Monday, November 12, 2007

Feature Review: "Untouched," By Anna Campbell

Every once in a while, an author bursts onto the romance fiction scene and takes it by storm. That’s not so easy to do, when you consider the high level of talent of the average romance writer. Plus, there's fierce competition to get books published in the $1.3 billion a year industry.

When Anna Campbell debuted last year with her exceptional and provocative historical, “Claiming the Courtesan” (2007 RBTB Book of the Year and Year's Best Debut) readers and the industry took note. Now, Campbell proves she’s got chops – and staying power -- with her stirring, suspenseful, and magnificently erotic new novel, “Untouched.”

The heroine of “Untouched,” lovely Grace Paget, is a poor widow, not the cheap dockside prostitute she’s mistaken for when rough men kidnap and take her to a secluded country estate. Once there, she learns she’s expected to see to the sexual needs of the handsome lord of the manor, or she’ll be killed.

Matthew, Lord Sheene, is “lord of the manor” in name only. His greedy uncle has imprisoned him, bribing officials to declare Matthew insane. Matthew’s uncle wants to keep Matthew locked away so he, the uncle, can enjoy the money and power that come with Matthew’s title of “lord.”

But Matthew’s honor and discipline are great – he’s a mature man who’s had 11 years of imprisonment to develop them. And Matthew understands his uncle is trying to tempt him into doing something he’ll hate himself for. So Matthew will not dishonor Grace, despite the fact that he’s wildly attracted to her, and has never slept with a woman.

Grace knows she must seduce Matthew, or she’ll be killed. Yet her honor is strong, too; she’s certain Matthew’s uncle is trying to break Matthew’s spirit, and wants no part of it.

Faced with no good or easy choices, Matthew and Grace may learn a difficult, but sweet lesson: Giving in to strong emotions and desires, may win them more freedom than they’ve dared to dream possible.

“Untouched” is an incredibly sensual and arousing novel. Campbell builds exquisite romantic and sexual tension between Matthew and Grace from their first, most unusual meeting. From that point on, their every interaction is charged with yearning -- for sexual completion, yes -- but also for what neither believes they can have: a lifetime of everyday, loving experiences that are full of hope for the future.

The dark touches that are part of Campbell’s unique and compelling style of storytelling add a richness to her novels that’s exciting and refreshing. Yet “Untouched” is not bleak; the love story always drives us with optimism and passion toward a rewarding happily ever after.

Please, don’t miss “Untouched,” or Campbell’s debut, “Claiming the Courtesan.” Then you’ll be able to say you were reading Campbell when she was on her way to becoming a star of historical romance fiction. But first, you’ll have to –

Buy the book.