Don't knock it until you try it: "A Gentleman in the Street" by Alisha Rai

Book: A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai

Release date: November 22, 2014

Pages: 262

Publisher: Independent

Genre/category: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance

Rating: ★★★★

Shameless. That’s what she was.

Billionaire businesswoman Akira Mori can get anything and anyone her heart desires. Anyone, that is, except for a certain aloof author who has been dominating her dreams for over a decade. Accustomed to Jacob Campbell’s stern disapproval, Akira has turned provocation into an art, using every trick in her arsenal to keep the man from guessing the depth of her filthy fantasies.

Shameless. That’s what she made him.

Since the moment the sexy, sultry socialite sidled up to him years ago, there hasn’t been a time when Jacob didn’t crave Akira. But as guardian to his younger siblings, responsibility has controlled his life. Confining his darkest desires to secret, stolen moments maintains his carefully disciplined world…but a cold bed is the price he pays.

A single touch is all it takes for their simmering need to explode. As secrets and fears are stripped away one by one, shame becomes a thing of the past. They find themselves becoming addicted to each other, in bed and out—a frightening prospect for a man just learning to live…and a woman who thinks she doesn’t know how to love. 

For reasons that should be obvious, I'm not super into romance novels that center on a billionaire hero right now. But when I heard that Alisha Rai had a novel with a billionaire heroine, well, I made an exception to my stipulation. I've followed Rai on Twitter for a while because of her friendship with Victoria Dahl, whose book Taking the Heat made a big impression on me. When I listened to her interview on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, I was persuaded to finally download one of her sultry novels.

Akira Mori and Jacob Campbell were stepsiblings for a hot minute a decade and a half ago, and they've never quite hit it off. Akira is the successful owner of bars across the world, and Jacob is a spy novel writer who has raised his three younger siblings. Serious Jacob seems to want nothing to do with the hedonistic and scandalous Akira. When Akira shows up at his cabin seeking a mysterious family heirloom, it sets up a tense reckoning between the two about what they've really meant to each other all these years — and what they could be.

I love how this book subverts the dynamic of innocent, uninitiated woman who falls for a rich playboy by reversing the gender roles. Jacob was a difficult hero for me to get on board with at first, despite the fact that we're introduced to him while he's shirtless and chopping wood (Rai really gets my aesthetic). He's self-righteous and emotionally rigid to the point of cruelty. The fact he drew this unnecessary line between his responsibilities to his siblings and his desire for happiness really bothered me, because I don't think they were ever mutually exclusive. But the book did a good job of showing me why he had that wrongheaded perception about his duties. And while I wrote Jacob off as a prude for his initial judgments about Akira's lifestyle, I found myself questioning whether I was just as judgmental as he was.

Akira is this ice queen with a secret soft side. Her vulnerability isn't presented as this dichotomy with her public persona. Instead, everything about her image makes perfect sense once we see the reasons for her cold, calculating actions. When she and Jacob get together, they challenge and complement each other. I love when really salacious books manage to be adorably sweet, and the couple's dynamic never loses its heat in the cuter moments.

Add in a Kardashians-style reality show that vexes Akira, a complicated family legacy and a mystery laced with sentimental value, and A Gentleman in the Street is an engaging and provocative sex-positive romance featuring a couple I hope to see more of in later chapters of the series, which will focus on Jacob's siblings.