Friday, November 1, 2013

Review: The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane and EM Hull

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This is how good Victoria Vane is: I sat on this book for a long time because I'm not a big fan of sheik/desert-themed stories and was worried that I might not enjoy it. After much delay, I finally decided to sit down and read it -- and I was hooked from the first chapter.

Diana Mayo is a very wealthy, very independent heiress who yearns for adventure. She and her brother Aubrey travel the world most of the year and only stay in England long enough to pack their bags for the next trip. Now, they find themselves in Biskrah and Diana falls in love with the exotic land and longs to explore more of it, but her brother is ready to move to Paris, and this causes friction between the already-indifferent siblings.

Impulsive and willful, Diana makes her own arrangements to travel further into the desert -- heedless of the danger it poses. I thought Diana was a bit too reckless and a bit too proud to listen to anyone and I gritted my teeth as she ignored the warnings and good intentions of the people around her but, on the flip side, I was glad that she wasn't a meek, quiet woman to be cowed into submission and I liked her very unconventional upbringing. She stood up for herself and stood by the decisions (bad and good) that she made.

Victoria Vane warned that there was forced seduction in the original novel by EM Hull and I wondered how she would address that in her retelling. I'm not fond of the first-person POV but it was helpful in this story: we were able to see Diana's thoughts and I liked that Diana was an "active participant" in her own seduction.

So, it was all back to the matter of my inevitable submission, for it was inevitable. I'd already accepted that fact, and in truth, had only continued fighting to delay the actualization of it. Perhaps even the loss of my virginity was also a matter of perception, or misperception, as it were.

I had never understood why the act of losing one's virginity was referred to as being taken, an expression that seemed ridiculous to me. When considering the mechanics of it, the act involved a great deal more giving from the male perspective and receiving on the woman's part.

In truth, my decision was not whether to give him anything, but merely to receive what he desired to give me. I could enjoy it or not, but I would be no weaker for it. I fingered the necklace, the cool jade pressed against my breast. I had not wanted to receive this either. It had pleased him far more to give it to me than it had for me to accept it.
- p. 102

It is interesting how, for Diana, getting "lost" in the desert becomes the stimulus for her self-realization. At the beginning of the book, she proudly declares that she does not have a heart, only to find it in the desert. To Vane's credit, she doesn't tame or break or repress Diana but allows her to be more mature and more thoughtful: to the very end, Diana displays the same fire, same spirit that she does at the beginning of her adventure: only now she is more aware of how her actions might affect others.

The sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan, is a difficult man to hate, though he tries very hard to be "the sheik" -- that barbaric, uncivilized savage with a different set of morals and rules -- Vane has given Ahmed greater dimensions and a deeper backstory, making him a more relatable character: not just to the readers, but also to Diana. Indeed, it was a testament to his character how incredibly loyal his servants were to him: Gaston, especially.

"What do you expect of a savage?" Ahmed laughed. "When an Arab sees a woman that he wants, he takes her. I only follow the customs of my people."

Raoul clicked his tongue impatiently. "Your people -- which people?"

Ahmed sprang to his feet and dropped a hand on Saint Hubert's shoulder. "Stop, Raoul! Not even from you --" He then broke off abruptly and sat down again with a laugh. "Why this sudden access of morality, mon ami? You know me and the life I lead. You have seen women in my camp before."
- p. 193

I normally don't talk about the sex scenes in the novels that I read but I will for The Sheik Retold. In her author's notes, Vane notes that this is one major change that she did for her retelling: she threw the bedroom doors wide open and narrates explicitly what was only hinted about in the original story. The love scenes are incredibly erotic but they are wonderfully written and I consider them to be an intrinsic aspect of the story: a lot is revealed about our hero and heroine when they are together. Vane writes it in such a way that it is a moment of vulnerability, a moment of power, and a moment of revelation for both of them.

"Mon Dieu," he groaned. "You will destroy me."

I had given willingly, eagerly, losing myself in his pleasure, until it had become my own. I had shocked us both with my brazenness, and the knowledge took my breath away. His expression softened. He drew me to my feet and bent his head toward me. We were close enough that the heat of his mint-scented breath caressed my face. Still, lower and lower he came, until his lips were a hair's breadth from mine. I closed my eyes in anticipation of the tender kiss that I still so fervently craved -- but he denied me once more.

He abruptly drew back, the ephemeral flicker of love I thought I had glimpsed in his eyes replaced by his former ferocity. ...
- page 205

One can really lose oneself in Victoria Vane's writing: she renders a vivid experience of life in the desert and the harshness of both the land and the culture. Her characters are strong and well-defined. Reading Victoria Vane's novels is a truly memorable experience.

To find out more about Victoria Vane and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Yes, this is an honest review.


  1. Great review!! I actually love shiekh romances, so I definitely need to get this one. The quotes were also fun to read.

  2. Hi, Renee! I would definitely, definitely recommend this book to you, then. ^_^



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