Title ~ Red Dirt Heart 4 (Red Dirt Heart Series)
Author ~ N.R. Walker
Published ~ 9th January 2015
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
Moving from a Texas ranch to an Australian Outback station was a life changing decision for Travis Craig. Though it wasn’t really a decision at all. Something in his bones told him to go, though he had no clue as to why.
Until he met Sutton Station’s owner, Charlie.
Loving Charlie shouldn’t have been easy. The man was stubborn, and riddled with crippling self-doubt. No, it shouldn’t have been easy at all. Yet somehow, falling in love with Charlie was the easiest thing in the world.
Loving him was easy. Living with him, teaching him how to love in return and, more importantly, how to love himself, was not.
But Travis knew all along it’d be worth it. He knew the man with the red dirt heart was destined to be his. Just like he knew the red dirt that surrounded him was where he was supposed to be.
In the final instalment of the Red Dirt Series, we see Charlie through Travis’ eyes. We see how much he’s grown and how much he loves. We go back to Texas with them, and we see Charlie get everything he truly thought he never deserved.
Red Dirt Heart 4 is Travis’ story.
And this is the story of not just one red dirt heart, but two.
"Red Dirt Heart 4" is the final installment of the Red Dirt Series by N. R. Walker. And I can't even imagine a more perfect, moving, beautiful ending to a beautiful series.
This series is not your standard "gay rancher" romance. It's original, nuanced, and it always catches you unexpectedly with a tear in your eye or a wide smile stretched across your face. It's the story of Travis and Charlie and, more important, the red desert dirt of the Australian Outback. The ranch (called a "station" in Australia) is a full-blown character in this story. It's the third-largest in Australia, at 2.5 million acres, requires a helicopter to get to some of the farther pastures, hundreds of miles wide and three hours to the nearest town.
Charlie inherited the ranch upon the death of his father, a man who never had time for him, except when he was sending him away. His mother has been absent since he was very young. Charlie grew into a man with two debilitating fears - that he might grow up to be like his father, and that he might grow up not to be like him. There was much to admire in the powerful and successful senior Sutton, and much to despise in the man himself. Despite his obvious talents, leadership and unflagging work ethic, Charlie is convinced that he would never be enough - not enough to run the ranch, not enough for anyone to ever love.
That is, until the relentless, young, American agronomist, Travis Craig, is sent to work at Sutton station on some kind of post-graduate fellowship. Expecting an effete academic, Charlie is thrown for a loop when he meets the gorgeous young man who is expert at livestock, horsemanship and patient as a saint with him. They fall in love, which is a big problem for Charlie, who has languished in the closet since his father tossed him away after finding out he was gay - but fortunately didn't disinherit him, probably because he didn't get around to changing his will before he died.
Charlie loves the red desert dirt of the Sutton station, and Travis comes to love it almost as much as he loves Charlie. The first three books are all about the growth of the two, particularly of Travis convincing Charlie that he's someone special, and someone worthy of love. They are surrounded by a cast of colorful characters, including the older couple who stepped in as surrogate parents after Charlie's mother ran off, an Aboriginal elder, a tough, talented, smart lady who works as a ranch hand, and a troubled young girl whose past was horrible enough that no one talks about it, ever. In Book 3, Charlie is reunited with his mother, and the brother he didn't even know he had. He finds forgiveness in his heart when he discovers that his mother, pregnant with Sam, was run off the ranch by his father - just as he was a few years later.
They all grow together as a family - not a biological family, but a family who chooses each other, a family whose love sustains one another without question or judgment. And therein lies the beauty of Ms. Walker's writing - the incredible pleasure of watching these people grow as individuals and as a family, glued together by the stunning beauty of the red dirt land they love so much.
As I said, this is not your normal gay ranch story. This last book ties the family together and, as an interesting epilogue, follows its members over almost two decades, leaving no stone unturned, no loose strings to unravel. Book 4 is about making lifetime commitments and raising children, about creating another generation to take over the station when Charlie and Travis are gone, about ensuring that that ranch and family may go on forever. It is the culmination, the last chapters, of the saga that unwinds so lovingly in the other three books.
I am so at a loss to tell you just how good a book this is, and how good the series is. Read the books in order to get the most out of them - they represent an orderly progression over time and the slow but steady growth of all the characters as they overcome so many obstacles and learn to embrace their own (and each other's) goodness, beauty and power.
The greatest joy of this brilliantly-conceived, brilliantly-written and brilliantly-edited series is how Ms. Walker portrays the love between these men. Somehow she manages to channel a surprisingly authentic depiction of gay men in love - without the trite memes and pandering eroticism of so many other authors. Yes, there is sex, but it is minimal, tasteful, not very explicit, and always portrays the abiding and incorruptible love that Charlie and Travis share, even after decades of being together.
What can I say? Ms. Walker has nailed it, just nailed it. The sheer beauty of the land and the people, the authentic and honest emotion, the huge panorama of the scene all work together to produce one of the most successful and moving series of gay novels I've ever read.
I am, however, bereft that it is ending, and that there will be no more heard from these endearing characters.
Who knows, maybe one day, Ms. Walker will change her mind, and grant us more time to revel, once again, in the generosity, love and passion of Sutton Station and the Australian Outback.