After reading Claiming the Courtesan, I rushed out and bought all of Anna Campbell’s books and I’m glad I did! Untouched is another unique story told only the way Ms. Campbell can tell them.
Matthew, Lord Sheene is a wonderful man who has been held captive under the guise of insanity by his greedy uncle John since he was 14 years old. Claiming that due to a serious illness Matthew is no longer able to care for himself and is prone to ‘fits’, his uncle was able to take and maintain control of Matthew’s fortune, using it for his own gain. Keeping Matt locked up was the only way for John to ensure that he could continue to spend the money any way he wanted. The problem is how to get Matthew, who is no longer a boy easily manipulated, to cooperate.
Enter Grace Paget, a young widow who has known more heartache than any one person ever should. Having been disowned by her father and mistreated by her husband – both in bed and out – she now finds herself also being held captive by Matthew’s uncle so that Matthew would have someone to share his bed with. Uncle John thinks that having a woman at his beckon call will make Matthew more manageable and less likely to continue his attempts at escaping, but his mistake is underestimating Matt’s desire for freedom and Grace’s independent nature – she is not some shrinking violet who takes kindly to being forced to do anything against her will, nor is she the whore that uncle John believed her to be when he had her kidnapped.
Matt believes that Grace is a willing and well paid participant in his uncle’s desire to keep him prisoner, and Grace thinks that Matt is lying about being held against his will, so as would be expected under these horrible conditions, they neither like nor trust each other. As individual characters, Matthew and Grace are great, each having their own strengths and weaknesses but as would be expected given the circumstances, instead of working together to gain freedom, they are constantly butting heads, thinking only of themselves and their own desire to be free from the estate they are being held on and free from each other as well. It’s not until they start to see one another as equal pawns in John’s scheme that they begin trusting each other enough to work together and soon, what were once feelings of loathing and suspicion become feelings of hope, faith, belief in one another and, eventually, love. They didn’t realize it at the time, but it is that love that would be their greatest strength of all.
What makes this story special for me was that even though Matthew had been held prisoner for most of his youth and had very little interaction with anyone who had any moral values at all, he maintained his own integrity, never faltering in his knowledge of right and wrong. Whore’s had been brought for his use and he had no problem resisting them, but when Grace is delivered to him, he sees something different in her, something pure but it’s those years of his uncles tricks that convince him that Grace is just another tool, another attempt to break him. Though he was still a virgin he had to fight his desire for Grace, he refused to yield to it because that would be giving more control to his uncle and giving up one of the few things he had left – freedom to choose what went on within the walls of his elegant prison. He and Grace were more alike than they realized in the beginning because while Grace was not technically a virgin, having been married for several years, she didn’t know what it was like to be loved because while her body had been used, it had never been touched by a man who loved her, heart and soul.
I enjoyed watching Matt and Grace as they learned to trust and love each other and it was so touching to see them as they willingly gave their innocence to one another, learning to love with not only their hearts and souls, but with their bodies as well. The emotions, actions and reactions were real and in keeping with what I would have expected. I appreciated this emotional and physical honesty in the story.
Eventually, they devised a plan in which Grace could escape, although this plan was far from foolproof because it would leave Matthew behind to face whatever punishment his uncle would see fit to bestow upon him – and Matt knew from previous experience that his uncle loved handing out punishment; he had the physical scars to prove it. Grace swore that she would come back for him. That she would contact whoever she had to contact, tell them of Matthew’s circumstances, and return for him, which she did. YAY! They would, at last, have their happily ever after.
SCREECH!!!!!!!!! Wait, what’s that you’re saying, Grace? You can’t be with him??? After having professed your eternal love for Matthew over and over, you can’t be together? Look at him, Grace, he’s on his hands and knees begging you!!! Have you lost your mind, woman!?!?!? How can you deny him?? Oh, ok. I see, it’s only for a year more that he must suffer. Ahhh, that’s alright then. Geez! Was the story not angst ridden enough that we had to toss that little bit of heartache, too?
But, in Anna Campbell’s, and Grace’s defense, I can understand why Grace did what she did. She was well aware that Matt had never had the chance to experience life, and never had the chance to love. She wanted to give him that opportunity to make sure she was the person he really loved, that she was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, not because he knew of nothing else, but because he truly did love her. So I forgive you, Grace, for those few added pages of misery, and I want you to know that I’m glad Matt lost his virginity to you, that he found in you the woman who freed him from not only his uncle’s prison, but from the prison he had built around his heart. For this, for Matt, I forgive you, Grace. I forgive you.