“You make me feel like I'm myself instead of being someone else. You know exactly how to get to me. You know it's what I need...You brought me closer to who I really am... I want the world to see what you mean to me...” ~ Sterling Knights
'Red Dirt Heart 3' by N.R. Walker picks up where the last book in the series left off. Things are going well for Charlie and Travis, but, as everyone knows, in life they don't stay that way for long. It would be wonderful if Charlie and Travis could remain in their cocoon of warmth and love, without interference; but they are surrounded by people whose lives interact with theirs in large and small ways which lead to engagements in one way or another. The last thing Charlie thinks he'd ever have to do again is to once more face it alone.
Charlie has come a long way from the angry, bitter, closeted man he was in the first story. Travis has brought love and joy into his life and helped him see what a good person he is. All of his accomplishments with the station, facing down the old fogies who want to keep the cattle business in the dark ages, and earning a seat on the board, all pale to what he's built with Travis. Charlie has come to rely on Travis so much for love, comfort, and support. When Travis has to leave for a family emergency, Charlie reverts to the emotional place he was before Travis came into his life; which is a dark, cold place, indeed. Charlie keeps going, working hard to try to forget he's on his own. Try as he may, Charlie can't shake the feeling that Travis won't come back; it almost breaks him. Even with all the distractions around him, the fear of losing Ma, new people coming into his life, and regular demands of the station. Charlie is going through the motions, but he still feels incredibly lonely. Charlie keeps going though, because there are so many people depending upon him. He never wanted to face life alone again, but here he is, alone again. Charlie's insecurity makes his mind wander places it doesn't need to go. In this vulnerable state, Charlie hears his father's voice telling him that he will never amount to anything.
Even with all the other things going on in this story, Charlie and Travis's emotional attachment is the main focus. It's taken a lot of work and plain stubbornness, but they have come so far. It's almost cruel that they have to be apart, but it shows Charlie and Travis just how deeply their love runs. Travis does his best to keep in touch with Charlie while he's in the States, but e-mails, Skype sessions, and calls don't provide anywhere near the comfort that his presence does. There's only so much Travis can do for Charlie while away. There are lots of changes in this story, particularly for Charlie. He is pretty much gutted when he has to be separated from Travis and it broke my heart. At the same time, I knew that Travis would come back as soon as he could. How could Charlie doubt it with all their amazing times together and the special words of love they shared with each other? Fear isn't rational though. It preys upon our darkest emotions, even when logic tells us they aren't true.
It's difficult to imagine that N.R. could up with ways to bring Charlie and Travis closer and endear them to me more, but she's definitely done that. As close and loving as they were before, now there's an even deeper devotion, one I can barely fathom. If only we could all have such a loving relationship. I recommend this book to fans of the series and to those new to it who love rugged men, beautiful scenery, and exquisitely written love stories. Thank you, N.R., for the tears and the joy this book gave me. I'm anxiously awaiting the next one in the series.