WARNING: If you want to enjoy the surprises that this book cleverly reveals, don't read the more critical reviews here on Goodreads. There are many which should have spoiler labels but don't.
Elizabeth, a proper Victorian lady, wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and daughter of the Prime Minister, hopes to repair her loveless marriage, so she seeks out Ramiel, the infamous Bastard Sheik, to give her instruction on how to please a man. He is the son of an English noblewoman and an Arab sheik and reputed to be a consummate lover. Her lessons are centered around discussing The Perfumed Garden For The Soul's Recreation, a four hundred year old book on the art of lovemaking. There is to be no touching, just talking.
From this improbable beginning, Robin Schone creates a believable romantic story, as we come to understand how terribly lonely and unloved Elizabeth feels. She is convinced that her husband has a mistress and longs to feel attractive, even at the "advanced" age of 33 and after giving birth to two sons. She is committed to her marriage, however, and not looking to have an affair with Ramiel.
Gradually, Ramiel falls in love with her, and after rejection by her husband and a shocking series of events, Elizabeth seeks his protection and they become lovers. From this point, the plot is full of surprises that I won't reveal here.
The book is full of graphic discussions and depictions of sex, but Ramiel and Elizabeth don't come together until about two-thirds of the way into the book. Once you realize how utterly loveless Elizabeth's experiences with her husband have been, you can't help but root for her to cut loose and enjoy herself.
Ramiel's mother, Elizabeth's parents, and even the servants are strong secondary characters who play integral roles in the plot, which keeps you guessing until the very end.