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REVIEW: Kat and the Dare-Devil Spaniard by Sharon Kendrick

Dear Ms. Kendrick:

I subscribe to the Harlequin Presents digital package which means I receive eight books a month delivered to my digital inbox for under $25.00. Generally I think this is a pretty good deal as I like the emotional agnst packaged in small consumable portions. I can read these books in under two hours and some days that is all the time I have to read. But there are a lot of tropes in the HP line that bother me and one is the unrepentant asshole dressed up as the macho male. Frankly I see these men as nothing more than bullies and unless they give a really good grovel and show some realization of their assholishness, the romance isn’t very satisfying.

Kat and Dare Devil SpaniardKat Balfour is one of the Balfour daughters. Her father has indulged her most of her life and she’s lived a pretty charmed existence shopping, partying, and generally enjoying herself. Recently, however, her father’s infidelities have resulted in some embarrassing publicity and thus, her father decides that all of his daughters need to be taught a lesson. He arranges to have Kat go on yacht trip with Carlos Guerrero, a former bullfighter, because, as her father states “He is the only man I have ever seen stand up to you, and you cannot run away while you are at sea!”

So because her father is an asshole who can’t keep his dick in his pants and the Balfour name is a byword for scandal on the lips of everyone in Europe, Kat is tricked into going on boat trip with a man who “stood up to her.” Kat isn’t on a pleasure cruise like her father intimated. Instead she is expected to cook and clean for Carlos and his entire crew for the entirety of the trip. I don’t think I could even cook for 8 men, including an incredibly wealthy one who probably has very strict ideas about what good food entails. It’s a ridiculous challenge and totally unfair.

How did Carlos stand up to Kat? Well, Kat saw him at a ball and went up to him and ASKED HIM TO DANCE! This was outrageous to Carlos. Because of the INVITATION TO DANCE, Carlos assumes that Kat is a slut. BECAUSE SLUTS ONLY ASK OTHER MEN TO DANCE. Seriously. Her coming on to him was to ask him to dance. I can’t get over that.

“You are dressed like a hooker and you are behaving like a hooker!” he had hissed. “So why don't you go and cover yourself up, and then take the time to learn a few lessons on the correct way to conduct yourself in public.”

She dressed up in a tight, slinky dress and stared at him across the room because he was gorgeous and she liked him. Then, after summoning the courage to talk to him, he insults her. Good old dad is standing by and overhears this and when he wants to teach Kat a lesson about not running away, he sends Kat to Carlos under the cover of subterfuge. I’d run away from a dad like that too.

Carlos spends most of the trip insulting Kat at every turn.

Frustrated desire found an outlet in heated accusation as he willed the frantic thudding of his heart to lessen and the fierce aching at his groin to stop throbbing and tormenting him. “Do you always act like this-’like a sex-starved tramp?” he demanded unevenly. “Are you one of these women who are ruled by the hunger of their bodies, perhaps-’who grab at the nearest man whenever he happens to be available?”

and

“So, you'd better get it into that little air-brain head of yours that I am used to perfection from my staff and you have fallen way short of that. And what about the crew's lunch?”

Well, gee, she hasn’t ever cooked before. What do you expect?

“Salad dressing which tastes of washing-up liquid is an interesting innovation, querida, but perhaps it's easy to see why it hasn't yet come to dominate the market,” came Carlos's sarcastic assessment, and Kat felt like hurling a dish at his arrogant face as the rest of the crew burst into relieved laughter and pushed their barely touched plates away

And why is Carlos an ass to her? Because she turns him ON. On purpose, the flagrant hussy:

He had appeared at her family ball with a woman on his arm, but Kat Balfour hadn't cared about that, had she? No. She hadn't cared about a thing except homing in on him like a sex-seeking missile. Why, even when she was half drowned she was somehow managing to send out the instinctive message of the siren.

And just for a moment back then, he had responded, hadn't he? Responded big time.

When Kat was fighting off hypothermia, she indeed was also thinking about the best way to seduce this man who is constantly mean to her. That’s the nature of sirens. And beings with vaginas. Always trying to seduce the man. After all “All women want me to make love to them. Didn't you demonstrate that yourself only moments ago?” says Carlos.

Essentially Carlos thinks Kat is a slut because she likes to wear tight dresses at parties and bikinis on boats; because she can’t cook and then because she learns how to; because she gets wet and he must hold her in his arms; because she’s obviously a hussy who sleeps around; because she’s a virgin and fails to tell him about it; because she makes him want her even when he doesn’t. Kat is a slut because she exists. But at some point he falls in love with her. HEA. D

Best regards,

Jane

P.S. I gave this book a D because the sentence construction and writing itself was competent. It was the execution that failed.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

28 Comments

  1. Christine M.
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 14:06:59

    …would by any chance the review be missing a couple of paragraphs? I want to know the rest of his bastardiness!!!

