Lucy Mannion’s troubles begin when she awakes in a dimly lit tent somewhere in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Dahman. The petite English secretary quickly realizes that she’s been drugged and kidnapped by Sheikh Hakim Bin Taimur Al Fulani, a man “so outrageously exotic and arrogantly masculine that his presence seemed to fill the tent and overpower her.”

This sizzling scene is taken from Stolen by the Sheik, one of a subset of romance novels in which Western women find love after being importuned by sexy Arab potentates. While publishers insist that the appeal of sheikh-themed romances (such as Harlequin’s The Sheik Who Loved Me, Expecting the Sheik’s Baby, and Hide-and-Sheikh) has no connection to our current entanglement in the Middle East, the popularity of the genre seems to be growing. For Erika Wittlieb, a Canadian fan who reads all 15 to 30 that are published each year, tales of seduction by oil-drenched oligarchs offer “a pleasant escape for a few hours with a guaranteed happy ending.”