Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Charlie Sutton had lived a quite, solitary life on his family’s ranch, the Sutton Station, one of Australia’s Northern Territory’s largest farms. It’s harsh desert landscape and couple million acres of red dirt, and scorching sun made his self isolation as easy as hiding his sexuality. It was a situation that Charlie had gotten comfortable with, even loved at times.
Then a Texas agronomy grad, Travis Craig appeared in his life by means of an international diversification education program and nothing was ever the same. Now Charlie’s life is lively, crowded, upended and confused. Travis is proudly gay and crazy about Charlie just as Charlie is about him. Six months of having the one thing he never thought possible is making Charlie happy, and throughly scared. And all the confusion, self doubts, and questions about their future is starting to make Charlie feel trapped in a way he never felt before.
As problems communicating and issues of exposure rise, one big question looms on the horizon. Will Travis stay or will he go?
The saga of Charlie Sutton, Travis Craig and the Sutton Station continues and happily, it has just grown in dimension and complexity with this new installment. I fell in love with Charlie, Travis, and all the inhabitants of the enormous farm called Sutton Station in the first story, Red Dirt Heart 1 where N. R. Walker introduced us to the uncompromising, yet beautiful landscape of the Northern Territory in Australia. Here the people and animals inhabit a vast territory, living in some of the harshest conditions found on earth. Brutal heat, a desolation that stretches for a million acres where nature, not people, make the rules and the cost of disregarding them is perilous and often deadly.
Through vivid descriptions and a beautiful use of the Australian culture, language and lingo, Walker envelopes the reader once more into the remote world that is Sutton Station and the romance of Charlie Sutton and Travis Craig. Just as making a living off under such uncompromising conditions takes work and communication, so do relationships. That that’s where Charlie and Travis are having trouble.
Walker’s Charlie Sutton is a complex, wonderful character. I almost wrote man because he feels so real and alive to me. Charlie grew up under the less than benevolent parentage of a father as harsh as the land around them. That voice that Charlie hears inside his head saying that “no fairy son of mine will ever run the station” is his father’s, a voice and bigoted outlook so ingrained into Charlie’s head and heart that he fears the very openness that Travis represents. The internal struggles that Charlie must work through are mirrored by the battles that must be fought externally in town and the other stations. And no matter what front the battles are being fought on, internal or otherwise, it always comes across as believable, immediate, and powerful. Since the story is told from Charlie’s pov, the reader is there for every skirmish, all the mental and emotional arguments and musings running through Charlie’s head and heart as he tries to find a way forward and a future. Walker had me so involved, so committed to Charlie and Travis that I couldn’t put this story down once I started.
And while its Charlie’s voice and thoughts we hear, we see, learn about and come to love all the others through his eyes. Travis, of course, comes first. A man of endless passion, movement, and need to being doing, something, anything, his big open heart is one the reader finds easy to embrace. Following quickly on his heels are Ma, George, Bacon, Trudy, Billy and Ernie. Even those darn animals like Matilda the red kangeroo baby, Texas and Shelby, their horses, everything pours itself into your heart like the red dirt of Sutton Station, inescapable, memorable, and final.
In a funny and welcome addition, N.R. Walker lays out for the reader early on certain vocabulary and colloquialisms non-Australians will find necessary. I started to correct realise to realize only to find out that no, realise is the Aussie spelling, not ours. And our Mickey D’s? Nope, that’s not what it’s called down under, a funny scene I will let you find on your own. There is no part of this story and series that doesn’t have me seriously enraptured. I want to go there. Pull on my Akubra and Driza-bone, take a ride in their utes, to experience the country and people I have met through the Red Dirt Heart series.
There are two more books to go, unless we can convince N. R. Walker to extend the series. Red Dirt Heart 2, in fact the entire Red Dirt Heart saga, is one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014. And N. R. Walker is now on my automatic author buy list. Pick up these stories and start your journey in this remarkable land and it’s equally intrepid and complex characters. You will laugh, your heart will hurt, and some tears are going to flow in joy and sorrow. What a saga and series await you in Red Dirt Heart!
Cover art by Sara York is wonderful in branding the series and showcasing the landscape.
Kindle Edition, 250 pages
Published August 17th 2014
seriesRed Dirt #2
Series to include 4 books that should be read in the order they were written and released for character and relationship development:
Red Dirt Heart 1
Red Dirt Heart 2
Red Dirt Heart 3
Red Dirt Heart 4
Find my author interview with N.R. Walker here.