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    The Allure of the “Untouched” Hero by Stacy Ahlgren
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  • Published: Dec 9th, 2008

campbell_untouched.jpgAs a long-time reader of romance novels, I’ve seen my share of virgin heroines, both in contemporary and historical books.  However it’s not so common to see a virgin hero, and really, when you first think about it, the very idea may sound unappealing, and certainly not very satisfying.  But when you really take some time to consider what it might be like to be intimate with an attractive man who’s never experienced one of life’s most enjoyable pleasures, you might begin to re-think your opinion.  After all, wouldn’t it be just delicious to have all that attention focused completely on you, knowing that your sexy lover is about to experience the pleasure of lovemaking for the first time, and to prove himself worthy, he’s more than ready to learn what pleases you?  I think that he may be very appreciative and will want to show his woman that he knows what he’s doing.  Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a pretty freakin’ hot fantasy.

But of course, in Romancelandia, not just any virgin will do.  As I mentioned, I have read romances for a very long time, since I was twelve actually, and even back then, I’ve always been drawn to the strength and charisma of the hero.  He could be a fireman or a duke, rich or poor, drop-dead gorgeous or having a face only a mother (and the heroine) could love. But there are certain traits that all memorable heroes should have, characteristics that make him appealing to not only the heroine, but to the reader.  Essentially he should be honorable, intelligent, courageous, honest, and willing to put others before himself.   He should be willing to sacrifice his own happiness for that of the woman he loves.  He should be ready to protect and defend her, but also step back and let her do her own thing, even if it kills him to do so, but because he loves her, he’ll do it.

One such hero that fits this description is Matthew Lansdowne, Marquess of Sheene, from Anna Campbell’s wonderful novel “Untouched“.  And coincidentally, Matthew just happens to be a virgin.  Kidnapped and held prisoner from a very young age by his greedy uncle, Matthew has never had much chance to converse with young women, much less had the opportunity to bed one.  But that’s all about to change when he is brought a beautiful woman for his pleasure.  When he first meets Grace, the widowed woman who is there to satisfy his masculine needs, he’s suspicious of her, believing she’s in cahoots with his cruel uncle, and doesn’t want anything to do with her, though he strongly desires her from the first moment he sees her.

After a time, Matthew realizes that Grace is telling the truth when she insists she’s been kidnapped by his uncle as well, and she’s just as trapped as he is.  With so much time on their hands, they spend it getting to know each other, sharing the intimate details of their pasts, and Matthew begins to develop feelings for her which serve to increase his desire, and she begins to feel the same for him.

You would think that a hero, whose only companions since the age of 14 are the thugs that work for his uncle, would be socially inept, awkward, spineless, but Matthew is none of those things.  Inside Matthew there is an insatiable desire to learn, and a kind-hearted nature towards animals and those weaker than himself.  He’s also a very stubborn and proud man with a strong moral code.   He is also incredibly attracted to Grace, which makes it very difficult to be moral.  Yet even as a virgin, he is a healthy young man with normal appetites, and he wants Grace very badly.

Inevitably as the days go by, desire burns strongly between them, out of control, and Matthew the untouched gives into his raging need and makes love for the first time EVAH. It is, of course, the most amazing experience of his life.  Needless to say that for poor Grace though, there are no choirs of singing angels or bursting fireworks.  Matthew has raced to the finish line without her, unprepared for the intensity of his pleasure.  He has been overwhelmed with sensation and forgot about his partner.

But before Grace can think “I shoulda washed my hair instead”, Matthew quickly sets about to redeem himself.  Even as a teen he remembers that there were women who enjoyed bed sport, and while he may be an inexperienced lover, he is a learned man, and  he’s certain that he can awaken the spark within Grace and show her a dazzling time in bed.  All he has to do is make it all about her.  So that is exactly what he does.  With patience, control and utter focus on her body and her pleasure, Matthew the uninitiated becomes Matthew the wonder boy.  Grace doesn’t know what hit her, but she does know she wants it to hit her again and again and again.

