It is gratitude and respect that compel Elizabeth Rush to marry older cavalry officer Thomas Woolcott. Passion comes later when, as a widow, she meets Master Sergeant Michael Joseph Burke as he assumes his post at Fort Defiance, but Elizabeth is loathe to betray Thomas' memory.

Michael Burke is an Irish immigrant who will never forget how the Indians helped him when he first arrived. He is determined to see that the peace treaty between the Navaho and the cavalry is honored. Lt. Cooper, fresh from West Point and with arrogance to spare, does not share Michael's feelings and seizes every opportunity to cause dissension.

When Elizabeth is invited to a Navaho ceremony, Michael accompanies her. Their time together strengthens their budding friendship.

However, when serious problems arise between the Indians and the army, Michael refuses to obey Cooper's ruthless order and is imprisoned for his insubordination. Michael fears that now there will be no hope for the fragile peace.

Their mutual respect for the Navaho brings Elizabeth and Michael together, but as hostilities escalate they are thrust into perilous danger as their friends are forced to march to Fort Sumner under horrific conditions.

DESERT HEARTS is a powerful, emotional read; a lesson in compassion and true friendship. Ms. Farrell based her story on the belief that people who have suffered and survived need to keep their hearts open to others; an admirable belief and a wonderful book from a talented author. SENSUAL (May, 346 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Frances L. Trainor