  2. Jane
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 14:09:23

    @Christine M. Ugh. I don’t know what happened there. I think I have some problem with my blockquoting. This is the second time this has happened to me.

  3. meoskop
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 15:03:29

    I don’t really see how the execution of that character could have succeeded. Pretty much any man who tell you to cover your self up and get educated isn’t going anywhere good, well, ever.

  4. Shelley
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 15:37:41

    Is it the same author grinding out all these books?

  5. Sunita
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 15:42:46

    Sharon Kendrick’s books feature pretty prominently on the most hated HPs thread over at the Amazon boards. I picked one up to see what was so bad but haven’t had the fortitude to read it yet. Thanks for explaining it in this review, Jane, and giving me back 2 hours of my life.

    I know that HPs are about alpha males and emotional intensity. And to be fair, this kind of abuse does involve a fair amount of emotional intensity, for the characters and the reader. But not in a good way. Just, wow.

  6. Ridley
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 15:46:39

    Jane, you’re a far braver woman than I to have a HP subscription.

    While some of my most favorite books are HPs, when they’re bad, they’re bad. I could never just get a random box of them every month. I need them pre-screened.

    Since you’re part of that screening process, this is where I say thank you for not being a wimp. /salute

  7. Jennifer
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 16:20:51

    I very badly want to know why books like this still exist and are being churned out fresh in 2010.

  8. Dana
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 16:27:34

    Jane thank you so much for this review! I haven’t read an HP title in years for exactly this reason! I love a good alpha male as much as the next woman but the kind of jerks that show up in those books are more than I can take.

  9. Ridley
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 17:11:51

    @Jennifer:

    Hey, Diana Palmer has legions of fans. For whatever reason, there are readers out there who love doormat heroines and the alpholes who scold them.

  10. Kate Hewitt
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:10:39

    There is a surprisingly wide variety of style and tone within the Presents lineup. If super Alpha males aren’t your thing (and they obviously are for many people, because Sharon Kendrick’s books are very popular!), there are some gentler ones within Presents. Don’t write off the whole line just because one book isn’t your cup of tea, please!

  11. An
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:27:26

    I just finished a different book in this series, the one about the illegitimate daughter. I had a hard time getting into it, the hero was an a$$hole, the heroine was extra-virginal, extra-innocent, but sooooo sexay.

    However, at the end, she did tell him off a bunch of times and stood up to him, and he learned from his jerk-itude. I enjoyed the ending, because I thought there was a satisfying amount of gratifying.

    If you’re looking for a good HP, have you read “Ruthless Russion, Lost Innocence” by Chantelle Shaw? I really enjoyed it and thought the characters were great, the relationship didn’t make me go ugh or ewwwww or want to send people to counselling.

  12. an
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:29:02

    @An: I mean,

    A satisfying amount of grovelling. Or gratifying amount of grovelling. Not a satisfying amount of gratifying. Although, there was a decent amount of that too. :-)

  13. Jane
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:30:49

    Obviously I am a fan of the HP line or I wouldn’t pay $25 per month to read 8 of them but there can be stinkers in there. Some of the books I love re-reading are in the HP line and I’ve reviewed them here such as books by Michelle Reid, Anne McCallister, Susan Napier, Caitlin Crew (new fave), and so forth.

    Sometimes the asshole hero can really work and sometimes, when not offset by a strong enough heroine or if the hero is just too cruel, it doesn’t.

    I like the HP for the length (short), the agnst, and these books are pretty steamy.

  14. Kate Hewitt
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:33:27

    Jane,

    I know you’re a fan of HPs and I’m glad you review them on DA. I was directing my comment to those who commented without much experience of Presents as a line. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear.

  15. Jane
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 18:35:51

    @Kate Hewitt: I was just offering up my support for the HP line too. There’s a lot to love in the HP line and in all the categories, in my opinion. There is a real art to telling a love story in 200 pages.

  16. Miki S
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 19:34:13

    I didn’t know Harlequin did digital subscriptions…yikes, I don’t need another expense!

  17. Sybil
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 19:59:58

    ::raises hand:: I read Diana Palmer! uh sadly that is all I caught while reading comments in my google reader I haven’t read the review but saw that part

    hi

    I have read some HP, most likely jane’s fault. IIRC Palmer has never written for the line.

  18. Sunita
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 22:15:29

    @Kate Hewitt: If my comment suggested a blanket condemnation of the HP line, I certainly didn’t mean that. I religiously read the HP-specific boards at Amazon, looking for recommendations, and I have read and liked many HPs (including Sarah Morgan’s most recent HP, which I recommended to DA’s readers this month).

    Certain authors figure prominently in both most-loved and most-hated HPs, and Ms. Kendrick appears to be one of those authors. I’m not sure why that is, because I haven’t read enough of her work to have an informed opinion. But she’s certainly not the only author about whose books readers feel strongly!

    To echo Ridley’s comment, many of us have HPs on our keeper list, but it’s also a series whose books can drive us crazy. I think that’s because the line between redeemable and unredeemable alpha hero is a tough one to negotiate (as is the line between ingenue and doormat heroine), and not every book is going to succeed in landing on the happy side.

  19. Rosario
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 01:37:56

    The title sounds weirdly like a children’s book.

  20. Amy
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 02:02:45

    Jane,

    Did you know you could buy the HP “one click buy” — bundle of six — for $9.99? I have been using my tiny ipod touch for ebook reading only for Amazon deals like the Harlequin “one click buy” bundles; otherwise I read books on my Sony.

  21. Ros
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 02:15:38

    I… quite liked this book. I agree, there were problems with Carlos’s opinion of Kat, especially at the beginning of the book, but I thought that Sharon Kendrick did manage to show the way that both Kat and Carlos change throughout the book, so that by the end they understood and respected each other.

    The thing I was most disappointed in was the way the pregnancy storyline ended up. I really thought for a moment we were going to get something a bit less cliched and, in my view, much more romantic. But no.

  22. Ros
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 03:28:52

    Also, I hope that people won’t assume that all the Balfour books are similar. I found that there were three I loved (Sophie, Bella and Emily), three I quite liked (Mia, Kat and Annie), and two I really didn’t enjoy (Zoe, Olivia). There was as much diversity between the books as you’d expect from any 8 HP’s picked at random.

  23. Julie
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 11:19:27

    I read this book and enjoyed it, but I don’t know whether it’s just a personal preference of mine, but I do think that some of Sharon Kendrick’s best books were those written in the 90s/early 2000s, back when the Presents line wasn’t all about sheiks, Greek tycoons and Latin billionaires. Some of her earlier titles on my keeper shelf are Make-over Marriage, The Valentine Vendetta and Getting Even. Nowadays, some of her titles do tend to be rather more melodramatic, but her books are still worth a read.

    And yes, I love the Presents line and enjoy the wide variety of stories to be found within the line from the more gentle ones (Catherine George, Helen Brooks, Susanne James) to the highly emotional stories (Kate Walker, India Grey, Penny Jordan) to some that are more like romantic comedies (Susan Stephens and Anne McAllister).

  24. ka
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 13:58:09

    @Jane:

    Kudos to your statement, “There is a real art to telling a love story in 200 pages.”

    I commend you for supporting a wide variety of book genres!

    Clearly this book’s trope evoked a strong emotion from you – a trope that would not appeal to me either.

  25. Lisa
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 16:44:05

    I swear I read the title as “Kat and the Dare-Devil Spaniel”. I couldn’t figure out if it was meant to be YA.

  26. german reader
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 17:40:29

    I have read all the books in the Balfour series except the last one (Olivia by Margaret Way) which was so horribly boring – a lot of blah, blah and no action- that I couldn’t finish.

    I love stories where I want to jump into the book and give the hero or heroine a kick in the a..! I don’t judge books on how the characters act. Pacing, action, believability, storytelling and style are important for me.

    There are HP authors I like (e.g. Jacqueline Baird, Jane Porter, Michelle Milburne), some that I like on and off (Lynne Graham) some I used to like a lot (Julia James – who lately doesn’t have any action in her books, instead of letting the story happen, it is told in a boring narrator style)
    And than there is one author I absolutely hate (Susan Stephens – and I have given her at least 3 tries! I just hate her story telling and pacing. If you compare a good story with crossing a river by stepping smoothly on every stone with some little balancing acts in between, Stephens jumps across a few stones, spends a lot of time making a fuss before jumping again)

  27. Ridley
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 18:57:11

    When an HP is good, it’s good.

    There’s a reason the line’s as old as dirt.

  28. RebeccaJ
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 20:39:47

    I *hate* these sort of books and they always seem to show up in the Harlequin Presents line. I used to read HP all the time, until this type of “hero” became all too familiar. I rarely read them at all anymore because of this.

    I don’t see them as “alpha” males, I see them as what they are: verbal abusers, all in the name of “love”. There’s a big difference between being “dominant” and being “domineering”.

    And Dad is a jerk so the daughter has to pay for that? Seems like Dad is an emotional abuser, too.

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