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Untouched by Anna Campbell

Saturday, July 09, 2011


Anna Campbell
Historical Romance
Published in 2007

H/h - Matthew Lansdowne, The Earl of Sheene/Grace Paget
Setting: Somerset, 1822.

Read in July, 2011.
My rating:

                                                        [spoiler alert]

Ah, Untouched is all about Matthew for me. From top to bottom, left to right, from north, south, east and west. Everywhere. I loved him, I loved his brilliance, his honesty, his ardent devotion to Grace (some lucky chit!) and last but not the least, yah, the fact that he was a virgin in the beginning of the story! Of course I love men who know what they’re doing but Matthew ... Doesn’t matter when it comes to him. His innocence was so refreshing as was the fact that he was nice and a genuinely good man. I loved his courage, his endurance (though it pained me to read about the abuse and tortures he suffered) but most of all, I adored the man, inside and out. Matthew is a jewel.

I knew I’d start with my own ode on Matthew, 25, the Earl of Sheene. Let me tell you more about him. He was orphaned at 10/11. He was ill with a fever at 14 when his greedy, grasping and undeniably jealous uncle John, who was his guardian, took him in a remote estate and made a prisoner out of him. Matthew never knew the outside world, although he’d tried to escape a few times, all in vain. John’s accomplices, Monks and Filey were the two who helped keeping Matthew under lock and key. But that’s not all; he was made a certified lunatic by quacks who took money for it so the outside world, by his uncle’s account knew him as one too. When Matthew had one of his ‘fits’, he was tied down for days and abused by both the quacks and Monks, who had no qualms whatsoever to do his ‘duty’. Even when Matthew tried to escape and then was caught, these tortures went on. But, Matthew is anything but a lunatic. And he hasn’t had one of his ‘fits’ for the last 7 yrs or so. He is brilliant like his deceased father; an avid botanist, who writes brilliant journals on his work under a penname. Matthew is revered for his work but in reality, he’s given up all hope of escaping this prison. I was kinda thinking, no one tried to help him? To know what actually happen to the boy? But knowing that his uncle holds considerable power, I had to accede. Matthew tried his best never to bow down to his uncle’s will, like a silent war is going on between them. It was his uncle’s plan to get him a ‘woman’ so that he finally reconciles to his captivity.

And then comes Grace, 25, who has been widowed not so long ago. Grace’s life was also something to read about. At 16 she made a mistake and ‘thought’ she fell in love with a man old enough to be her grandfather. Well, this I found totally weird. But, in Grace’s own word, being the only daughter of the Earl of Wyndhurst, she was horribly spoiled and did whatever she liked to do. And she paid for it, for nine long years; years that taught her about the cold realities of life, men and their stupid promises but most of all the hardship of money, something she knew nothing about as an Earl’s daughter. Suffice to say, she had a very unhappy married life, her husband just died leaving her penniless and all alone. She can’t turn to her parents since just after her marriage her father sort of disowned her. Grace didn’t even see them all these years and knows her father would never help her. Her only elder brother also died a few years ago and she had to read about it in the newspapers. When the story begins, Grace was on her way to her cousin Vere’s house, a vicar who graciously agreed to let her share his house which is already overflowing with 4 children and a wife who’s pregnant again. Grace has no other option. But, as she waits for Vere, he never arrives. Then she fell pray to Monks and Filly’s mechanics, who were there to find a ‘whore’ for Matthew. Seeing Grace in her threadbare mourning gown and the place, which was a shady one as I understood, they mistake her for a whore or at least some widow willing to service with the help of a few coins. When Grace regains consciousness, she feels she’s being mauled by the disgusting Filey. She feels sick but it was also because she can’t abide by laudanum. Then she hears a voice, a deep one who’s talking to her. She already, from Filey and Monks’s conversation, understood why she was here. But this man seemed different. He didn’t look dangerous but a beautiful stranger, who’s tall and broad, albeit a bit leaner in the form. Grace is already attracted, somehow understanding that this man won’t harm her. And then, they’re introduced. She knows Matthew is the man, for whom she’d been kidnapped and brought in. Matthew takes care of her when she gets ill from laudanum’s affect. When Matthew goes out to bring some food, she tries to escape. Of course, she soon finds out it’s virtually impossible; the walls of the estate was built and colored in a way, no one can scale it. Later she finds out there are no lock in the doors of the estate, except the main gate, which remains under lock and key.

Matthew found himself attracted to Grace since the moment he saw her, even though he doesn’t believe a word she says. And, it went on for sometimes. Grace tries hard to convince him of her situation but Matthew thought she must be in league with his uncle. Of course, his distrust was very logical. But, even in midst of all these happenings, he wants her. He even congratulated his uncle in his mind that this one ‘tool’ might finally bring him down on his knees. Matthew, like any other red blooded man, wanted a woman for a long time and now he knows the face of that woman; it’s always been someone like Grace. And, poor guy tried so hard to maintain his cool in front of her but he couldn’t. Grace beguiles him, fascinated him. In the meantime, Grace herself wasn’t immune to Matthew. She learned a few things about him by now and somehow she thought they connect. And, soon, their relationship takes a more friendly turn. Matthew was hungry for a human companionship since his dog Wolfram had been his only steadfast companion so far. He had his botany and his roses but having Grace around couldn’t quite compare to anything else in his miserable existence. Oh, I felt so much for Matthew and the situation he found himself in, can’t quite explain. The whole situation was quite unique and makes you think, really think, about what can actually be done in a situation like this.

