05 December 2013

Excerpt Thursday: The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane and E.M. Hull

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Victoria Vanewhose latest novel, THE SHEIK RETOLD, is set during the 20th century. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of The Sheik Retold to a lucky blog visitor. Be sure to reply to Victoria's question at the end of this post and Sunday's post for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.


In E.M. Hull's 1919, The Sheik, the heroine Diana Mayo is enchanted by a heartrending rendition of The Kashmiri Love song. This song is performed by a mysterious and invisible singer in the moonlit hotel gardens the night before her planned trek into the desert.

And as they sat silent, her thoughts far away in the desert, and his full of vain longings and regrets, a man's low voice rose in the stillness of the night. "Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar. Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?" he sang in a passionate, vibrating baritone. He was singing in English, and yet the almost indefinite slurring from note to note was strangely un-English. – from The Sheik by E.M. Hull

Curious to learn more about this song, I discovered that it originated from a poem by the same name, first published in 1901 in a collection known as India's Love Lyrics. The following year it was set to music and "Kashmiri Song" became widely popular and remained a drawing room standard until the Second World War.

When I read The Kashmiri Song lyrics in full, I was immediately struck by how clearly it mirrors Diana and Ahmed's relationship. Although E.M. Hull made another brief reference to the song in her novel, she only used the first verse and never fully explored the parallels or the passion of it. Perhaps she believed readers in her time would have already been familiar with the lyrics?

In either case I thought the inclusion of the more passion-filled verses added a special poignancy and romanticism that I wished to develop more deeply in The Sheik Retold.

** An Excerpt from The Sheik Retold**

I read until the bleariness of my eyes matched the weariness of my body and then must have drifted off to sleep. I awoke to the same Kashmiri love song that I had heard in the hotel gardens at Biskrah—sung in the same low, vibrating baritone that had enthralled me.

"Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar. Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?" 

The sheik stood in the doorway looking out into the night, his handsome profile limned in shadow and moonlight.

He continued his song, "Whom do you lead on rapture’s roadway far, before you agonize them in farewell? Oh, pale dispensers of my joy and pains, holding the doors of Heaven and Hell. How the hot blood rushes wildly though the veins beneath your touch until you waved farewell…" His voice faded away and off into the night

I wondered what it was that had taken him away with such great reluctance and even more, what weighed so heavily on him. He turned and found me watching him, and his expression instantly softened. He came to me with his noiseless tread, drawing my hands together and to his breast. "Pale hands, pink tipped," he sang, raising my fingers to his lips.

I tore them away. "You do know English!" I accused.

"Just because I parrot an English song?" he replied in French and then laughed. "It means nothing. I heard a Spanish boy singing in Carmen once who did not know a word of French. 
He learned it just as I learn your English song."

The lie was unconvincing. There was too much heart in it to be merely parroting the words. 

"It was you who sang outside the hotel in Biskra that night?" It was more statement than question. "And was it you who stole into my bedroom like a thief and put blank cartridges in my revolver?"

"One is mad sometimes when the moon is high." His arm stole around me, drawing me close. He raised my chin to look into my eyes. "Do you think I would have allowed anybody else to go to your room when I meant you for myself?" His warm lips brushed first over my knuckles and then my mouth. "Come with me," he whispered, his eyes passionate and devouring.

Was I dreaming this gentleness? This soft persuasion? Perhaps I was just giddy from the strain? Whatever the reason, I let myself forget the relationship that bound me to him.

Much later in the story…

"And you are so determined?" he asked. His attitude and tone were careless, but there was a peculiar look of unease in his eyes. "You would choose death over life with me?"

"It is not my wish," I replied. "But we cannot go on like this any longer. I cannot live like this! I will never give you the blind submission you want. I will never lie as a dog at your feet! I refuse to be a mindless slave to you. You can no more command my obedience than I can command your love. I will never give you one without the other, and you will never admit that you care for me," I broke off in a whisper.

With a pang, I noted a telltale twitch in his jaw, but it remained clamped shut. Nevertheless, for the first time, I saw self-doubt in his eyes and something else I didn't recognize. After a protracted silence, he gripped both of my shoulders and backed me slowly toward the bed. I gazed up into his eyes. "No, Ahmed. It is finished for me. Never again will I—"

To my surprise, he pressed a finger to my mouth…and then his lips met my forehead.  "Sleep, ma belle." He stroked the backs of his fingers gently over my cheek. "All will be different in the morning."

Hours later I drifted off to sleep to the final verse of the Kashmiri Love Song in a familiar and haunting baritone, "Pale hands, pink tipped, like lotus buds on those cool waters where we used to dwell… I would rather have felt you round my throat, crushing out life, than waving me farewell."


View the Book Trailer

THE SHEIK RETOLD by Victoria Vane & E.M. Hull

The Desert Was Never Hotter!
A haughty young heiress for whom the world is a playground…A savage son of the Sahara who knows no law but his own…When pride and passion vie for supremacy... 

Blistering desert days are nothing compared to sizzling Sahara nights…

THE SHEIK RETOLD is available now in print and e-book

Victoria Vane is an award-winning romance novelist, cowboy addict and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Victoria also writes historical fiction as Emery Lee and is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for Victoria's Contemporary Cowboy Series coming summer 2014 from Sourcebooks

Twitter: @authorvictoriav 

For a digital copy of THE SHEIK RETOLD, Victoria asks, what is your favorite love song?