Ashford "Ash" Edward Blackburne, Earl of Blackburne has no choice but to marry and produce an heir by Christmas or lose his monetary inheritance and his estates. However, he gets jilted twice and ends up drunk, playing cards with the owner of McAdams's Pickled Barrel Inn who happens to be Larkin "Lark" Rose McAdams's father. Lark has a crush on him since childhood and she couldn't believe that the women jilted him. She pick-pockets to support her sister's child, Micah, who's living with a family to take care of him while she dresses like a man to protect herself from men at the Inn as she works. She knew her father was cheating and then her father puts her into a wager as a consolation prize as a wife (since he needs one) if he loses. Ash was drunk enough that she made him drop his cards and switched one of his cards to make him lose. After a skirmish, Ash is forced at gunpoint into marriage to Lark but later on he finds that it was empty. He keeps insulting her when, at first, meeting her that she wasn't a girl and then that she wasn't a virgin. He tries to send her back to her father when he leaves but she chases after him since she has no place to go. He fights with her constantly to get her clean and tries to consummate the marriage drunk but she pulls a loaded pistol on him that she had threatened the doctor who tried to examine her innocence but she accidently shoots him in the butt. He decides to woo her a bit before trying to bed her again and find out why she's so scared of sex. He finds that she's scared and wore men's clothing because of her sister's experiences but misinterprets it like her sister was forced and was physically hurt by some guy. He finds out about Micah. Lark finds out about his mother, woman's monthlies and that her sister was heartbroken from the guy leaving her not from physical pain. Of course, she starts her monthlies when they want to start but later on, his grandfather arrives and tells her about the will and the requirement for a child by christmas. They finally make love and Micah arrives and Lark finds out that he was mistreated by the family that took care of him. He's afraid to speak at all because of the family he stayed with didn't like him talking. A wild girl, Ashley Briana "Brian" Fairhaven, arrives at their home sent by a London solicitor and Lark discovers that Brian could be Ash's daughter by one of the women who jilted him-- the woman who died. Apparently the girl had been living on the London streets after a carriage accident that was taking her to Ash. Sibling rivalry erupts between Micah and Brian. Ash has Lark and the two children educated as he tries to find out about Brian as his child.
After a few visits by Ash's friends who are now hers, Lark discovers she's pregnant and a doctor confirms it but she's afraid that Ash may not make love to her anymore when, at the beginning, she made a naive deal with him on the consummation that he wouldn't make love to her after she got with an heir -- now she likes it alot and is afraid he would find out and not do it anymore. However, after an small accident involving Brian being stuck in a tree, he finds out she's pregnant after she falls out of the tree -- rescuing Brian. She was okay but he found out and doesn't come to her bed after that. They resolve their differences eventually and Ash goes to London and discovers that someone is claiming to be Brian's uncle -- who may take Brian away. Ash has Hunter look into applying guardianship to Micah and Brian and to find out about this "uncle," who turned up in London looking for Carstairs, the solicitor that sent Brian to Ash. Will they keep Brian from this mysterious uncle? Will Lark have her first Christmas when she goes into labor?
This report prepared by Susannah Spurr