Thursday, September 12, 2013

My review of THE SHEIK RETOLD by Victoria Vane


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 Spencer, 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 willful, 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 willful 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.

Here's a taste:  

Restless, I moved about the tent, listlessly examining objects that I already knew by heart, and flirting over the pages of some French magazines. I should have been elated at his unexpected absence, yet in my perversity, I was strangely unstrung with anticipation of his return. Now the utter silence only oppressed me.
Where was Gaston? Even the servant's company would be preferable to my own. I guessed he must have gone with his master or perhaps he was long retired. I went to the flap of the tent and gazed out into the night. The camp, large and spread out was covered mostly in a blanket of blackness, broken by the occasional glimmer of a sparking fire.
I had dreamt for years of this experience, of a month spent in the desert and now here I was. I had longed for adventure. It is what I had sought, so why could I not turn this tragedy to my advantage? I had food and shelter that was far superior to any I could have provided for myself. And I was surrounded by hundreds of armed men. Whether I viewed them as my captors or my protectors was only a matter of perception—a matter of choice.
I knew I was safe. I had seen the depths of deference, the authority of the Sheik's command. Any man outside of himself who dared to touch me would suffer death. Of that I had no doubt. The only thing stopping me from enjoying my adventure in this vast oasis and my freedom in the Sheik's camp, was my own desperate desire to cling to a state of chastity I truly cared nothing about. It was only my pride that stood in the way of my pleasure, and my refusal to allow him to take it from me.
I chewed my lip as I gazed up upon the stars glimmering in the heaven like countless brilliant diamonds shimmering against a backdrop of black velvet. I wondered if in the great scheme of things, my pride was a bit over-rated.
This entire evening I had bucked with resentment against the pretense that I was a willing guest here, but had I met this same Sheik in Biskrah, in more conventional circumstances, if I had only been properly introduced, would I not have willing, even gratefully accepted an invitation to his camp? Only a week ago I would have jumped at the chance. What now prevented me from embracing that role? From enjoying that status— for as long as I had planned? I smiled to myself. Yes, it was all just a matter of perception—except for the bartering of my body— the Sheik's expectation in return for his hospitality.
My smiled dimmed.
I could enjoy my month of holiday as planned, as long as I would willing serve his needs—and all that implied— in his bed.

Victoria Vane is an award-winning romance novelist, cowboy addict and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Victoria also writes historical fiction as Emery Lee and is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. 
Look for Victoria's Contemporary Cowboy Series coming summer 2014 from Sourcebooks

Twitter: @authorvictoriav
Facebook: Author Victoria Vane


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