Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: Blood & Milk
AUTHOR: N.R. Walker
PUBLISHER: BlueHeart Press
LENGTH: 262 Pages
RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2016
Heath Crowley is an Australian man, born with two different coloured eyes and the gift—or curse—of having premonition dreams. He also has nothing left to live for. Twelve months after having his life upended, his dreams tell him where he needs to be. So with nothing―and no one―to keep him in Sydney, he simply boards a plane for Tanzania. Not caring if he lives or dies, Heath walks into a tribe of Maasai and asks to stay. Granted permission, he leaves behind the name and heartbreak of Heath and starts over with the new Maasai name of Alé.
From the day of his birth, Damu has always been an outcast. The son of the chief and brother to the great warrior leader, Damu is reminded constantly that he’s not good enough to be considered a man in the eyes of his people. Ordered to take responsibility for Alé, Damu shares with him the ways of the Maasai, just as Alé shares with Damu the world outside the acacia thorn fence. But it’s more than just a cultural exchange. It’s about trust and acceptance, finding themselves, and a true sense of purpose.
Under the African sky on the plains of the Serengeti, Heath finds more than just a reason to live. He finds a man like no other, and a reason to love.
It’s been a while since I reviewed a N.R. Walker story, but as soon as I read the blurb for this one there was no way that I was going to miss out. Then I got a look at the cover, and I was totally prepared to kill off any other Love Bytes reviewer who tried to come between me and an advance copy of this book.
My first impression once I began reading – it was all so flat. The author took us to Africa! It all should have been exciting, but instead the story was numb. There was no excitement at the surroundings, no fear of the unknown, and no grief at the death of the main character’s husband. I experienced nothing except vague interest as I struggled to feel a connection to this character who had been created by one of my favourite authors. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that this was the author’s intention, because all of those words – flat, numb, emotionless – are the words I’d use to describe Heath Crowley. As the story progresses and Heath begins to deal with his grief and love for his husband, as he comes back to life, so does the story thrum with emotion and anticipation. But not at the very beginning.
Simply put, the man is broken. One year ago the love of his life had been murdered, and now that the men responsible were behind bars, Heath was headed to Tanzania to live with the Maasai. Why? Because Heath dreamed that his dead husband told him to do it.
I loved this aspect of the story. I have no idea how N.R. Walker made it sound perfectly normal for Heath to have these life changing dreams but she did, and he does. Not all of Heath’s dreams come true, but every once in a while, when his life needs a nudge in the right direction, his dreams will point him on the correct path. And in this instance they tell him that he needs to live with the Maasai.
Damu was just amazingly written. The strength that the author managed to pour into that character blew me away. He was so gentle and accepting of his place in the tribe, he didn’t need to “be a man” to have worth as a person. His view of life was refreshingly simplistic, having no knowledge of the materialistic technology-dependent Western way of life. And actually, I liked the way that Damu and Heath learnt from, and questioned each other. I really appreciated the fact that while Heath kept reminding himself that it was a different culture with different beliefs and traditions, he still got a bit judgy at times. It made him more real, because lets face it, we are all judgmental assholes on occasion. I say kudos to the author for writing him that way, though no doubt she’ll get the usual naysayers who decide that they want to be insulted by something she’s written.
In my opinion, this wasn’t a romance, it was a love story. And don’t ask me what the difference is, I’m not really sure, but in my head there is a difference – and this book is it. The love that grows between Damu and Heath is profoundly deeper than “romance” as is Heath’s lasting love for his deceased husband. It was beautiful that Heath was shown to love both men with equal measure even by the end of the story.
Most of all, this book was about hope. Heath’s hope that he could learn to feel alive again, and love again. And Damu’s hope that one day he’ll be able to hold the hand of the man he loves out in the sunlight. The fact that the author continued their story beyond Africa, that she shared their HEA with us, was the delicious icing on a most fabulous cake.
I can’t recommend this enough!