A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart Series by N. R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 for the Series 

Red dirt Heart Cover

 

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:

Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3Red Dirt Heart 4 cover

A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart 3 by N. R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Red Dirt Heart3Life for Charlie Sutton has never been better.  With Travis by his side now on a permanent visa, Charlie feels that there is nothing he can’t do.  Run his multi-million dollars station,  finish his degree and even become a member of the local ranch board.  But things change quickly and before Charlie knows it he is dealing with Ma’s failing health, issues among his staff and  Travis’ latest rescue, a wombat baby named Nuggat!

Still, Charlie knows that with Travis’ love and support, he can manage anything.  But then Charlie’s calm and stability is shattered in two heartbreaking moments.  A revelation from Charlie’s past makes him question everything he knows about his life.  And Travis receives bad news from home.  News that makes him leave for the States.  A pivotal moment in the life of Charlie Sutton has arrived and how he deals with it  will either throw everything he has gained away or give him finally the future he has always wanted.

Red Dirt Heart 3 continues and deepens the story of the Sutton Station and its owner, Charley Sutton, as he adjusts to all the foundation shaking changes that have occurred in his life.  From the solitary son of an embittered, albeit successful rancher on the largest station in the Northern Territory, Charlie’s life dramatically changed with the arrival of Travis, the international exchange agronomist, who arrived to research and experience first hand life on the Australian desert. With the harsh conditions and by develop strategies that would work both in Texas where Travis came from and in arid stressful conditions of the Sutton Station, Travis hoped to make an impact but never envisioned that his heart would be stolen by the land and Charlie Sutton.

What a lovely, complicated character we have in Charlie Sutton. By making it his voice that we hear as the story unfolds, his ruminations, confused thoughts and feelings about every aspect of his life and the farm makes him our intimate companion, one who we become heavily invested in.  Add to that the impeccable created of Travis Craig and we have a team to root for and love.  Travis is a charming and layered a character as you will meet, clearly Charlie’s equal in complexity while maintaining an open heart and outlook that Charlie needs in his life.   Walker slowly reels us into their romance over the first 2 stories as neither man anticipated falling deeply in love, especially the quiet, and closeted Charlie.  Loving Travis has meant that Charlie has had to take a hard look at his father’s bigoted legacy which had become an ingrained part of Charlie’s inner voice, one that made Charlie think he would never be good enough to take his father’s place and have someone to love and love him back.  Between a mother who deserted them both and a stringent, harsh father, Charlie’s life became one of self isolation and work.  Then Travis arrived and everything changed…almost.  What made the first stories so deep and real was the growth that had to happen inside Charlie.  All the ground swells of emotions, arguments, and hard self introspection that Charlie had to go through was not only believable but we were in his head as each new decision and change happened and sometimes fought against.

N. R. Walker has the ability to bring the Sutton Station to life as we read.  It becomes lively, loud, and intimate the deeper we delve into the story and these characters lives.   And while Charlie loves and needs to have Travis there with him at home, Charlie’s inner voices have only quoted but not gone away.  That strong, judgmental voice of his father’s is still, unconsciously or not,  impacting Charlie’s outlook still. He fears what the other ranchers/farmers will think if they find out charlie is gay and in love with another man.  Will he be ostracized our outcast by his peer, his father’s peers and the businesses the Sutoon station depends on?  I love that N. R. Walker’s  capacity to make all these frustrating aspects of self acceptance and character growth work superbly within her story.  It makes her characters so human and relatable.

Am I obsessed with this series and group of characters?  Why yes, I am.  Each new book brings about a deepened saga, full of heart, red dirt, and the enormous capacity of people when hit with life shaking revelations, bullying, new life changing relationships, love, and even loss, who then continue on to make something better out of their lives, for themselves and the others they care for.  This is a series I have already found myself returning to again, rereading the stories in preparation for the next.

If you have not made the acquaintance of this remarkable author and series, run, don’t walk, to the nearest computer and grab up Red Dirt Heart 1, then proceed briskly to Red Dirt Heart 2, and then here at Red Dirt Heart 3.  There will be a Red Dirt Heart 4 and possibly 5.  I love the simplicity in naming the series, it has certainly made it easy for me to remember the title of each book!  I also have several interviews with N. R. Walker, about her writing and this series.  You can find them here and here.

