Following the traditions of his father, Charlie Sutton was happy to take on an American student as part of a Diversification exchange program. What he didn’t expect was his strong attraction to the man. Sure, Charlie had known for years that he was gay, but after listening to his father’s ongoing rants of how a fairy could never run Sutton Station, Charlie began to believe it. Now with his father dead and gone, Charlie remains celibate, alone, and isolated to his farm in the middle of the Outback. What makes it worse is having Travis in the house, all smiles and likability, and when Charlie finds himself getting too close, he has no choice but to avoid the man. It wouldn’t do him or the Station any good to have a gay owner.
Travis Craig went to the Outback to learn more about farming conditions in the red-soiled desert, but what he found was a lonely farmer in need of something else. Breaking through Charlie’s tough exterior takes a little work, especially when the man is hell-bent on avoiding him, but once it happens, they come up with a sort of friends with benefits agreement. But no one can know. And that suits Travis just fine. He’s only scheduled to be in Australia for four weeks.
Having Travis join him after his crew leaves at night is the highlight of Charlie’s day. If only the man didn’t disappear in the middle of the night so that Charlie ended up waking up alone every morning. The more time they spend together, the harder it is for Charlie to convince himself they’re only fucking. When it’s time for droving, Charlie and Travis have to put their fragile relationship on hold to tend to the herd, although it doesn’t mean they can’t sneak in some alone time.
Stray cattle are called in and Travis volunteers to help round them up and later that night his horse returns with no rider. If there’s one thing Charlie knows, it’s that you never underestimate the red dirt and now they only have hours to find Travis before the sun and desert claim him for their own.
Red Dirt Heart is the first book in N.R. Walker’s Red Dirt series.
I liked this book. It wasn’t the “spectacular” that I’m used to from this author, but it was good. I liked the slow burn of Charlie and Travis’ romance, of course. The struggle for Charlie to accept who he is was the focus of a lot of the story and a lot of their relationship. I think their journey from fuck buddies to commitment is the best part of the story. It’s most certainly the sexiest.
Charlie and Travis are good characters and definitely hot together, which is to be expected from this author, but there was nothing that really blows me away with them. Charlie runs a cattle station (that’s Aussie for ranch) in the middle of the Outback, surrounded by red desert, ranch hands, and cattle. He’s lonely, but it’s a self-imposed loneliness, as he refuses to leave the ranch. He has some pretty deep-seated issues due to his father’s berating and bigotry, but I found Charlie to be just this side of whiny. It was frustrating listening to him whine about how he couldn’t have what he really wanted, what he’d always wanted because of his dead father. I was totally in agreement when he said, “You’re fighting a ghost. And you don’t even want to win.” Yep. Exactly.
Travis is a treasure in this story. The man with the ever-present smile. He’s a happy go lucky kind of guy who follows his heart. He was the best part of this book. I adored his confidence and even his ego. I mean, it’s not a secret that I find cockiness attractive. But he’s also this super sweet and patient guy who would give any of the guys the shirt off his back. I couldn’t get enough of him.
Like I said, I like the story, but it is a bit slow, especially in the beginning. For a while I had a hard time believing we’d ever get off and running and even then it felt lagging. I just needed more… something—excitement, oomph, adventure, mystery, something. The plot, too, is decent, but nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. Add that to the guy living with the ghost of his father bullying him and I found myself a little disappointed.
This wasn’t a bad book, per se, but I didn’t love it either, and that’s disheartening for me because I absolutely love this author. As always, this is only my opinion, but this one didn’t work so well for me this go round.