So score one for team Matthew.  And to be honest, he is an outstanding hero anyway, but the fact that he’s a virgin and not familiar with women adds an extra layer of attractiveness to his character.  He’s a fresh canvas, a young man in his prime who has years and years to live out his every fantasy, and he chooses to do so with Grace.  While it’s true that his virginal state is due to his circumstances, once he gets past the initial experience, his sole concern becomes about her pleasure, and his enjoyment in pleasing her.  He has fallen deeply in love with Grace and wants no other woman.  And this is one of the reasons why a virgin hero is so appealing.

The delightful and talented Anna Campbell, who created the unforgettable character of Matthew, was kind enough to answer some questions for me about writing “Untouched”, and here’s what she has to say about the virgin hero:

– What made you decide to write about a virgin hero?

Anna: I’d been thinking about virgin heroes for years. I think because Romancelandia is awash with virgin heroines. Not so many boys facing their first time. And Matthew’s circumstances dictated that his sexual experience before he’s locked away would be limited or nonexistent. I wanted to look at a man who stood up to having everything stolen from him – including that element of life!

– Did you have any misgivings about having Matthew being a virgin?

Anna: Oh, yes! I wasn’t sure other people would find the idea as intriguing as I did. When the book went into a couple of contests before I was published, the editor judges expressed doubts about my hero’s ‘strength’. But I stuck to my guns because I always thought he was an incredibly strong man. An alpha in every sense (of the knight in shining armor brand of alpha!). But I wrote the first draft of Untouched before I sold Claiming the Courtesan and as some of you know, I had decided at that stage that 27 years unpublished meant the rest of my life unpublished, so what did it matter if I wrote a hero just to please myself (and lucky Grace!)?

– What was the most challenging part about writing a virgin hero?  The easiest?

Anna: That first love scene was tough. I kept telling myself that people wouldn’t want him to botch it up and spoil the fantasy. But my realistic side (the side that has to be engaged for me to believe the characters are real!) kept saying, “He’s 25, he’s madly in love, he’s never done this before, of course he’s going to make a mess of it, poor sod.” The easiest part was making the virginity just an element of his personality! He was always a slightly fairytale figure (I always thought of him as a male Sleeping Beauty, imprisoned in his tower, waiting for a kiss to wake him up to life) and the virginity seems to be part of that pure prince persona (not to mention alliteration!).

– Matthew was really a sexy hero, despite, or maybe partially because he was a virgin.  What personality traits do you think helped to convey that about him?

Anna: Thanks, Stacy! So glad you liked him! Stephanie Laurens believes one of the main things that make the hero compelling is he’s completely focused on the heroine. This is certainly true about Matthew. He falls like a ton of bricks for Grace and will sacrifice anything for her sake. I also wanted to convey his strength through showing his steadfastness, his courage, his loyalty, his intelligence, his truth. What’s not to like? 😉 And he sure is a quick learner!

– Do you think a real life virgin is sexy?  Why or why not?  Do you think women are turned off by a virgin hero?

Anna: What a good question! I think it depends what the guy is like aside from his sexual experience. If he’s like Matthew, he’d certainly appeal to me in real life! I know there was quite a lot of discussion when “Untouched” came out about virgin heroes and some readers said they’d NEVER go near a virgin hero because they couldn’t maintain the fantasy of him being a great lover. But I also know that a lot of readers were intrigued by Matthew’s inexperience and what he, ahem, did with it!

– Do you have a favorite virgin hero from a book you’ve read?  If so, who was it and what made him so appealing?

