Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.30, ISBN 978-0-263-88631-3
Contemporary Romance, 2011
I’ve read romance novels with asshole heroes named Dick before, but Carol Marinelli’s The Devil Wears Kolovsky is quite the first for me in that the hero’s name, Zakahr, means penis in Malay. And how quaint, he really behaves like a big penis in this story. Sometimes, there really is truth in advertising.
Zakahr Belenki is the illegitimate son of the Kolovsky matriarch and, when this story opens, some kind of revenge plot of his has succeeded and he has resumed control of family fashion business, the House of Kolovsky. There really isn’t much of a plot here, really, as Zakahr has already succeeded in most of his revenge. This story sees him behaving like a colossal ape towards his secretary, Lavinia, and everyone else in his way, as he proceeds to dismantle the House of Kolovsky as his final act of revenge.
Your enjoyment of this story hinges on how much you can accept that the hero is somehow justified in being a big stupid penis here because he had a sad childhood, boo-hoo-hoo. This same sad childhood also justifies his decision to deliberately shut down the House of Kolovsky. Who cares about the plight of the staff getting laid off, and who cares that his laying off of Lavinia, whom he’d slept with, will tear down her efforts to legally adopt her half-sister? Everything revolves about the Greatest Penis in the World! Oh, and his childhood emo nonsense also gives him the right to destroy – destroy – a woman who gave him up for adoption when she was a confused teenage girl, a woman who is now a beaten-down half-crazed woman. Honestly! There are alpha males and then there are just pathetic cruel misogynistic bastards and then there is Zakahr, the Penis Who Just Won’t Die.
What is really odd about this story is that it is written like a tale with no happily ever after for the couple. After being completely humiliated and stripped of her dignity by Zakahr for no reason other than he’s a misogynist pig who cannot treat anyone with a vagina with respect, Lavinia delivers a succinct but blistering set down to Zakahr, telling him to get over himself because he, a billionaire, has no right to judge Lavinia for needing money to keep her half-sister by her side. She then walks out, finally with her head held high, out of his life… only to have the author forcibly reuniting them in the next chapter for a happily ever after that rings completely false.
It is not that Lavinia is a well-drawn heroine. She’s a typical example of a supposedly capable career woman who is in truth a complete mess, letting her personal life intrude into her job and generally screwing up 24/7, but that’s okay because we’re supposed to adore such a “charming” woman.
More damaging to the book, however, is how the author doesn’t provide any compelling reason as to why Lavinia should fall for Zakahr. He never treats her well at all – he spends almost the whole book assuming the worst of her, taking her for granted, and breaking her heart when she refuses to dance to his tune. This fellow doesn’t know the meaning of compromise and he has no compassion to make up for that lack.
The Devil Wears Kolovsky is a book that has me wondering whether even the author hates the hero as much as I do, because she has Lavinia saying everything that has to be said to Zakahr, perfectly and accurately in the next to last chapter. If the story had ended there and then with Lavinia walking out of his life, this book could still be salvaged. Ms Marinelli is well aware of her hero’s flaws, but she lets him go way too far for way too long. For a story of this nature, allocating the last chapter as the only space for the hero to somewhat redeem himself is never going to cut it with me. I’m not that naïvé, sorry. Even then, something feels really wrong when Lavinia who tells Zakahr to forgive those who wronged him in an effort to get over himself, when it should be him getting onto his knees and apologizing to everyone, including the reader, for being a diseased penis in this story.
Oh, and one more thing: the writing. My goodness, was the editor suffering from a hangover or something when she was supposed to be doing her work? This story has numerous point-of-view switches within a paragraph. There are many parts which I have to read again a few times due to the confusing head hopping.
The Devil Wears Kolovsky is, I feel, best read by fans of the Modern line who embrace and enjoy every single thing that makes the line what it is: heroes with rabies, submissive neurotic heroines, and more. Everyone else is better off eating fried chickens and juicy steaks as a way to increase that blood pressure.