I don't read in the romance genre that often, but sometimes the mood strikes and I just want a light, breezy read that I know will end happily. I've read sweet romances and enjoyed them (Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is the most recent, and it's a total delight), but I hadn't read anything with much of an edge to it.

I can't say that anymore.

I heard about A Gentleman in the Street on NPR, of all places. I'm probably exposing my latent snobbery by admitting this, but I doubt I would have given the book a chance otherwise. Somehow the NPR stamp of approval can legitimize even romance novels in my mind. The commentators gave the book the highest “all the peppers” rating for steaminess, and let me tell you, they were not playing around. It's one of the kinkiest books I've ever read.

But it was so much fun! Alisha Rai breaks the tired and trite romance novel mold in several key ways that I absolutely loved. First, the protagonist, Akira, is a Japanese-American woman. What—a romance novel featuring an interracial couple? It's almost like such couples exist in the real world or something! Secondly, Akira is an international badass businesswoman with a healthy net worth. She doesn't need to chase a man for his money because she has her own, thankyouverymuch. And finally, Rai turns slut-shaming on its head by allowing Akira a substantial sexual appetite and a man who matches her instead of judging her.

All those busted stereotypes make for an empowering and titillating read. I want to be clear, however: this is not the romance novel for your shy, retiring great-aunt Mildred. If there were a romance novel spectrum, this one wouldn't be anywhere near Nora Roberts territory. Like, stand at Nora Roberts and throw this book as far as you can towards E.L. James. But if you don't mind some bad language and even badder behavior, A Gentleman in the Street is a fast, fun fling.