Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 7 hours, 10 minutes
Charlie Sutton lives for his cattle station, and the red dirt of the land is in his soul. He has a good crew, which also include Travis Craig. Travis was only supposed to stay for four weeks, but Charlie and Travis fell in love, Travis extended his visa and he’s been there for six months. Charlie still doesn’t know how to do relationships, but he’s trying for Travis, because he doesn’t know how to live his life without the man.
But it’s not easy, and Charlie is still in the closet everywhere but at home. What’s worse is that he’s essentially dragged Travis back into the closet with him. Charlie feels bad about that, but he doesn’t know how to change. For his whole life, the homophobic attitude of his father and others caused Charlie to be ashamed of who he is. There are a lot of bumps in the road as Charlie and Travis figure out how to navigate their relationship.
When Travis gets the news that he has to leave the country, Charlie’s world comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, all the fears he had about being out pale in comparison to the thought of losing Travis, maybe for good. Charlie’s determined to do whatever it takes for Travis to stay. Including things he never thought he would.
The Red Dirt Heart series is best read in order, and this one picks up not long after the first book ends. Told solely from Charlie’s first-person POV, this is really his tale. He’s dealing with a lot, he’s trying and growing, but it’s a slow process as he has to relearn a lot of his closely held notions. Mostly, Charlie just needs to learn to let go of the past and step into who he wants to be.
I think Charlie made a lot of progress here, and Walker showed he was working toward it before the big reveal at the end. Which made it feel organic, especially considering what Charlie and Travis were facing. A great deal of this book is Charlie working out how he wants to be and what he wants to do. He makes mistakes of course, but ultimately, he works out how far he’s willing to go, for himself and for Travis.
The relationship also develops nicely here, continuing from the first book. These guys have been living and loving for six months, which isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things. And the shine of the honeymoon period is wearing off, so there are definitely road blocks as they move forward. I liked the natural progression of things here, and how the actions and thoughts were very in keeping with the characters.
Joel Leslie narrates this series, and I jumped in here on the second audiobook. Leslie has a flair for the performance and gets the pacing and the emotion just right. He also does a believable Australian accent and Travis has a generic Southern accent. The characters were all well-defined, and easily discernable by voice alone, so I knew exactly who was speaking. I will say that at times, for me, the voices became a bit of a caricature. Charlie not so much, but Travis often sounded like a stereotype and not in keeping with his character. There was too much “slow southern drawl” when he has a lot more energy than that. I felt Ma’s voice was a bit overdone as well. Overall though, Leslie gives a solid narration and if you’re looking to pick this book up, I’d say to give it a listen.