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Reading Pathways: Alisha Rai

Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

Alisha Rai romances are all character-driven, deeply emotional, and very sexy. Sometimes very, very sexy! In general, I wish we had better language to describe how sexually explicit romance novels are instead of relying on heat metaphors. But since we don’t, I’ll say these stories range from a jalapeño to the spiciest ghost pepper. When I first read one of her romances four or five years ago, I instantly knew she was going to become an auto-read romance author for me. I was completely immersed in her story and rushed through it in one sitting. But more than just the romance (or the sex scenes) I also loved the way feminism, race, and other issues were woven into the texts. Since the first Alisha Rai romance I read, I’ve seen her include themes of emotional labor, mental illness rep, slut shaming, sexual harassment, cyber bullying, racist microaggressions, gender power dynamics, biphobia, grief, illness, and many more.

But these topics never end up feeling like issue books in her stories. They are incorporated into the lives of Rai’s characters the way they are incorporated into all of our real lives: with nuance. They are part of the story. Not the whole story. They are there to tell us more about the characters and show that people dealing with any and all of these things can fall in love and deserve happy endings. Alisha Rai, in my opinion, is writing some of the best contemporary romance novels of our time. If you haven’t read her yet, or you are looking for more suggestions of what to read next, here are three ideas of where to begin.

The Right Swipe Book Cover

The Right Swipe

If you love sexy rom coms, definitely start with The Right Swipe. It is the single best romance novel to deal with dating apps that I’ve ever read. Rhiannon revolutionized the online dating world by creating a popular, woman-friendly dating app. She rarely uses her own product, but finds her feelings and her ego hurt when former football start Samson ghosts her after a romantic, sexy night together. This should be an obstacle too high for any romantic hero to overcome, but when a business opportunity throws Samson and Rhiannon back together, and he gets the chance to explain what happened, there might just be a second chance romance in the air.

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai book cover

Hate to Want You

For more Rom than Com, read this moody, deepy sensual romance between former childhood loves Nicholas and Livvy. Their families were in business with each other and their histories are deeply intertwined. But after a falling out, all that exists between Nicholas and Livvy is one night of no strings attached sexual pleasure a year. But this year, Livvy moves back to their hometown. She has her own reasons for moving that have nothing to do with Nicholas. But despite all the reasons he knows he should stay away from her, he can’t. And she can’t resist him either. This was my first Alisha Rai romance novel and it turned me into an instant super fan. It has more angst and a higher heat level than The Right Swipe, but the same intensely good character development.

A Gentleman in the Street Cover

A Gentleman in the Street

Once you’ve read the other two Alisha Rai novels, you might be ready for this self-published erotic romance. Even typing this right now, I’m blushing. While this book has kinkier sex (including voyeurism, menage, and light BDSM) the same emotional, twisty character dynamics are right there on the page as well. Akira is a billionaire CEO with a reputation for sexual exhibitionism. Jacob is a buttoned-up, introverted author who is the guardian to his younger siblings. They are also former step-siblings, who can’t stop fighting or having sexual fantasies about each other. The ways they’ve misunderstood each other for years was so interesting to me. As was the repair needed in this enemies-to-lovers romance, before Jacob and Akira could truly fall in love. This is definitely the sexiest of Rai’s books, at least on this list, but equally romantic and heart-felt as well.

I hope you love these Alisha Rai books as much as I do. And if you are looking to discover more romance novelists perhaps looks through the reading pathways of Jackie Lau, Cat Sebastian, and Alyssa Cole.