Here's another paper from a University of Penn student wrote, concerning the early shekhs and it's influence.
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 bestselling book was labeled "poisonously salacious" by the Literary Review and banned from some communities. But the public kept reading.