the untouchable earl, takes its title literally. avenell slade, the earl of harte, cannot bear to be touched. he can barely handle the feeling of clothes rubbing against his skin. so he very obviously has intimacy issues. it's only with the help of the renowned madam pendragon that he is able to desensitize himself enough to handle going out in society. the most unexpected touch can cause him unmentionable pain and he's built up his defenses specifically to avoid situations that could cause him torment.
but when he meets lily chadwick, from the first moment he sees her across the room he feels the spark. he knows instinctively that she makes him feel more than he ever thought possible. being with her could be life-altering if only he let himself trust her. because perhaps her touch will give him more pleasure than pain. he resists knowing her from the outset, and it's only when he finds himself forced to save her after she is kidnapped by a moneylender and put up for private auction by the infamous madam pendragon, that he allows himself to get close.
when avenell saves her, lily sees her chance to explore the feelings that surge within her whenever she finds herself around him. she suspects that being with avenell could be immensely pleasureable. ever since she read her former governess' stash of erotic novels, she's wanted to experience the things she's read about firsthand. so she strikes a deal. she will become his mistress. she is ready and willing. and then avenell makes her wait.
for a long time he doesn't reveal his affliction. and eventually lily puts it together, although it almost takes her too long. there is a lot of foreplay in this novel, and maybe not enough follow through? it just felt like maybe the pacing was off. i think maybe it would have been better to have avenell admit his problem to lily much earlier in the novel, and to have them work together to figure out how to find pleasure together. i enjoyed their story, but i think that more depth could have been added to elevate it. but it's fair to say that this is a pretty enjoyable regency with some unexpected plot twists.
one thing that the copy i received didn't have was an author's note explaining what avenell's affliction was in modern medical terms. maybe the author made it up, but maybe she didn't. it would have been nice to know if there was a scientific basis for his problem or not, and what historical records show about how similar patients would have been treated. i always enjoy when fiction contextualizes historical reality. but i'm also a lit nerd.
**the untouchable earl will be published on november 1, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks casablanca in exchange for my honest review.