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Juliette Duncan

A Sunburned Land Series - A Mature-Age Christian Romance: Books 1-6

A Sunburned Land Series - A Mature-Age Christian Romance: Books 1-6

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Read the first chapter

Darwin, Australia

It was a perfect sunny afternoon in Darwin. Temperatures hovered around 33⁰ Celsius, relatively normal for this time of year. The small park across the street from Maggie Donovan’s office was a hive of activity. Small children were playing in the adventure playground while their mums sipped coffee under the shade of the huge laurel trees. Businesspeople scurried through with their heads down, dodged by youths on electric scooters, and couples strolled along the pathways surrounding the duck pond and fountains.
One couple in particular caught Maggie’s eye as she gazed out the picture window of the conference room, drawing her attention away from the staff meeting she was currently in.
The woman, a tall blonde with an athletic figure, stood next to a baby carriage and was rocking it slowly back and forth. An older gentleman in a well-tailored dark suit approached the woman. He was tall as well, with greying hair at his temples. As Maggie watched the couple share a romantic embrace and then proceed down the path pushing the stroller between them, she felt the slow burn of anger and jealousy in the pit of her stomach.
A long sigh escaped her lips as she reflected on her feelings. She hated that even after eighteen months she could still feel the pangs of jealousy and resentment over her divorce. It wasn’t the couple’s fault. They’d done nothing wrong. It was simply that they were a reminder that her husband of thirty-four years had left her for a younger woman, who so happened to be blonde and fit like the lady at the park. And Maggie had only recently found out that they were now expecting their first child together.
This news had torn open the old wounds. She could still remember the pain and shock when she first found out her politician husband was having an affair with a woman in his office. It was followed closely by the betrayal of being served with divorce papers. He wanted to move on and enjoy his new relationship with Mandy. That was her name. The woman who had come between her and her husband and broken up their family.
The infidelity by itself had been a great shock, but the fact he was so ready to throw thirty-four years away was even more so. He didn’t even want to give their relationship a chance to be repaired. It was as if being caught in his infidelity had freed him from all his familial obligations. He had declared he didn’t love her anymore and hadn’t for a long time. That revelation alone had rocked Maggie to the core. It had shattered her heart and her confidence as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman. It had taken her months of therapy to begin to cope with her new life, and seeing that couple had brought it all back.
She pursed her lips, frustrated with her own reaction. She wanted to be over it. She wanted to be able to move on and had tried to convince herself many times that she had. But the truth was, she still struggled. Pretending it didn’t affect her wasn’t working. She needed a change. Something to focus on besides where she thought her life should have been instead of where it was.
Silently, she repeated the Serenity Prayer as she had done countless times before.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Only the sound of her name being called repeatedly pulled her from her painful trip down memory lane and self-recrimination.
“Maggie, is that okay, or were you hoping for a different assignment?... Maggie?”
The conversation had stopped, and all eyes were on her. Maggie quickly pulled her attention from the window. “I’m sorry, Suzanne, can you repeat the question?” Embarrassed at being caught not paying attention, she felt her cheeks colour.
“Of course.” Suzanne smiled gently. Maggie’s long-time boss and friend regarded her closely but said nothing about her preoccupation. “We were discussing the next issue’s assignments and I thought you’d be a good fit for an article about women working on remote cattle stations in the Kimberley. More specifically, about how the women cope with the hardship of both the terrain and the lifestyle.”
The assignment was definitely in Maggie’s wheelhouse. She’d grown up on a small station just outside Darwin. It wasn’t what she would have considered remote, but at least she had a good understanding of how hard the work was and how difficult it could be. Maybe God had answered her prayers, and this was the change she’d been looking for. This assignment would take her away from the city and from all the reminders of Cliff. It was the perfect opportunity to clear her head. Plus, she liked the idea of being able to highlight strong independent women who not only survived on these remote stations, but also thrived.
Although the Kimberley area was a full day’s drive away, Maggie jumped at the chance. “I’d love to. Do you have some stations in mind, or do you need me to do some research?” The wheels in her brain were already turning with ideas for the story line.
“We have a few stations in mind that you could visit. Mike’s already contacted Goddard Downs and spoken with the owner. They’re located in a remote part of the Kimberley, and a couple of women there help to manage the station. I’d probably have you start there and work your way back,” Suzanne said.
“Sounds great.” Maggie’s lips lifted in a smile.
“I’ll set up a time with you and Mike tomorrow morning to go over the details.”
“I’ll look forward to it.”
The rest of the meeting passed without incident as Suzanne continued doling out the remaining assignments. As Maggie was gathering her things to go, she felt a light touch on her shoulder and glanced up.
Suzanne’s eyes were soft, as was her voice. “Are you okay, Maggie?”
They were the only two left in the room, so Maggie felt comfortable letting down her guard. Besides, Suzanne knew all about Cliff and Mandy and the baby, so Maggie knew she could be herself.
She stopped shuffling papers and looked her friend in the eye. “Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disrupt the meeting. I happened to glance out the window and spotted a couple on the path at the park. The man was older, and the woman was blonde and much younger. They were pushing a stroller between them and it caught me off guard.”
“Ahh…now I understand what put that scowl on your face. Well, perhaps this assignment is just what you need. It’ll involve a lot of travelling and considerable research, so it’ll give you a chance to get away and help to occupy your mind with other things.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking.” Maggie nodded and smiled at her friend.

