By N.R. Walker
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. 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.
Just on sundown, I got off the motorbike, kicked the stand down so the bike stood upright without me and closed the gate. I’d been out all day in the South paddocks doing a final check of fences and water trough pumps before we bought the cattle down from the North. I’d seen the ute back at the homestead as I came in so I knew George was home.
George was my leading hand. He was in his fifties, with greying hair and sun-hardened skin. He’d worked here for as long I could remember, but he was more than a loyal employee. He was my friend, and in a lot of ways, more of a dad to me than my own old man ever was.
He’d been out all day, left before sun-up and headed into Alice Springs. We were a good three hours from the nearest town, and with a list as long as his arm from the Station cook, Ma—who also happened to be his wife—he needed a few hours in town before heading out to the airport to pick up the real reason for his trip: an American agronomy student by the name of Travis Craig.
When my father ran this farm, or station as we called it, every year we’d have people from another country come and spend a couple of weeks as part of some Diversification exchange program. My old man always said it was a good way to source out what other countries were teaching, but really I think he just liked the extra pair of hands at the finish of the dry season. And when we’d had a phone call back in July to ask if we’d be interested in hosting another student, and given it’d been a few years, I thought it seemed like a good idea. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if this Travis Craig would be a help or a liability.
I rode the bike into the yard and pulled up in the shed. I figured they’d know I’d arrived, having heard the bike, so I headed straight for the house. Like most homesteads built almost a hundred years ago, it was a weatherboard home, with an old iron roof and a veranda around four sides to try and keep it cool.
I kicked the red dust from my boots on the veranda steps and tried to brush the same from my jeans, took off my hat before I opened the door and walked inside. There was a suitcase and a duffel bag near the front door and voices at the back of the house.
“In the kitchen,” George called out.
I followed the sound of chatter and the smell of something good to find a meeting of sorts in the old country-style kitchen. The worn, solid wooden table that graced the middle of the room was covered with plates of scones and trays of cups and tea, and three people were in chairs around it—my right-hand man, George, his wife the cook, Ma, and a stranger with short light-brown hair and pale blue eyes.
George was the first to his feet, and the man beside him soon followed. “Here’s the boss, Charles Sutton,” George said, introducing me formally. “Charlie, this is Travis Craig.”
Travis looked about twenty-two years old, not much younger than me. Whereas I was a stockier build, with dull brown hair and boring brown eyes, he was taller than me by a few inches and muscular and lean. He held out his hand and smiled. “Mr Sutton. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His accent was strange to hear at first, but his smile was warm and wide.
I wiped my hand on my shirt and held it out for him to shake. “Travis,” I said with a nod. “Please, call me Charlie.”
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About N.R. Walker
Who am I?
I am many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer.
I have pretty, pretty boys who live in my head, who don’t let me sleep at night unless I give them life with words.
I like it when they do dirty, dirty things… but I like it even more when they fall in love.
I used to think having people in my head talking to me was weird, until one day I happened across other writers who told me it was normal.
I’ve been writing ever since…
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And, finally, my review of Red Dirt Heart. I received this book from Will Parkinson of the new and exciting Pride Promotions, in exchange for a fair and honest review. Actually, when I heard N.R. Walker needed stops for her blog blast thingy today, I was like, “Yeah, I can plug that stuff in over the weekend and have it ready for Monday.” And then Will sends me the book and I’m thinking, “Oh, shit! I didn’t say I could review it by Monday! I’ve got 3 kids home for February break, edits pinging back and forth on Double Takes, out-of-town guests coming on Friday, and then my MIL arriving on Saturday for a week-long visit (this is me biting my tongue). I have to work the daylily booth at the flower show on Saturday! I haven’t put new words on my WIP in nearly a week. No. Can. Do. Dammit. I’ll just open it up and see if it’s short.”
I scanned the first few pages including an adorable little Australian Terms Glossary (BTW, I’m pretty sure scones are an English invention–yes, we Americans have embraced and bastardized those delicious pastries since the first Brit brought ’em over here, but we can’t claim them). I read the Chapter 1 heading: Where the American guy walks in, all blue eyes and disarming smiles, and my life goes to shit. I was as much a goner as Charlie.
A day later I was at 48% when my PDF copy came up blank. So cruel! I headed over to Amazon, cursing a blue streak at the interruption, and clicked myself a new one. I got to 83% while my hubby folded laundry. I’m pretty sure I owe him some snoo-snoo tonight, which shouldn’t be a hardship because the sex in this book is smokin’ hot and prolific, but not to the point where you’re like, “Really? Again?” Nope. You’re like, “Oh, yeah. Cue the Barry White, baby.”
Charlie and Travis are so real and sweet and amazing together. You can’t help but be swept up in their love affair. Normally, I’m not the sort who enjoys those little Chapter one-line teasers. LOVED THEM! They roped me into a reading jag with their brief hints at what was coming. They just kept stringing me along, chapter after chapter.
This book is well-written and edited. A few missing words here and there, but nothing that slows your reading or pisses you off. My biggest problem was trying to get the character’s accents right in my head (yes, I need to do the accents for all dialog). But flipping back and forth between a Texas drawl and an Outback twang was tough! I paused multiple times to say either, “Now, that’s a knife,” or “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?” to warm up my accent. It’s particularly challenging when you live in New England and therefore don’t have any accent. 😉
Anyway, I loved this book. It was a solid 5 shooters for me, nearly perfect in every way and highly recommended to lovers of the genre and then some. Read it. You won’t regret it.