“Being stubborn can be a good thing. Being stubborn can be a bad thing. It just depends on how you use it.” ~Willie Aames
It's essential to be determined, motivated, and strong, especially if, like Charlie Sutton, of 'Red Dirt Heart 2' by N.W. Walker, you are running a station larger than 1,000,000 acres in Australia's Outback. Charlie's stubborn nature has served him well when it comes to business, but when it comes to his relationship with Travis—not so much. It doesn't help the situation that, every chance he gets, Travis calls him on it. It frustrates Charlie because Travis knows exactly how he feels and can express it; Charlie can't always say what he means, because he often doesn't know himself. If one can't own their feelings, then it's not possible to verbalize them. Charlie needs to deal with his issues, or lose the man he has grown to love more than life.
There have been a lot of changes in Charlie's life since the handsome Texan won his heart. He went from determining that he liked being alone and, mostly likely, remaining that way for the rest of his life to believing a life with Travis is possible. But Charlie is very set in his ways. When Travis comes along, he is thrown for a loop by Travis's straightforward attitude and self-assurance. Even after six months, he's struggling with needing to include Travis in his plans and sometimes, Charlie cuts his own throat by making a huge deal out of nothing. Charlie is used to being the boss and having everyone listen, but he can't control Travis and it drives him crazy. Unwittingly, Charlie's behavior is making it harder for Travis to deal with the situation. Complicating things further for Charlie is the shame his father heaped upon him when he was alive. He's never been able to let go of how his father hurt him, and told him he would never amount to anything. It's only when Charlie comes face-to-face with the businessmen, who respected his father for his business savvy and shared his bigotry, that Charlie begins to untangle the successful businessman from the awful father he knew.
Travis understands Charlie in a way that no one else ever has. This doesn't mean he coddles him. Even though Travis knows that it will make Charlie mad, he still picks at him from time to time, just to get a reaction. He can be a little devil, but with that smile of his, Travis can get away with just about anything. He gave up his whole life to stay in Australia with Charlie—because he knows what they have is very special. Travis also knows that there's a lot more to Charlie than is apparent, but until Charlie can put it in words, Travis can't help him. He has the patience of a saint, but even that is tried sometimes when Charlie gets in one of his moods. When Travis mentions that he's homesick, Charlie gets it in his mind that he's tired of the place and wants to leave. It almost breaks Travis's heart when Charlie goes into withdrawal mode and shuts him out. When Charlie tells him that he's feeling crowded, Travis doesn't know what to do and is bereft. Even though Travis teases him sometimes, he always has Charlie's welfare at heart. Faced with the real possibility of having to leave, he needs to talk about it, but Charlie, in his attempt to not think about it, pretends that it is not going to happen and makes Travis feel even worse.
Travis and Charlie's sarcastic bantering is still one of my favorite elements in these stories. Travis and Charlie's passion is another. They aren't just hot for each other, they have a fire inside that burns so brightly everyone can see it whether they think they are hiding their relationship or not. There is a huge amount of positive character growth with Charlie as he sorts out some major issues; Travis, who can hold his own with the toughest, reveals a softer, more vulnerable and nurturing side, which made me love him even more. I love the talks between Charlie and his mother; the way she tells him like it is and that he respects her enough to listen, even if he doesn't always take her advice. I think that fans of the series will love this story and, for those of you who aren't fans, I'd like to encourage you to start with book one and read them sequentially until you catch up, just in time for the next sequel. If you love sexy cowboys, desert, horses, cattle, angst, and passion, then you will love this book. Thanks, N.R., for a well-written, passionate, exciting book.