Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane

Pull up several seats, my friends, because I have a lot of thoughts on THE SHEIK RETOLD. This book first caught my attention during the summer of 2013. It's an erotic "retelling" of E.M. Hull's bodice-ripper precursor, THE SHEIK, which was initially published in 1919. Unlike many of the people reviewing this, I've actually read the original. It was written in 1919, so it doesn't have much in the way of sexual content, although there is a lot of sexual tension. And violence. And racism. And smoking. It's basically everything good and bad about 1919, while bursting at the seams with repressed sexuality. It desperately wishes it was born sixty years later, so it could be the bodice-ripper it so badly wants to be.

I think the Smart Bitches ladies hit the nail on the head with their review, but I'll tell you what I think, as well. THE SHEIK RETOLD peppers its pages with the sexual scenes that were not in the original. It's an erotic romance, and initially I was really excited, because I thought to myself, "Finally! This is going to be Rosemary Rogers levels of fucked up bodice-rippery! I can't wait!" The author also rewrote it to be in the first person (I believe the original was written in the third person), which makes it much more intimate and personal. Also a win.

The problem is that when the author was rewriting the book, she took out a lot of the things that made it so much fun. I'm not sorry at all to see the racist slurs removed, because, you know, racist slurs. But trying to take a book that would have been non-con and making it into a "no-no-yes-yes-yes!" style dub-con with the heroine deciding that she's going to take ownership of her abuse and make herself like it because feminism really isn't much better. Honestly, keeping the scenes as rape would have been better than these weird, self-hating mental gymnastics the heroine puts herself through.It also messes with his character, because the sheik is a cruel and brutal man, so removing these scenes, as well as the violence, really lessons the impact of a story that, in the original, uses the allegory of horse-breaking and horse-killing to allude to his method's of "taming" a woman.

The beginning of this book was great, but after the sex scenes, things kind of fell apart for me. What a disappointment. In some ways, this is more readable than the original and it's certainly less offensive, but I'm really not  certain that the author ended up making this a better story. I'm not sure I'd read anything else by this author in the near future. This smacks of 90s bodice-ripper hypocrisy (and you KNOW how I feel about the wishy-washy sex scenes of 90s bodice-rippers). That said, I'm totally in favor of authors taking and rewriting the classics to fill them with the smut that we all deserve. I know the purists may disagree, but I am a trash can and will never say no to well-written smut.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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