The Right Swipe
Alisha Rai modernizes the classic one-night-stand-to-HEA trope in her latest novel The Right Swipe. Diverse characters, a feminist approach to sexuality and cutting edge dating technology breathe fresh life into this familiar format and gives us a candid look at love in the twenty-first century.
She’s not looking for Mr. Right, just Mr. Right Now – and she finds him. Rhi (Rhianon) Hunter has an amazing one night hookup with a man she meets through Crush, the dating app she created. So amazing in fact that she breaks a personal rule of no second dates and agrees to meet again the next night. And gets stood up. Not being one to forgive and forget, Rhianon unmatches him. Since she had never given him her phone number or contact info and their only way to communicate was through the app, this leaves him no way to reach her. And since they’d met while she was on a business trip and she’d given him a fake name, she leaves town, confident that even if he looks for her, he’ll never find her.
Several months later she crashes a party, looking for an opportunity to meet the new owner of Matchmaker, the company throwing the gala. The firm is a behemoth in the dating industry, one whose old fashioned charm has helped it outlast its opponents and thrive even in the toughest economic downturns, but the organization’s visionary founder has recently died, leaving it in the hands of her reclusive sister. Rhi hopes to meet that lady at the event and get an inside track on purchasing the corporation from her. Rhi as owner/CEO/creator of Crush, has built her dating app into a diverse, state-of-the-art multi-billion dollar business and if she can acquire Matchmaker, her company will not only be the best in the industry but the biggest. When the owner doesn’t show up at the party to unveil Matchmaker’s new marketing strategy, Rhi is eager to see who came in her place. She’s surprised and dismayed to discover it’s the man who had bailed on her a few short months ago.
Former pro-football player Samson Lima had every intention of going on a second date with the gorgeous woman who had proven to be not just a fantastic lover but a fascinating, intriguing person. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it because he was sitting at his dying uncle’s bedside, and by the time he thought to contact her through the app, it was too late. She had already unmatched him and he couldn’t find anyone who knew her, much less knew where she’d gone. He is stunned to see her in the crowd when he’s giving a presentation in place of his aunt at a business function, but when he tries to find Claire/Rhi afterwards, he discovers she’s already left.
Fate gives him a second chance the next day when he once again takes his aunt’s place at a business event, this time at a panel during a tech conference. Rhi is there representing Crush and while Samson is surprised to learn her name isn’t Claire, he’s delighted to discover their chemistry is still red hot. The host of the event is thrilled with their rapport and speaks of having them do television interviews in the near future. For Samson, the real win is that he finally gets to tell his side of the story and (eventually) Rhi forgives him. That isn’t enough, though. He knows she isn’t into relationships and definitely isn’t seeking one with him but he is determined to prove to her that what they have is definitely worth pursuing. When he pitches a scheme for a series of videos that will highlight both their companies, Rhi tentatively agrees but advises him there will be no mixing of business and pleasure. She’s determined to keep things purely professional — but Samson believes he can convince her to change her mind.
For those fearing this means Samson is one of those guys who won’t take no for an answer, rest assured he’s nothing like that. He doesn’t push, manipulate or seduce. He simply lets Rhi know he’s interested and lets her set the pace and terms of their affair. Which is a good thing, since that is the only type of relationship she is open to.
Rhi did not come from money and all her success has been very hard won. She had begun working in the dating app business at a corporation called Swype and her experiences there have made her leery both of long term relationships and of mixing business and pleasure. She has severe trust issues and lets few people see the tender heart which lies beneath her gutsy, tough as nails exterior. She initially plans to simply work with Samson but quickly discovers she doesn’t want to deny the physical attraction she feels for him. Soon, that attraction becomes more than just physical, which leaves her feeling vulnerable – and even more crabby than usual.
Fortunately, Rhi’s friends and family are there to help her work through her emotional issues.
Fans of the author may recognize Rhi as the sister of Gabriel Hunter from Hurts to Love You. He doesn’t make a very large appearance here but offers (limited) advice regarding some of the fear and anger she carries from her past. Gal pal and assistant extraordinaire Lakshmi, and business partner/best friend Katrina King also remind Rhi that she is a lovely, loyal person to those she cares for and has a lot to offer a potential partner, in spite of what some evil past ex has made her believe.
Samson has issues of his own to work through. He comes from a two generation football legacy family, but the fame and fortune being pro-athletes brought them came with a heavy price. Both his father and uncle were affected by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and some of the most interesting portions of the story revolve around how the football community has done a massive cover up on this serious, life altering condition for years. Watching Samson work through the effect the disease had on his home life as well as his own career, was very moving.
In fact, the one problem I had with the story was that we spend so much space on the character’s individual issues and on the possible acquisition of Matchmaker by Crush that the romance felt a bit short changed. I could tell Rhi and Samson were physically attracted to each other and had started to genuinely care for each other, but we definitely leave them at the beginning of a happy-for-now, not an HEA.
Which, I think, is what the author was aiming for. The Right Swipe is very much about capturing the contemporary romance scene, complete with nude pics, dick pics, hookups, sexting, apps for hookups and being content with the now over forever. If you’re a fan of richly diverse love stories that truly capture modern love, I think you will be completely delighted by this novel.