Anna: I read a great virgin hero in an old Harlequin Temptation called FIRST AND FOREVER by Katherine Kendall. I just looked it up and it came out in 1991 so that’s at least as long as I’ve been thinking about virgin heroes. The hero, who is ten years younger than the heroine (another fantasy!), was involved in a car accident and missed out on all those usual teenage experiences because he was in hospital learning to walk again. Therefore in one way, he’s very unworldly for a man in his 20s but in another his life has given him a maturity and an emotional depth that make him a true hero indeed (can you see where he was an inspiration for Matthew?).

– Do you think you might write about another virgin hero?  Why or why not?

Anna: I really enjoyed writing Matthew!  Whether I write another virgin hero depends on whether another suitable story pops into my mind.

Thanx Anna!  I really enjoyed reading Matthew’s story.

My question to readers:  do you find virgin heroes to be believable?  Why or why not?

27 Responses to “The Allure of the “Untouched” Hero by Stacy Ahlgren”

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  1. Kati
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 2:18 pm

    What a terrific blog, Stace, and what great questions for Anna to answer. I adored Matthew. Untouched was one of my favorite heroes of last year. I’d kind of forgotten that he botched the first pass with Grace. LOL! Classic!

  2. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 2:21 pm

    Hey, Stacy, thanks so much for that lovely wrap for Matthew!

  3. katiebabs
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 2:28 pm

    More virgin heroes, I say. I adored Matthew and how quickly he learned about love. 😀

  4. Marisa
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 2:33 pm

    Stacy – such a great essay on Matthew! He really is one of the great Virgin Heroes. Anna’s handling of the how Grace and Matthew get together, learn to know one another and finally discover passion together is why he is such a great virgin hero. You can not have a virgin hero be ‘successful’ with out all the elements that go into creating the love that exists between the hero and heroine. And Anna does that in spades.

    I loved that the ‘earth didn’t move’ for Grace their first time – that was realistic, I totally got it. What’s even better is that Matthew tries to redeem himself by working towards Grace’s satisfaction above his own. Gotta love a man who does that. And that is why Matthew is a believable hero for me. Getting to know Grace, falling in love with Grace and making love to Grace isn’t an easy road – he has to work for it; they both do. As a reader I appreciated that.

    On the opposite end of the virgin hero – in many books that I’ve read – heroes and heroines with experience fall into bed and their first time together is fireworks, the best sex evah! But how often does that happen in real life? Being that intimate with some one is often awkward at first, particularly if you’ve only known the person a few days. I read these scenes and think – I gotta get me some of that. But where? Intimacy is created over a period of time with honest communication. It takes work. Falling into bed the first time you meet some one? Well the odds are that you’re not going to have the earth move. So often I find the scenario of the ‘experienced’ hero being the best lover ever in the history of the world the first time he sleeps with the heroine less believable than the virgin hero scenario. So, yes, the virgin hero is believable to me. We all have to start somewhere. Some one has to be first and some one has to have their first time.

  5. Maria Lokken
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 2:56 pm

    Do I find virgin heroes believable? That depends on the story. In the case of Untouched – absolutely. I totally believed Matthew and Grace and how their relationship developed… I was swept up in it. The fact that he doesn’t get it right the first time, the fact that he’s the only one experiencing fireworks makes COMPLETE sense. So I’m rooting for him to get it right, I’m rooting for their love and passion to be realized – it makes it so much for satisfying for me as a reader that Matthew doesn’t ‘know’ what to do – it just goes along with the plot.

  6. Kati
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 3:09 pm

    I think part of what Matthew and Grace’s relationship SO believable was the fact that they didn’t just hop in the sack. There was an evolution to their relationship. It was lovely to see and I think it made when they got together all the more poignant.

    Maybe that’s part of the appeal for the virgin hero? He doesn’t just hop into the bed with their heroines? What do you think?

  7. Marisa
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 3:15 pm

    Kati said: Maybe that’s part of the appeal for the virgin hero? He doesn’t just hop into the bed with their heroines? What do you think?

    That’s what I’m talking about Kati. It’s true, it’s much more believable when there is a ‘getting to know’ you time. That’s the time when intimacy begins to grow.

