Silhouette, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-48470-4
Contemporary Romance, 2002
There is Sheiks of Summer, and then there are my shrieks of pain. This anthology is all about clueless pale Americans falling for Mediterranean sheikhs that are Westernized and speaking in American/British accents – the sheiks are as authentic as Valentino’s exploitative stereotypical roles. They are pretty much American guys transplanted in, say, Casablanca or Islamabad, minus the “unpleasant” un-American elements, you know.
In The Sheik’s Virgin, Susan Mallery sets back the clock of romance novel progress by fifty years in creating this child-like 23-year old heroine walking into some Middle-Eastern place, meets this sheikh guy, and without actually caring whether he’s who he says he is or not, follows him around like an obedient bunny and even sleeps with him, all the way dreaming of marriage and opulent boudoirs. White slavery is too good a fate for this dingbat.
Our hero Mazin is 37 to the heroine’s 23 – incidentally, his name means “salty” in Malay, and no, I don’t want to delve any deeper into the significance of that name – and he thinks Phoebe Carson a child in the first page of Chapter 2, and lusts after her three pages later. Hmm, “pedophilic tendencies” must be one of the traits of these fake sheik guys that I’m supposed to swoon to.
Phoebe is a virgin because she just hasn’t felt any sexual instincts until she meets him. She is even pleased when she learns that Mazin has kids, the oldest just a few years younger than she, because she loves taking care of kids, all she wants in life is to take care of kiddies (after getting a degree she will never use as some shallow “I’m feminist too” BS), and yes, she will marry this 37-year old man and take care of his kids forever and ever and ever, amen.
I don’t know what to say.
Alexandra Sellers’s Sheikh of Ice is another American tourist sleeping with the sheik she barely knows story. I see a trend forming here. Hadi al Hajar doesn’t want to fall in love, he acts like a Neanderthal boor that I doubt many will find attractive nowadays, especially from a Middle-Eastern caveman caricature, but it’s love after lots of sight-seeing and silly sex. Yes, true love, Alexandra Sellers deadpans to me.
I don’t feel like being gullible today, so no thanks.
Fiona Brand tries a reincarnation story in Kismet – um, they don’t believe in reincarnation in the Middle East – where Xavier Kalil Al Jahir – a sheikh named Xavier? – and Laine Abernathy are lovers in the past life. This one is a “sickbed love fantasy”, ie he gets all horny, horny, horny while tending to ill Laine. Quasi-necrophilia and pedophilia are now positive traits in a romance hero? Blooming unbelievable.
This could be interesting, but it is ruined like the previous two stories by its own contrived sexual politics. I don’t think any sane contemporary woman will shriek for a stranger she barely knows to impregnate her – toss the nonexistent condom, semen-ize me baby yeah! – and then goes all teary-eyed when she imagines clutching his baby as she becomes a single-mother with limited choices in life. The last is apparently so romantic a fantasy it takes her breath away.
Conflict? Because she is older by four years, and she is plain, so she is sure that he will never, ever marry her, and after he tells her that he will, she will never, ever believe him, et cetera. I know some guys like their women submissive, but this is ridiculous.
As the Sheiks of Summer rolls in, my own shrieks of agony echo through the night. Why do they keep publishing things like these, why, why, why?