Sociological Images has a post on Race and Gender themes of “Sheikh Romances”, a popular subgenre of mass market romance.
Sheikh romances are generally set in fictional countries in the Middle East, with a male character described as a “sheikh,” “sultan,” or something along the lines of “king of the desert.” He is, of course, invariably rich and powerful. The female protagonist, on the other hand, is a White woman, usually from the U.S.
For more examples, go to Amazon and search “sheikh romance.” Seriously, there are tons of them — Traded to the Sheikh, Stolen by the Sheikh, The Desert Prince’s Mistress, The Sheikh’s Virgin, Love-Slave to the Sheikh, The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride (notice the recurring economic transaction theme?), and my new personal favorite book title ever, Hired: The Sheikh’s Secretary Mistress…
This subgenre is, of course, a descendant of Edith Maude Hull’s 1919 novel The Sheik (filmed in 1921 with Rudolph Valentino in the lead), and also the harem pornographic novel typified by The Lustful Turk (1828).
I’d be interested to know if there’s been an upsurge in this particular subgenre over the past ten years, with the West’s increased involvement in the Middle East and the Islamic world since 9/11.
The comments are pretty interesting, suggesting that romance novels follow the same basic pattern of resolving gender conflicts while varying the setting.