At the end of the year Red Dirt Heart and N. R. Walker will be at the top of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2014 lists.  Don’t wait until then to start your journey into the harsh, beautiful land of Australia’s Northern Territory and the men who live and love there!  Happy Reading.

Cover art by Sara York, who does a lovely job branding the series but still giving each book a distinct look.

Sales Links:     All Romance eBooks       amazon     Red Dirt Heart 3

Book Details:

Please note: This book is set in Australia, using Australian English and lingo.

ebook, 287 pages
Published October 17th 2014
edition languageEnglish
seriesRed Dirt #3

A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt #1) by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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.

Red dirt Heart CoverCharlie Sutton runs one of the largest working ranches in middle Australia, Sutton Station.   It is something he was born to do and Charlie can’t picture himself anywhere else even if he feels his sexuality would make him an outcast not only among the people he works among but the other stations and store owners he does business with as well.  The recent death of his powerful, overbearing father has done nothing to still his father’s voice inside his head that threatens his self worth and instills Charlie with a fear about being gay and out. Then a new arrival at the station upends the status quo, including Charlie’s perceptions of himself and the Sutton Station family.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives for a work study internship at Sutton Station.  Travis feels that his background as a Texas rancher and college area of study will help him fit in while hoping his studies will be beneficial to both countries.  While Travis expects to research how the Australian farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth, he doesn’t expect to find that he learns to love not only the harsh beauty and red dirt of Sutton Station but Charlie Sutton himself.

Under the intense desert sun of the red dirt of Sutton Station, can two men find love and the ability to have a future together?

Readers, meet my latest obsession and its author, the Red Dirt Heart series by N. R Walker.   All it took was the first paragraph to pull me totally into the life of Charlie Sutton and the Sutton Station set in the Northern Territory (which is about the same size as Lebanon and based on a real working farm).  This author is amazing.  Walker manages to make the people and places in Red Dirt Heart so believable, so vivid, that you will feel the dust and heat enough to feel the need to brush the red dirt off the pages (or Kindle cover) as you read.

The story is told from  Charlie Sutton’s point of view.  That perspective enables Walker to bring all the Aussie terminology, colloquialisms, culture and frame of mind to life.  It also lets us into the heart and soul of this vulnerable, and marvelously complicated young man.  There is so much to Charlie.  From the insidious voice inside his head left by his father that tells him he will never be good enough or “man” enough to run Sutton Station because he is gay to the considerate, smart, and appealing person others find him to be.  What a  great character!

Travis Craig, is his equal in every manner.  A Texas agronomy student who is openly gay, Travis starts to upend Charlie’s life and life at the Sutton Station from the moment he arrives.  Travis not only works himself into Charlie’s heart but the readers as well.  Their dialog together is serious, humorous, and telling in its many meanings and impact.

Every aspect of life at Sutton Station comes across as authentic and real as the red dirt itself.  From Ma in the kitchen to the drovers that work for Charlie, the reader is immersed into the every day experiences of life lived seasonally and the hard work it takes to exist and succeed under some of the harshest conditions known.  It’s not just the romance but all the layers found here in this story and series that makes it work and  resonate deeply with the readers, myself included.   I did say it was my newest obsession, didn’t I?

Red Dirt Heart is that amazing self published story that you want to go telling everyone about.  I couldn’t put it down and then was lucky enough to already have in my possession the sequel to dive into once the first was finished.  And then I wanted more.  I wanted to move to Australia, experience the red dirt and vastness of the Northern Territory and wander until I found a Charlie and Travis of my own.  Trust me, you are going to feel the same.  The third story in the series is almost here.  Pick up the first two and get ready to fall in love with Charlie, Travis, and the Sutton Station itself.

Cover Artist:  Sara York.  I like it.  It works for the story and series branding.

Author’s Note: Please note: This book is set in Australia, using Australian English and lingo

Sales Links:    All Romance eBooks  (ARe)         Amazon                 Red Dirt Heart 1 $1.50 at Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 162 pages
Published February 20th 2014
edition languageEnglish
seriesRed Dirt #1

Books in the series to date in the order they were written and should be read to understand the relationships, events and characters:

Red Dirt Heart 1
Red Dirt Heart 2
Red Dirt Heart 3 to be released early October 2014