoyable book.