I can’t believe I’d never heard of the novel ‘The Sheik’ by E.M. Hull until I recently read a review about a newly published version of the classic romance.  Apparently, the original Sheik was quite scandalous when it was published in 1919. It flew off bookshelves and made Rudolph Valentino, who starred in the film version, one of Hollywood’s most famous heartthrobs. I had to read it.

Quick summary: The heroine, Lady Diana, a wealthy, headstrong socialite traveling alone through the desert to exert her newfound independence, is kidnapped by handsome, but domineering, Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan. She eventually falls in love with her captor/rapist. I won’t tell you the ending. If you are interested, the Kindle download is free on Amazon.

Skip ahead to 2013 and the Sheik has been somewhat rewritten by author Victoria Vane in her version, ‘The Sheik Retold.’ As Vane said, she kept what she liked of Hull’s novel and revised and rewrote what she didn’t.  I agree with Vane that there wasn’t enough dialogue between the two main characters in the original. Instead, Hull filled the voids with a lot of introspection by the heroine on losing her independence. Vane remedies that by fleshing out the characters with more wordplay, along with giving the leading lady a backbone. She also gives the book a new ending and properly accounts for several other characters that Hull otherwise left hanging. Vane’s book definitely opens the bedroom door (or tent flap in the case of the Sheik), but she completely eliminates the alluded to rape scenes in the original book, making it more modern and pc (as well as a bodice ripper), where the two characters are on equal footing.

Both books are good. I always enjoy reading what was considered risque back in the day. I’d suggest reading both (there are definitely aspects of each that make it worth it). Just be careful, you will likely have a tough time saying goodbye to Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan after spending two books with him.