  8. Gannon
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 3:52 pm

    Absolutely! The fact that the virgin hero doesn’t immediately jump into bed with the heroine definitely adds to “believable” factor. Matthew’s focus on giving grace pleasure after he failed to notice that the first time, is one more thing to love about him. He was my favorite hero last year, no doubt.

    Great blog, Stacy! “Matthew the uninitiated becomes Matthew the wonder boy.” I love that line!!

  9. Buffie
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 4:00 pm

    Wonderful blog Stacy! Boy am I lovin’ this week here at RNTV. Great interview with Anna too!

    Matthew definitely did turn into the wonder boy *sigh*

  10. Maria Lokken
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 4:14 pm

    Kati – you took the words out of my head. I like when things evolve in a relationship – then, even when their first encounter is uncomfortable there is a basis a foundation.

  11. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 4:42 pm

    Hey, what a great discussion! Actually the interview was easy – Stacy asked such great questions! I always find it slightly more believable when new lovers are a bit uncomfortable with each other. Generally at the stage of the story where there’s the first love scene, they’re not really intimate with each other on other levels, so it seems realistic that physical intimacy should be equally awkward. Not that I’m against fireworks either!!!! And Grace really isn’t that experienced either at that stage of the story so she’s not really in a position to help Matthew much. I think she’s a bit of a Sleeping Beauty figure too!

    Hey, thanks again for saying all those lovely things about Matthew! 😉

  12. Stacy ~
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 7:36 pm

    I had meetings all day today and missed out – bummer. Anna’s book certainly deserves a lot or praise for being romantic and emotional, but also realistic, which made the story stronger. I loved the build-up to the relationship, and by the time they’re finally intimate, it just feels right. It wasn’t forced like it could have been if it had happened too quickly. It was just a lovely story.

  13. Andrea
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 7:38 pm

    Loved. This. Book! And boy, did I fall for Matthew right along with Grace. Their first love scene was so, so real and that made it totally believable to me. Fantastic blog, Stacy! 🙂

  14. Jeanne AKA The Duchesse
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 8:36 pm

    Hi Anna! Swinging over from the lair to say hi! So…Hi! :> I have to agree with Maria in that it depends on the story as to whether I like the idea of a virgin hero. I adore Matthew. :> I really wasn’t sure how you were going to pull it off, Anna. But in Untouched and several other books, I bought it totally. There’s an example in film too. In the movie Meet Joe Black with Brad Pitt. I don’t happen to like the story – I like the Heaven Can Wait version of the story better! – but there’s an incredibly erotic, emotional scene when Joe and the billionaire’s daughter make love. He’s not experienced, it’s “virgin territory” if you’ll excuse the joke at Brad’s expense. Snicker. However it’s powerful and poignent. Anyway, gotta love Matthew…hmmm, maybe time for a reread…

  15. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 8:37 pm

    Actually if anybody wants to win a copy of UNTOUCHED, good timing and good luck means that this discussion has coincided with All About Romance’s After Hours Blog giving away three copies. All you have to do is visit my website and answer a trivia question. Pretty easy! Good luck!

  16. Kate Carlisle
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 8:39 pm

    Lovely and thoughtful post, Stacy. Hi Anna! I loved Untouched, too, and as everyone has said, one of the things that made it so realistic was that first botched love scene (sorry, Matthew!) and how determined he was to make it work the next time. 🙂 He was a wonderful hero and Grace deserved nothing less!

  17. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 8:40 pm

    Jeanne, I know the scene you’re talking about and you’re right – it’s amazing. Partly because he’s so powerful in so many other areas and yet he’s vulnerable in this one. Hmm, think we’re coming back to the same themes as the discussion of the book! I find a virgin hero incredibly moving when he’s done right. There’s a wonderful old Susan Napier Harlequin Presents called Secret Admirer where the whole virgin hero thing is just exquisitely done. And again, he’s a really powerful man which makes the scene so touching and sexy.

