Oh, my dear God. I could go on for hours. I will try keep it short. Personally? I think the author hated thin, strong-willed women, and she wrote an entire novel to prove that beautiful, independent women really should subjugate themselves to strong, violent men. And I am certainly not a feminist- though after reading this, I may have to rethink that.
The plot of the book is simple. Powerful man (the Sheik) sees beautiful, independent (and dumb) woman, powerful man kidnaps said dumb woman, powerful man repeatedly rapes said dumb woman with the intent of ‘breaking’ her and then casting her away, powerful man and dumb woman somehow fall in love. Romance? Shudder. Well-written? At some points- but mostly, ick. The reasoning given for the Sheik’s behavior is weak- his Spanish mother was somehow mistreated by her English husband. Sniffle. Let’s go rape a woman to make him feel better.
I am very anti book-censoring, but if I ever feel like burning a book, I will find a thousand copies of this book and build a huge bonfire.
But... reading this book did make me think. About why a woman would like this kind of story, and find it romantic. About how this story has impacted women through the decades, and how it has affected the romance market of today. I see traces of this idea through many novels (hmmm, can we say Twilight?) that are geared towards girls and women: the concept that somehow, a man who loves you will dominate your life and hurt you but hey, that’s ok, because it’s romantic. How many women have stayed in abusive relationships simply because they think somehow their tormentor will eventually reform and fall in love with them? How many girls have sought out the dangerous man and been terribly hurt because they believed that to be more 'romantic'?
I also have been comparing it to earlier romances, like the Bronte sister’s and Austen’s novels. The heroines, while in some ways following the traditional path of education and marriage that was acceptable for their time period, also exhibit strong characters and refuse to be mistreated. I simply can’t imagine Elizabeth Bennett meekly apologizing to a man who shot her horse out from under her, as happened in the Sheik. So it makes me wonder what happened in the hundred years between Austen and the Sheik, and then in the hundred years since the Sheik... is this progress? I'm sorry, I'll take Jane Eyre any day over this misogynist cesspool. And the biggest insult is that all this 'romance' is written by women, for women, and of women.
Ugh. I’m still shivering in horror.