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Pre-order Blitz, Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Blood & Milk: N.R. Walker


Blood & Milk
N.R. Walker
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Expected June 23, 2016
Pre-Order at Amazon: US | Canada | UK | Australia

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.








N.R. Walker’s Red Dirt Heart quartet was among the first novels I read in the M/M genre, so when I picked up Blood & Milk, I had an idea of her writing style. But this novel far surpassed my expectations based on my previous experience. The plot is worth the read by itself, but the cultural aspect makes it fascinating.

Heath Crowley’s life has been in utter turmoil in the year since his boyfriend died a victim of a gay-bashing. Nothing that has happened since has given him any sort of solace, and his dreams are painful reminders of the life he no longer has. But sometimes his dreams foretell the future, and they have been telling him to leave. So with no reason to stay in Australia, he boards a plane and heads for the destination in his dreams, a small village of the Maasai people of Tanzania. Upon his arrival, the fact that he is a white man is concerning enough for the warriors of the Maasai, but his eyes being two different colors marks him as noteworthy to the chief. So he is allowed to stay with them, given the name Alé, and assigned to the care of one of the chief’s sons, Damu, who is and always been an outcast in his tribe. Together, they learn not only about the other’s culture but about themselves.

Since this is a romance, I’m not giving anything away by saying that Damu and Alé, whose names mean “blood” and “milk” in the language of the Maasai—a significance that becomes clear as the story progresses—fall in love over the course of the book. It’s also fairly safe to assume that the reader is familiar with the concept that in most African cultures, homosexuality is not just frowned upon, it is punishable by death. This fear of being found out, then, forms an important part of the story’s plot. Because of these concepts, I had two concerns about the book even before I started it. First, how realistic would the portrayal of the Maasai people and culture be considering the author is of Australian descent, and second, would this plot succumb to the pitfall, and a truly cringe-worthy one at that, of becoming a story of the “White Savior” rescuing the black man from his backwards traditional society or something like that.

To address these, for full disclosure in case you haven’t looked at my profile picture, I am a white man, and yes, I grew up in a lily-white town, so I freely admit that I know very little about traditional East African cultures. Thus, there’s no way for me to know whether or not the portrayal is accurate. To me, though, it felt like an honest portrayal of a people unburdened by the technological advances of white society. I assumed the Maasai would be highly suspicious of a white man, but Alé’s heterochromatic eyes turn out to be the key not only to a realistic rationale for the chief accepting him but also to the larger plot, something I must say I felt worked very well. 

As far as the latter is concerned, again, the plot surrounding Alé’s eyes and his premonition dreams keeps his “rescue” of Damu from becoming an awful White Savior story. Because of the plot devices the author uses to develop the story in this manner, it’s abundantly clear upon reading it that this book is not about race. In order for me to justify this statement, I would need to go into spoiler-filled detail, but it would ruin the story for you, so suffice it to say that instead of it being about race, it is largely a character-driven story about two men discovering a mutual love for each other and then dealing with the consequences imposed upon them by the society where they live. It’s really not so different than the sorts of tragic stories from our own not-so-recent pasts (and in some cases, present day.)

So pushing these issues aside, the story itself is a beautiful progression for both of the main characters: for Alé to realize he has a reason to live and love again and for Damu to realize regardless of how he has been treated his entire life, he has value not only as a person but also as a man. Their love for one another is unconditional and transcends their physical and cultural differences. And it is a lovely story with an ending that fits both characters quite nicely.

If you can put aside any preconceived notion you might have about what Blood & Milk is about, I think you will agree with me that race is not the driving motivation for the plot but a consequence of the setting and that it contains a heartfelt story worth the investment in reading. Thank you, N.R. Walker, for deciding to release the book in spite of your ample fears for a negative reception. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Blood & Milk in exchange for this fair and honest review.

PROLOGUE

It was twelve months on. A full year had passed, yet my world had stopped completely. The men who stole my life were charged and would serve time for their crime. No one called it a hate crime, but that’s what it was. If I was expecting some sort of finality to come with the court findings, I didn’t get it. 

I was still hollow. I was still numb to the world, and I was still alone. 

I was also awarded damages, civilian victim and medical.

A nice healthy sum that meant I could pay off my debts after not working for twelve months, and more. Though no amount of money would make this right. No amount of money would bring him back.

My mother came along for the final hearing, though I could only guess why. I had barely spoken two words to her in the last year. Maybe she came so she could vie for the sympathy card with her friends. Or maybe she thought she could have one last twist of the knife…

“Now it’s all over,” she said, nodding her head like her words were wise and final. “You can put all this homosexual nonsense behind you.”

I looked at my mother and smiled. I fucking smiled. I raged inside with a fury to burn the world, and maybe she saw something in my eyes―maybe it was a ferocity she’d never seen before, maybe it was madness―and my words were whisper quiet.

“You are a despicable, bitter human being, and you are a disgrace to mothers everywhere. So, when you go to your church group, instead of praying for my soul, you should be praying for yours. You have only hate and judgement in your heart, and you are doomed to an eternity in hell.” I leaned in close and sneered at her. “And I hope you fucking burn.” I stood up and stared down at her. She was pale and shocked, and I did not care. “If you think my words are cold and cruel,” I added, “I want you to know I learned them from you.”

I walked away, for the final time. I knew I’d never see her again, and I had made my peace with that. 

I didn’t care for the money. I didn’t care for anything. I longed for sleep, because in my dreams, I saw him. And that night, almost one year to the day since he was gone, in our too-big bed, in our too-quiet flat, in my too-alone life, I dreamed of Jarrod.

He sat on our bed and grinned. I longed to hear his voice, just once. It’d been a year and I craved the sound of his voice, his touch. But when I reached out for him, even in my dream, as in my waking nightmares, he was gone. I sat up in our bed, reaching out for nothing but air. He was gone, really gone. 

But in this dream, on the bed were he’d sat, was a plane ticket. Mr Heath Crowley, it said. One way ticket to Tanzania.


N.R. Walker

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.  She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way. She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words. She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love. She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since…

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