  18. azteclady
    on Dec 9th, 2008
    @ 9:35 pm

    I haven’t yet read Untouched (is in the TBR mountain range, though), but to answer the final question, I can believe a virgin hero depending on why he is a virgin at the time the book starts, and on his character as he’s written. For example, I would have had issues believing a 23 year old Scot to be a virgin, but then I read Outlander and I completely believe that Jamie was a virgin up to his and Claire’s marriage. It’s all about the writing.

  19. Monique Wood
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 12:19 am

    What a wonderful review and interview, Stacy! Very intriguing stuff.

    Anna, a male virgin (I’m talking mature man here) can be very appealing to women. Why shouldn’t an experienced woman have the pleasure of being the first for a man? It’s a fantasy for men, so women can share it too! Great concept for a story.

  20. heidenkind
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 1:25 am

    Awwww, I missed the Untouched discussion. 🙁 Anna, I loved Untouched and Matthew was one in my favorite heroes in a while. I loved the first love scene between Grace and Matthew; it was perfect. 🙂 I can’t wait for Tempt the Devil to come out!

  21. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 2:58 am

    Oh, I SOOOO felt for Matthew in the botched love scene. And that made him even more vulnerable, poor sweetie! I wondered if readers would object to the hero making a mess of things but it seems to be something people really responded to in a positive way. Azteclady, I agree that it’s all in the writing!

    Thanks, Kate and Heidenkind (and everyone else!), for those lovely words. Revisiting Untouched when my head has been so occupied with the release of Tempt the Devil in a couple of weeks has been a lovely way for me to spend the day. And you’ve all been so lovely about my Matthew! Thank you!

    Hey, if you get a chance, pop by Romance Bandits today. I’m giving away an ARC of Tempt and Marisa put together a really great interview that I think really plumbed the heart of my book. Marisa, you’re amazing!

  22. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 3:00 am

    Stacy, thank you so much for that wonderful essay about Matthew. Really, you made the cockles of my heart grow. Hmm, what exactly does a cockle of the heart look like? It doesn’t sound very attractive! Thanks, Maria and Marisa, for bringing up this interesting topic this week. As you can probably tell, I love a virgin hero. I think the theme brings up all sorts of interesting ideas that you don’t necessarily get to explore in a man who’s been around the traps a bit more. And thank you to everyone who came by today! You’re the best!

  23. Christine Wells
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 4:52 am

    So sorry I’m late to the party. What a great interview and discussion of Anna Campbell’s wonderful story, Untouched, Stacy. I think for a virgin hero to work there has to be a darn good reason why he’s still a virgin, because in the Regency era (and pretty much any other era I can think of) it was socially the norm to have experience outside marriage and even outside loving relationships. Of course, Anna’s Matthew is a wonderful example of a gorgeous man having a darn good reason for celibacy and the resulting relationship with the more experienced, yet in some ways equally ‘untouched’ Grace is powerful and sensual and full of sweetness and poignance, too. You can tell I loved this book! And Matthew is no slouch in working out what Grace likes, either! A truly satisfying read:)

  24. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 1:31 pm

    Hey, Miss Christine, lovely to see you! Thanks for those kind words. Perhaps that fact that they’re a bit like a mythical beast is one of the things I find interesting about virgin heroes!

  25. Karin
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 4:02 pm

    Like most everyone has said, a virgin hero can be believable based on how he is written and the situation he is in. If he’s written well and the situation would have prevented him from having sex for one reason or another, then it would definitely work. I’ll have to pick up Untouched so I can read about Matthew since he sounds like a fantastic hero.

  26. Anna Campbell
    on Dec 10th, 2008
    @ 4:57 pm

    Thanks, Karin! I hope you like Matthew!

  27. LauraB
    on Dec 11th, 2008
    @ 2:13 pm

    Interesting blog and interview. Thanks!

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