Kyla Springer Bailey is looking to hire someone to return to Oregon and kill a man. She thinks she's found him in bounty hunter Jace Rankin. Jace fails to realize that the young man he's met is really a young woman, until Kyla is shot.
During her recovery, lovingly cared for by Jace, Kyla begins to trust him. He is such an intriguing man, so easy on the eyes, that it's hard to believe he has insecurities about his lack of height and his distrust of others.
Revenge is a powerful medicine and soon they are on the trail again. Forced to seek shelter during a mountain ice storm, Kyla beseeches Jace to make love to her. For a while they can pretend that nothing else exists beyond the four walls of a miner's shack.
Reality soon intrudes when they are ambushed by a gang tracking Kyla. Jace manages to shoot their way to freedom, but he believes that by loving Kyla, he has distracted himself and placed them both in danger.
As he plans a showdown with her tormenter, Jace distances himself from Kyla and leaves her behind. She follows and though Kyla kills her enemy before he can shoot Jace, their troubles are far form over.
DESPERATE HEARTS is a realistic, gritty portrayal of what life was really like in the Old West. Ms. Harrington has wisely tempered the harshness of the era with a tender romance. SENSUAL (Dec., 346 pp., $4.99)