Colin Westcott had an unfortunate beginning. Though acknowledged as the legitimate child of the Earl of Haverwood, in truth he was the product of his mother's rape by a highwayman. The book opens with a nine year old Colin on the hill with the old earl to see his highwayman father's hanging, while the earl told Colin how blood would tell, and that he has that monster inside him.Colin is now nearly 28, is the current Earl of Haverwood, and has until his birthday in a few months to marry, or his pet project - an orphans' home - will leave his control. How? Plot hole, my friends, plot hole. But continuing on, Colin has completely abstained from women his whole life, fearing he was a latent violent rapist like his father. Consequently he's determined to marry a woman who will not test his resolve to remain celibate. He'll certainly not think of marrying the beauty he literally bumps into at the opera. He wanted to kiss her more than a little bit.It took some time for the characters to grow on me. Sarah Banks' character perplexed me. I know she was the daughter of a gambler who ran a gaming hall, but I had no idea why she was of any consequence at all to the bon ton, for good or for ill. There were a number of straight-up altercations between her and aristocratic ladies, when it seemed indifference would have been the more natural snub. I got the feeling that it was only because indifference wouldn't have been as much fun for Colin to avenge. Neither could I make much of her dogged persistence in pursuing him. So she dreamed of "sherry colored eyes" for six years, and his eyes are that shade, is that a good reason to go throwing yourself at someone?For his part, Colin's determination to not marry Sarah grew wearying. Yes his overly-familiar butler did much of the matchmaking, but come on man! Her name's been dragged through the mud, everyone thinks she's his mistress, he enjoys her company - man up and marry her. That it took an abduction, a (near?)rape and a coaching accident to bring him up to scratch irked me. His constant reference to dragons and being the "DragonSlayer" was exasperating. Every time I saw "DragonSlayer" I swear I heard someone holler "METAPHOR! COMING THROUGH!" I mean, beat me over the head with it much?So now you're wondering how this book I obviously hate gets 4 stars. Well, reading this book was a lot like watching a play in a theater but constantly seeing stage hands, strings and bits of backstage. The plot was just sort of there, staring at me, being conspicuous, preventing me from buying into the fantasy completely. Didn't mean the play sucked.I think the issue may have been that O'Reilly is an author of contemporaries, because it felt like she was uncomfortable with the setting, and so the atmosphere of Regency London was complicated and distracting. Though I point the above flaws out, I see where she was going with them, the execution just sorta spun me around a bit.When she focuses on Colin and Sarah, the book is a joy. Colin's pain and worry wars with his feelings and desires. He's so desperate to do the right thing, to atone, to avoid being his sire that he can't see when he's doing more harm than good. Watching him gradually come to an understanding with himself is satisfying. Sarah gives as good as she gets. She has all the self-confidence that Colin doesn't. She's the voice of reason for Colin. She won't let him get away once she realizes he wants her as much as she wants him. She won't let him doubt himself. After all, she thinks the world of him, and she's never wrong.The sex was as awkward as it should have been for two virgins. Had there been mutual, simultaneous orgasms first go, my Sony reader would be in pieces right now. All of the love scenes, from the touchless one in the theater hallway through the bedroom scenes after their wedding are sensual, organic and blessedly free of turgid tumescences. The emotions are right in this book, somehow, despite the awkward delivery. I couldn't help but enjoy it.