The Sheik Retold – Victoria Vane & E.M. Hull

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THE DESERT WAS NEVER HOTTER!

Pride and passion vie for supremacy between a haughty young heiress and a savage son of the Sahara in this steamy retelling 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…

Publisher and Release Date: Vane Publishing, September 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1920s French Algiers and the Sahara
Heat Level: 3
Genre: Historical Romance/Desert Fantasy
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Maggi

I’m a fan of Victoria Vane’s stories because they bring something different to the romance genre. The Sheik Retold is no exception. This desert fantasy is set in French Algiers in 1920, where men are rugged alpha males and women adore and obey them. This story scooped me up and transplanted me into the sweeping desert sands of the Sahara, where the perfumed breeze is uplifting and the tents have enough modern conveniences for supreme comfort: opulent decor, valuable artifacts, silk curtains and carpets, exotic food, deep low Turkish divans and rich coffee. And of course, the Sheik himself.

E.M. Hull wrote The Sheik, a haunting desert romance in 1919. The book caused women to swoon in droves. A movie was then made which launched actor Rudolph Valentino’s career as a great romantic hero. Some women committed suicide when he passed away.

Victoria Vane has modernized and vastly improved on Hull’s book. She builds on the characters, showing more of their thoughts and feelings, and takes readers through the veiled curtain into the bedroom where we begin to understand what drives Ahmed Ben Hassan. We witness the pride and the fierce passion: Ahmed’s struggle to control Diana, and Diana’s refusal to be bowed. Her fight for freedom drives them on to ever more danger, until I thought that death could be the only release from so complex a relationship. Fortunately, this is a romance.

The golden-haired heroine, Diana Mayo, is a restless globetrotter. Traveling with her massive steamer trunks, she sees the world as her playground. She appears at first to be rather unlikeable. She is spoilt, heartless and wilful, believing no one would dare cross her and at times stubborn to the point of childishness. She has recently come into her inheritance, a vast fortune, and is finally her own woman. Her stepbrother Aubrey can no longer tell her what to do. With a disciplined body, she prefers to dress in jodhpurs and boots and is a fearless rider. She intends to enjoy the same freedoms a man enjoys and never to marry. The French authorities warn her not to travel into the desert with just a guide and a few of his men, but she ignores them. As she comes to note, her stubborn pride and wilful arrogance become her downfall.

No man has ever stirred Diana’s heart. In her opinion, she has no heart. Her redeeming feature at this point, is her honesty; with herself and with others. She is not pretentious, and when we learn of her past life with Aubrey, it does in some way help us understand why she is the way she is. Beyond her acceptance of her beauty, she exhibits little interest in her appearance.

The handsome sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan, is a law unto himself…the French have no jurisdiction over him. He answers to no one. He is a ruthless, but fair ruler of his people and they are fiercely loyal. There are harsh rules in this world, which must be obeyed. Death is never far away.

When Ahmed sees Diana, he decides to take her to his bed.

“I wanted you from the moment I saw you, my golden one…And now,” the backs of his long brown fingers brushed my hair, “you are mine.”

She will remain with him until he tires of her. If she tries to escape there will be violent repercussions. Do we hate him for his belief that as a brutal ruler of his world, he can take whomever he wants? He proves too fascinating to hate. But he is a man you do not cross:

His expression grew grim. His eyes shone cold, hard, and black as onyx. He came close behind me, placing his hands on my shoulders and then slowly slid them up to rest around my neck, where his thumbs caressed my pulse. His voice was low and soft. “Were you a man, I would slice your throat for such calumny. Do not ever disparage my character again.”

Diana discovers he is capable of exquisite gentleness, while he refuses to love any woman. He is an angry and complex man with a sad past. As we get to know him and understand him as Diana does, there are quite a few surprises.

And more than a few surprises for Ahmed too, for Diana grows and changes and proves to be his equal: clever, resourceful and brave, refusing to cower and become subservient, while he awakens her to passion with his skilled lovemaking. And she discovers she does indeed have a heart.

Ms. Vane has done a wonderful job of turning Hull’s novel, The Sheik (which could be viewed in a modern world as a violent and rather distasteful story), into a stirring love story.

I enjoyed The Sheik Retold very much.

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