Matthew tells Grace about his silent battle with his uncle and Grace understood why he’s determined to keep his distance. Grace, who’s never been happy in her marriage bed, was already fantasizing over Matthew and felt guilty about it since it’s been only weeks since she’d been widowed. But, Grace never felt anything like this for a man, so in that sense and in many other, she was a beginner too. Then, Lord John pays a visit and threatens Grace with torture and rape, if she doesn’t fulfill her ‘duty’ here. Without that, she is of no use to him. Grace, in an attempt to seduce Matthew, goes to him at night but fails miserably. She cries in his arms and Matthew understands something was wrong. Grace tells him about John’s threat. Now, Matthew’s willing to help her out. For that, even though it was a torture and some kind of a defeat for him, Matthew agrees to give an impression that they’re lovers. They spent one restless night together in bed. In the morning, Monks comes to find them together in bed and makes dirty, humiliating remarks. But, Grace decides she wants him too much and want to give him this little gift, since if she isn’t here, Matthew would never likely to have a woman in his life. It’s also that she most possibly doesn’t have a reputation to think about after spending a week in this prison of a house. Ah, I loved the way Matthew reacted. He was such a puppy, a sweet puppy at that and crazy about Grace. The first time was a bit of a trouble but I didn’t think it was a problem. Grace tells him a little about her married life and that in many ways, she’s a beginner too. I loved their conversations; they told me these two belong to each-other. And, Matthew proved to be a brilliant student here as well. But the sweetest thing, which took me by surprise, was the fact that he said ILU just afterwards. Grace of course didn’t say it back. Moreover, she tries to convince him since she’s his first, it’s possible that he’s making too much out of the experience. Though I didn’t like her hurting Matthew, I couldn’t deny the fact as well. But, Matthew knew what he felt.

Both Grace and Matthew were basking into a make-believe bliss when Filey, who had an eye on Grace from the beginning, tries to rape her. Matthew was working in his greenhouse. As it went too far, I got a bit scared and thought she’d be raped but thankfully, Wolfram comes in and helps Grace fight Filey. Then Matthew rushes in and beats Filey. Oh my, the possessive Matthew in a rage was hot! I also loved it when he takes care of Grace’s bruises and tells her having a lover who knows about herbs and such sometimes helps. It was too sweet. :p But their idyll comes to and end as John pays another visit and threatens Grace again, now in front of Matthew. Matthew again asks Grace if she loves him and Grace, this time, was honest about her feelings and says ‘yes’. It felt so good to see Matthew happy, lolz. Matthew starts planning, no matter what Grace must be saved. His ultimate plan was somehow help Grace escape, then kill his uncle/Filey/Monks if possible and then kill himself. Matthew knows killing himself would deny his uncle of the family money, since one of Matthew’s cousins is in line for the title. Grace understands and is scared for him. And, this is where the story became poignant; their imminent separation looming over. The night before Grace’s escape, they make love like there’s not tomorrow. Matthew tries convincing Grace that she should forget about him since he’d never escape. But, Grace has a plan; a tentative one but a plan nonetheless. The next day, before their plan was on the motion, Grace makes Matthew promise that he’d wait for at least 6 months before taking any action. Matthew accedes for his love but he actually sees no hope of a rescue. Moreover, he knew the old methods of torture would be upon him once again. Ah, poor babe! Grace never told him of her exulted connections so Matthew didn’t know how it can be done. The escape scene was sad; to see Matthew taking some herbal to make himself sick, so that Grace escapes. I hated seeing it, and so understood what Grace felt, when from her hiding place, she saw him sick and could do nothing about him.

Before escaping, Grace took a few documents to make others believe about her story. She finds her cousin and then with his help, goes to the Duke of Kermonde, who’s her godfather and her father’s dear friend. He’s been a doting uncle to her when she was young. Grace doesn’t really know how he’d react but thankfully, her uncle was the same man as before and readily agrees to help her upon hearing about Matthew and examining the documents. And, it took 4 grueling months to take the necessary actions to help Matthew. I understood Grace and felt so much for her; the worry, the helplessness, the yearning, all of it. I loved the scenes where she was reunited with her parents. It seems her father forgave her a long time ago but with the ‘help’ of her vindictive husband, she never knew of the attempts of reconciliation her father made sometimes after the marriage.

Anyway, I loved Loved LOVED the way Matthew was rescued from his prison, where he was being tortured for information but ... WTF????? What the hell was that Grace did? She just left him when he was begging her like that? OMIGAWD! I was SO SO ANGRY. I didn’t really care about her reasons; they were good but honestly, just damned stupid! I wanted to slap her hard for hurting Matthew. And, I thought the ‘one year of seeing the outside world’-thing was wholly, totally, unequivocally unnecessary. I mean, Anna Campbell didn’t really give us any detailed narration of his life this one year, just some stuff here and there. Why put them through this, really? If there were scenes which showed us how Matthew coped with his new life and the challenge he made to Grace, I would’ve thought there's some point to this. But, just for a chapter and then jump to the next year, why? Yah, I absolutely loved the improved and healthier Matthew making sexy love to Grace (again, some lucky idiotic chit!) but... Hell, won’t talk about it anymore. 4 stars because I was a bit pissed in the end; otherwise it would’ve been a 5 star, truly!


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