Two days later, when Maggie was talking to her daughter Serena about the assignment, Serena echoed the same sentiments. “I think this is perfect for you, Mum. It’s about time you live a little. Get away for a bit. You’ve been wallowing far too long.”
“I haven’t been wallowing. And what do mean live a little? I live,” Maggie argued as she balanced her mobile phone between her shoulder and ear while continuing to fold clothes and place them into her suitcase. She was leaving tomorrow to head to Goddard Downs and her daughter had called her right in the middle of her packing. She had wanted to take the call, because with her daughter’s work, she didn’t always know when she’d be available to talk.
Maggie was proud of Serena. She’d followed in her mother’s footsteps and studied journalism and was now the lead foreign correspondent in Western Europe for the Northern Australian Broadcasting Commission. Currently stationed in London, Maggie didn’t see her very often, and with the time difference, Darwin being eight hours ahead of London, she tried not to miss her calls.
“Mum, you haven’t lived in years, even before the divorce.”
“I take offense to that, sweetheart. I may not have lived an exciting life gallivanting across the world, but I’ve lived. I worked my way through school, got a Master’s Degree in journalism and foreign policy, and happened to raise two upstanding children. Though, I’m beginning to rethink that last part,” she said with mock indignation. She was only half-joking. She was extraordinarily proud of who her children had turned out to be, though she wished Serena would make better life choices when it came to her relationships.
“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but you put everyone else first. Including Cliff.”
“Don’t call your father that,” Maggie immediately corrected. Serena still harboured anger towards her dad and had taken to calling him by his first name to put some distance between them.
“He stopped being my father when he betrayed our family. He can be a father to his new family now.” Serena didn’t even attempt to hide the bitterness in her voice.
“Oh, honey. He’s still your father. That’s not going to change just because he has a child with Mandy.” Even as the words left her mouth, her stomach turned at the thought. But, she needed to set the right example for her daughter and show grace and forgiveness. She would never forgive herself if she didn’t try to mend the relationship between her daughter and ex-husband.
“Mum, the man walked away from his family after thirty-four years, and for what? To start over with a new, younger, better family.”
“Serena, it’s not that simple.” Maggie tried to argue, but even her arguments felt weak to her, too. “Our marriage was complicated,” she finished lamely.
“It is that simple, Mum. And no, it wasn’t that complicated. He had a wife who supported his political career from the very beginning, who put her dreams on hold to raise two kids, and what thanks do you get? He got tired of you and us and wanted something shiny and new. You need to stop making excuses for him. He left. That’s what men like him do.”
“Your father has some good qualities.” Although right now, Maggie struggled to think of any. She tried to be patient, but Serena’s words had stung, more so because she’d felt the same way. But she would never admit that to her daughter. She needed Serena to forgive her dad, but more importantly, she wanted her daughter to understand that not all men made the same mistakes Cliff had. “Not all men are like your father, sweetheart. Take David for example. He’s a good man, supportive of you and your career.”
“Mum, not this again. Long term is not something I’m interested in right now. What David and I have works for us. You don’t need to try to change it.”
Ever since the news of the infidelity had come out and her father had moved out to live with his lover, Serena had distanced herself from her relationships, keeping any boyfriend at arm’s distance. She claimed she preferred to keep her relationships ‘open and loose’, but Maggie couldn’t help but feel that was a lie. It seemed more like Serena was trying to protect her heart. Trust had been broken when her parents’ marriage crumbled, and she was probably feeling insecure because if her parents’ seemingly rock-solid marriage could crumble after thirty-something years, any relationship she was in could fall apart as well.
“I think David is good for you and you for him. Not every relationship will end up like mine and your father’s.” Maggie was met with a stony silence. She glanced at the phone to see if the call had been disconnected, but it still showed it connected. She waited another beat, but Serena said nothing. Her daughter could be stubborn when she wanted to be.
Not wanting to end the call on a bad note, especially when she would be in remote areas with very little coverage, Maggie caved. “Okay, honey. I’m sorry. I only want the best for you.”
After another brief moment, Serena sighed. “I know you do, Mum. And I want the best for you, too, which is why I think this assignment has come at a perfect time. Live a little, let your hair down, dance with a stranger, put yourself out there.”
Serena was intentionally changing the subject, but Maggie didn’t press the matter further. “I don’t know about putting myself out there, but I’ll at least try to let my hair down.”
“Come on, Mum, what about dancing with a stranger?”
“Let’s take one thing at a time, okay, hon?”
Serena chuckled. “Fair enough. Take care and enjoy.”
“I will. I’ll call and email when I can. Love you.”
“Love you back.”

