Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars

Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 8 hours, 48 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Now that Travis is staying in Australia, he and Charlie are settling into life running the station and loving each other. But it’s Charlie’s luck that when things are going well, something comes along to derail it. While putting on a new roof, a box is found in the crawl space. And when Charlie opens the box, he realizes his perception of his father might not be the whole truth about who the man was. Even more so, another startling coincidence shows up in the shape of his biological mother, whom he hasn’t seen since he was four.

And unfortunately, that’s only the beginning for Charlie’s turmoil. While trying to reconcile this new information and figuring out what to do with it, Ma has a health scare that shakes Charlie to his core. It’s only relying on Travis that keeps him upright and moving forward. Travis’ support makes all the difference, and the two men take care of each other.

But that all changes when a family emergency calls Travis home to the States. Charlie can’t go with him for a whole host of reasons and Travis makes the trek alone. To add to all the turmoil going on for Charlie, now he also has to deal with his old insecurities rearing their heads again. And when Travis stops communicating, Charlie thinks his worst fears have come to pass. Even though Charlie should know better, it’ll take a surprise and a declaration for Charlie to remember that Travis is his home.

Join me again in the world N.R. Walker has created with Sutton Station and the Red Dirt Heart series. Visiting with Charlie, Travis, and the rest is a little like visiting with old friends, and with each book the author manages to make their relationship grow in beautiful ways. Charlie is still doing a lot of learning and growing, and now, here in the third book in the series, he’s come a long way. He’s done a lot of hard stuff since Trav came into his life, and he’s a lot more solid in his relationship with this man he loves. But the world doesn’t stop turning, and life throws him more than a few loops.

Most of this book is external conflict and it doesn’t exactly test Charlie and Trav’s relationship so much as temper it. It’s already strong, and as they face these things together, it only gets stronger. As always, this book is more of Charlie’s journey as he settles more into himself, becomes more of who he’s meant to be, and really opens up to Travis and those around him. I love seeing him feeling more solid, and the things that happen would have broken him a year ago, or at least nearly. But with Travis by his side, he’s able to move forward, lean on Trav for support, and deal with all the curveballs.

And there are a lot of them. There’s a lot going on in this book, between Ma’s illness and Travis’ family emergency. Not to mention things going on with the hands, the election for the cattle board, and Charlie’s mother showing back up. I will admit that at times, it almost felt like too much. And some of it felt too easy. The plot point with Charlie’s mother, for example, was less than satisfactory for me. Like Travis, I didn’t like her too much, and I didn’t understand her motivation and why she did what she’s done. It all ties up too neatly, and I feel like there should have been more turmoil surrounding it. Not because I was looking for more angst, but because of the history, or lack thereof, between them. Her motivations aren’t entirely clear, and I agree with Travis that it seemed awfully selfish. Perhaps I feel that Charlie has forgiven the transgression too easily. It was somewhat out of character, but more than that, it felt too pat to be truly believable.

Joel Leslie continues to narrate this series and I find myself feeling very similar as I did with the previous book. Leslie has a great talent at preforming, and the pacing and emotion is just right. Since there’s so much going on here, I think it’s admirable that the narrator gave all of it the right feeling. But some of the characters felt like caricatures to me. While it doesn’t always work, and it’s not one I can listen to straight through, Leslie’s solid performance works for this book and the series as a whole.