Review: The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane

The Sheik Retold by Victoria VaneFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: historical romance
Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: August 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Pride and passion vie for supremacy between a haughty young heiress and a savage son of the Sahara in this fresh new telling of E.M. Hull’s romance classic.

A haughty young heiress for whom the world is a playground… A savage son of the Sahara who knows no law but his own…

“There will be inquiries.” I choked out. “I am not such a nonentity that nothing will be done when I am missed. You will pay dearly for what you have done.”
“Pay?” His amused look sent a cold feeling of dread through me. “I have already paid… in gold that matches your hair, my gazelle. Besides,” he continued, “the French have no jurisdiction over me. There is no law here above my own.”
My trepidation was growing by the minute. “Why have you done this? Why have you brought me here?”
“Why?” He repeated with a slow and heated appraisal that made me acutely, almost painfully, conscious of my sex. “Bon Dieu! Are you not woman enough to know?”

When pride and passion vie for supremacy, blistering desert days are nothing compared to sizzling Sahara nights…

My Review:

Rudolph Valentino as Sheik Ahmed and Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana
Rudolph Valentino as Sheik Ahmed and Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana

I can’t imagine being neutral about this book. Or these characters. The story itself is a stunner, and the original, The Sheik, is the stuff of which legends are made. And were made. Certainly Valentino’s was. The Sheik is the movie we remember him for, almost a century later.

But this is not the original, this is a contemporary re-telling. So instead of a rape-turned-romance, we have something slightly different. And thank goodness, because the Stockholm Syndrome is not exactly my favorite trope. I like my heroines with agency.

We have Ahmed Ben Hassan, the titular Sheik of the story, kidnapping Diana Mayo from a caravan crossing the Sahara desert. The story is as escapist as any tale that Scheherazade spun in those 1,001 Arabian nights.

This is an erotic romantic fantasy. Mysterious desert chieftain becomes entranced by beautiful ice-princess and kidnaps her, carrying her off to his secret encampment in the desert. He keeps her imprisoned and shows her both cruelty and kindness, but is unable to destroy her spirit. In the classic exchange, she gives sex to get love, and he discovers that after all his attempts to keep his heart, he has, in spite of himself, given her his love when all he originally intended was to get sexual gratification.

Of course there is more to the tale. Ahmed Ben Hassan is not just a desert chieftain. In fact, he should never have been a sheik at all. And while he certainly kidnaps Diana for reasons of his own, in Vane’s retelling of the tale, he also saves her life. Not just because she should have known better than to go haring across the desert with such a small party and so few guards, but because she had been set up in the first place.

While Hull’s original story may owe a lot to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vane’s version gives contemporary readers more reasons to accept Diana’s change from ice-queen to passionate vixen; it’s not just that she discovers that sex can be glorious with the right partner, its that Ben Hassan doesn’t merely desire her, he challenges her on all levels; erotic and intellectual. Men of her own culture simply bore her to death.

Vane’s retelling is much too adventurous for that terrible fate!

Escape Rating B+: How much the reader will be swept up in the story will depend on how they feel about Diana. Whether they sympathize, empathize, or want to shoot her. Or possibly all three at the same time.

The novel is first person POV from Diana Mayo’s perspective, and Diana is a character that basically, I wanted to slap upside the head. I understood that she completely chafed at the restrictions imposed on women by society, and that she had been raised to ignore those restrictions, but she wasn’t stupid. Money purchased her the privilege of ignoring the rules, and she simply didn’t research the conditions she threw herself into.

But without her, there is no story.

Diana is like a wild horse the reader is riding. She definitely has agency, in other words, she does plenty, however, she’s not actually in control even when she thinks she is. She often believes she has control and then discovers that she really doesn’t. This may be the story of Diana’s life.

But what makes The Sheik Retold an erotic romance instead of a rape fantasy is that Diana decides that she will become the seducer as well as the seduced. She doesn’t so much submit as decide that she will be an active participant in everything that happens. She finally owns her sexuality, instead of continuing in the pretense that she has none, or that her gender has no bearing whatsoever on her circumstances.

The Sheik Retold is for one of those afternoons when you want to be swept away by romantic fantasy.

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