“The Sheik”



E. M. Hull
304 pages, $14.95 paper

Diana Mayo is young, beautiful, wealthy—and independent. Bored by the eligible bachelors and endless parties of the English aristocracy, she arranges for a horseback trek through the Algerian desert. Two days into her adventure, Diana is kidnapped by the powerful Sheik Amhed Ben Hassan, who forces her into submission. Diana employs all her considerable courage to resist but finds herself falling in love with this dark and handsome stranger. Only when a rival chieftain steals Diana away does the Sheik realize that what he feels for her is more than passion. What follows is a tale of mystery, power, and forbidden love fulfilled.

One of the most widely read novels of the 1920s, and forever fixed in the popular imagination in the film version starring the irresistible Rudolph Valentino, “The Sheik” is recognized as the immediate precursor to the modern romance novel.

When first published there was nothing like it. To readers the story was scandalous, exotic, and all-consuming; to such critics as The New York Times, the book was “shocking,” although written with “a high degree of literary skill.” In the author’s native England, the best-selling book was banned from some communities. But the public kept reading.

The influence of “The Sheik” on romance writers and readers continues to resonate. Despite controversy for portraying sexual exploitation as a means to love, “The Sheik” remains a popular classic for its portrait of the social order of its time, capturing contemporary attitudes toward colonialism as well as female power and independence that still strike a chord with readers today.

“The Sheik” is the first title in a new trade paperback imprint of the University of Pennsylvania Press, Pine Street Books, named for the address of our offices.

— University of Pennsylvania Press


Originally published on April 19, 2001