Rating: 5 stars out of 5 for the Series
Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might.
And with those words, N. R. Walker introduces us to one of the most heartwarming, delightful, and throughly addicting series that is Red Dirt Heart! Red Dirt Heart revolves around the complex and totally embraceable characters of Charlie Sutton of Sutton Station and Texan Travis Craig. Per N. R. Walker:
Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.
American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.
But that brief synopsis doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of these stories. Through 4 books we trace Charlie and Travis’ journey towards love, relationship and a permanent home with each other. Along the way we fall in love with not only Charlie and Travis but the red dirt desert of the Northern Territory that Charlie loves so much. It doesn’t happen immediately but gradually in scene after scene as the stark, red hot environment claims the heart of Travis just as surely as Charley does. And this is not a romanticized version of the red dirt country. No, its comes complete with venomous snakes and spiders, extreme temperatures that are lethal if caught unprepared or lost, and an almost alienness, a sense of solitude that can comfort or kill depending upon the circumstances. And we learn to respect and love it for exactly what it is.
The same truth can be said about Charley…complex, abandoned, self-doubting Charley. So easy to connect with and understand, Charley is a character as layered as the desert, full of extreme swings in his decision making, as durable and elemental as the red dirt he loves so deeply. The Sutton Station is a part of Charlie, although he has yet to learn exactly how much and what large boundaries that station family includes. For the Sutton Station comes with Ma and George, farm employees who are more mom and dad to Charley than his own. There’s Billy (an Aboriginal), and several other workers that over the course of the stories form a close knit family to Charley and Travis. But it’s not Charley that is the impetus for this shaping of people and events, no, its the arrival of Travis Craig that throws Charley and the status quo into shambles. Delightfully so.
When Travis arrives, he meets a closeted, closed off Charley just waiting for a love he’s sure he doesn’t deserve. And one of the things that makes this beginning of their journey so compelling is that the readers live inside Charley’s head, an element that brings us so close to this bruised man that we love him immediately. Books 1 through 3 are all told from Charley’s point of view. In a neat feat of writing, N. R. Walker gives us the ability to see through the haze of Charley’s confusion, self doubt, and desire to realize that Travis is falling deeply in love with Charley even if Charley can’t see it. Even as Charley is internally arguing with himself, busy throwing obstacles in their path to happiness because of his fear and uncertainty, we see Travis always in Charlie’s orbit, watching and urging Charlie forward. What an addicting, captivating and yes, throughly charming pair and instantly we are invested in their happiness and future together.
What a troublesome road it is for Charley and Travis. Outside of Charlie’s two step relationship dance, there’s immigration laws and visas, and the reality that Travis is an American citizen whose family (who loves him dearly) lives in Texas. There complications that abound with Ma and George, orphaned animals that quickly grab onto your heart as much as the rest of the Sutton Station crazy, warmhearted group of individuals. We get lessons in the mineral layers of dirt, learn what a bore is (no it has nothing to do with a person), and in general, see what it takes to run a station as large as Charley’s. Those of us readers not from Down Under learn bits of Australian english and phrases, enough to instill the urge to travel and see it for ourselves. As I say in my review for Red Dirt Heart 4, this series is as much a love letter from N. R. Walker to her country as it is about a deeply abiding love between Charley and Travis.
Along with way, there are some heartstopping moments so painful that tissues will be needed, white knuckle events that will make you feel suspended, frozen, until you (and the characters) are able to move forward and past them once more. Those will be balanced with scenes of joy, laughter, and romance, such as Charlie understands it! I laughed, cried, and laughed again through all the highs and lows, and even quiet moments of reflection and contentment that flow from these stories and the series as a whole.
Just a memory of a dialog or scene can send me running back to grab up that book, and before I realize it I’m lost once more in Red Dirt Heart romance and setting of Sutton Station and Charley Sutton.
Now the series is ending with Red Dirt Heart 4. I’ve read the story, wept a little (ok ,more than a little. a lot) and said my happy goodbyes. Told this time from Travis’ point of view, it’s a wholly satisfying, totally engaging series finale and gives us and Travis and Charley a glorious happily ever after. It ends just where it should, no more, no less. The Red Dirt Heart saga quickly became and still is one of my all time favorite series. It will be among the top on my rec lists as well as Best of. N. R. Walker’s writing was vivid, at times lyrical in her love for her country and the Northern Territory, and full of the human spirit and endurance it takes to not only live life on the desert but to embrace it with all that you are.
But don’t take my word for it, pick it up and start your journey into red dirt territory and the hearts and minds of Charley Sutton and Travis Craig. It’s easy to read them in order as they are titled Red Dirt Heart 1 thru 4! Elegant and simple. Just don’t expect the same simplicity inside. Be prepared to fall madly and completely in love with Charlie, Travis, Sutton Station and yes, the red dirt of Australia’s Northern Territory. What an amazing trip it is! A real journey of their lifetimes! Begin it today.
All covers are the creation of Sara York. I loved them. They brand the series as a whole while each cover has elements important to that story. Great job.
Sales links can be found on each individual review page listed below: