Untouched / Anna Campbell. 2007

Anna Campbell's first book,
Claiming the Courtesan was an unusual, dark, and controversial book. I read it and blogged about it last spring. I found that one to be a compelling, well-written book and I was anxious to read this one.

Untouched is a very different book, although dark in its own way. The hero, Matthew (a Marquess) has been held in captivity for 9 years while his uncle/guardian convinced the world that Matthew is insane. Thus the uncle has control over Matthew's considerable fortune and property. Matthew lives in a "cottage" that is on what must be a rather large piece of land, surrounded by an unscalable wall. He lives in relative comfort and is able to maintain a scientific correspondence with the outside world. For reasons that aren't entirely clear (or else I missed the reasons), the uncle decides to procure a prostitute for Matthew. Two stereotypically evil henchmen are sent to Bristol to bring back the prostitute. Instead, they accidentally bring back Grace, a recently widowed woman who winds up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Grace is determined to hang on to her virtue. Matthew is determined to keep himself from falling to his uncle's level. Naturally the two are strongly attracted to one another. If they give in to their attraction they fall in line with the uncle's plans. If they resist the attraction, they fight back in some small way, although the uncle threatens Grace's life if they resist too long. Since this IS a romance novel, you can guess what happens. And of course after they finally fall in love with one another they realize that they have to escape the hell-hole that is Matthew's captivity.

I liked this book. I didn't love it, though, and I really, really wanted to love it. I think the writing is excellent and the story was compelling. Once I got into it, I had a very hard time putting it down. Ms. Campbell is a very talented writer. Matthew and Grace are well-drawn and their attraction is believable. The pacing is even and there's great tension as you read to discover how they're going to get out of their predicament and have their HEA. Given how poorly mental illness was understood 200 years ago, it is very plausible that the uncle could get away with what he does to Matthew all those years. How closely would he be questioned?

Lord John, the uncle is a truly vile villain. Ms. Campbell can certainly create some nasty people. At the end, though, Matthew's rescue was achieved so neatly that it felt almost anti-climatic. Here is this great not-your-typical-Regency-historical-romance with an almost typical ending. I don't know why it bugs me, because the rescue makes a lot of sense, especially when we find out who Grace really is. So, is it fair for me to have wanted more? If I got more, Grace would have been a different character. But I react to books with my gut. I can't analyze my reactions to a book as well as others do. In the end all I can say is that I really liked this book. I just didn't love it. And since I still think she's one heck of an author, I'll be first in line again when the next Anna Campbell book is released. I love dark and tense, and she's very good at it.

Comments

  1. I may be wrong - but I kind of got the impression that the uncle got him a doxie so that he wouldn't keep trying to escape.
    And like you, I like dark better. I think it makes the happy ending even brighter somehow.

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  2. I think you're right. But it seems a bit at odds with a character who was so cruel. Why not drive Matthew truly mad and lock him up? Why grant Matthew the freedoms he had?

    LOL, I know I'm just being picky, but with these types of questions going through my head, you can understand why I say I liked it alot rather than loving it.

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  3. I haven't heard the word doxie in a long time! LOL
    Matthew's uncle was so sadistic that I would have killed him and buried the body in the garden.
    Matthew was such an incredible character even though his illness was absent when Grace came. Hmmm...

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  4. Spoilers ahoy....

    The uncle was a sadistic SOB, wasn't he? I wanted to see him punished and humiliated in a big way. So his demise was the easy way out. At least he should have known just who he'd accused of being a whore before he offed himself.

    However I can certainly see the uncle taking advantage of an unknown disease to declare Matthew insane. After all, insanity was imperfectly understood and people in power could easily manipulate situations to imprison those in their power. THAT part of the story is extremely believeable.

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