HEART’S MISDEAL (Pioneers of the Romantic Western) by Elsa Barker


When Lucy McAdam accepted a job at a western ranch, she never expected parties, men in suits, and suitors of all kinds—but most of all she didn't expect to fall in love with anyone like Walt Carmack, the gambling, hard-drinking son of the biggest ranch owner around. Walt was a hard worker, too, from sunup to sundown every day of the week—that was how he had broken his leg and ended up on crutches. But Walt also liked to relax with a game of cards and a bottle of whisky every Saturday night at the local saloon—until he met Lucy and lost his heart. He promised her he would never touch a drop again, and he kept his word. Then someone she trusted told Lucy otherwise: that he had gone back to the card table and the bottle.

When she learned about his bank balance, Lucy was certain Walt Carmack had lied to her. Was Walt, the seemingly carefree young cowboy with the gambling instinct, really irresponsible? Had the gambler dealt her a lucky hand in love—or was she the victim of a deliberate…misdeal of the heart? Lucy McAdam felt she had to know before she could dare to let her heart be won by a man of this strange, new, and exciting country.

Walt was hurt when Lucy implied he was a liar. But with one ranch hand murdered, his grandfather murdered, and someone unknown trying to pull off the greatest land swindle in the state's history, Walt knew he had no time to straighten it out. Instead, he had to determine the identity of the scoundrel behind the land steal and then, even on crutches, face the man down six-shooter to six-shooter.

Lucy had no idea that Walt was riding into a gun battle no man could win, or she might have played her cards differently and told him how much he really meant to her. She didn't dream that she had actually been the victim of a misdeal—but the man who was cheating her at love wasn't Walt!


Elsa Barker (1869–1954) was an author of romance, western and mystery stories, widely published in the magazines of the 1940s-50s. Among her best-known romantic westerns are Clouds Over the Chupaderos, Moonlight and Gold, and The Girl in His Cabin. She has since become celebrated as one of the pioneering women authors of the romantic western genre.

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Elsa Barker