Desperate Hearts

Desperate Hearts - Alexis Harrington Jace Rankin may be short, but he’s nothing to mess with, as the man who was just hauled out of the saloon by the undertaker knows now. He’s a famous bounty hunter in Oregon in the 1890s who, when he shot the man in the saloon, just finished a years long quest to avenge his sister’s murder and is now trying to figure out what to do next. When the snotty-nosed farm boy he just rescued from a gang of bullies offers him money to kill a man who forced him off his ranch, he reluctantly agrees to bring the man to justice, but not to kill him outright. But, first he needs to tell his sister’s widower the news.Kyla “Kyle” Springer Bailey has been riding the trails and sleeping on the ground for the past month while trying to find Jace. She wants revenge on the man who killed her husband and took her ranch, amongst other crimes, and she’s not so keen on the detour Jace wants to take. But she realizes she’s out of options, so she hides behind her boy persona as best she can and tries to keep pace. When a confrontation along the way gets her shot and Jace discovers that Kyle’s a Kyla, she has to come clean about the *whole* reason she needs this scoundrel dead and hope he’ll still help her.The book has its share of touching moments and slow-blooming romance. Kyla, we find out, has good reason to fear men and hide behind a boy’s persona. Watching Jace slowly pull her out of that shell and help her conquer her fears was endearing. Her pain was real and deeply-rooted and didn’t just disappear in the face of his sexiness. Neither did his understandable aversion to marriage magically disappear after a round of nookie. Why would a man who’s drifted from town to town for his entire adult life - a man who’s killed his fair share of men along the way - feel he’d make a good husband or father? They’re both the walking wounded and in a unique position to help each other, they just need time to realize it.However, while it was packed to bursting with my favorite themes - Old West setting, a heroine passing as male, a morally ambiguous hero, wounded souls, road romance, the kitchen sink - there was a certain...distance in the writing that kept me from getting carried away. Both characters were distinct and fully-formed and I couldn't point to any glaring instances of bland telling or anything, I just never felt really invested. I enjoyed it quite a bit, as it was an exciting trip, but I was watching them from far away. I definitely wasn’t on the run alongside them. Add on a hasty and too tidy ending, and the book left me feeling a bit less than completely satisfied.I enjoyed the book, but I can’t say it was above average. I’d still read another book by the author. Note: I read the re-released ebook version from Smashwords and noticed there were a lot of formatting errors and missing words. I had to mentally edit as I read for some sentences to make sense. It wasn’t too too bad, but it was a little distracting.