View full details

A Sunburned Land Series

Reporter Maggie Donovan is crushed after her husband of 35 years leaves her for a younger woman. But when she visits a remote Australian cattle station for an assignment, widower Frank Goddard captures her heart. Can God guide Maggie and Frank toward a second chance at love?

A Sunburned Land Series, a mature-age Christian romance, is set in the beautiful, rugged and remote Kimberley region of northern Australia. Fall in love with Frank and Maggie today.

  • Book 1: Slow Road to Love

    Reporter Maggie Donovan is crushed after her husband of 35 years leaves her for a younger woman. But when she visits a remote Australian cattle station for an assignment, widower Frank Goddard captures her heart. Can God guide Maggie and Frank toward a second chance at love?

  • Book 2: Slow Path to Peace

    Frank and Maggie's married life is disrupted as a government ban on live cattle exports threatens their livelihood. Meanwhile, Serena struggles with severe facial scars, questioning her self-worth and rejecting David, who battles guilt and recklessly seeks redemption in firefighting. As Maggie tries to support Serena, she must also navigate her new marriage.

  • Book 3: Slow Ride Home

    Longing for more than just leading cattle drives, Joshua Goddard struggles with family expectations. Meanwhile, Stella Martin, determined to save her family's failing cattle station, Indigo Downs, takes a job at Goddard Downs, vowing not to fall for the charming Joshua. Their potential romance hinges on Joshua's willingness to confront his past and embrace faith, offering a chance for both to find love.

  • Book 4: Slow Dance at Dusk

    The Goddard family is in shock. One of their own is dead.How can they go on? Who will run the station?
    Frank and Maggie have been planning their retirement, but must they now put their plans on hold?
    Will Joshua rise to the challenge and get his girl, or will he allow grief to weigh him down?
    Change is everywhere at Goddard Downs. But in the midst of crises, God changes hearts.

  • Book 5: Slow Trek to Triumph

    Frank and Maggie's eagerly anticipated road trip takes a distressing turn when Frank falls ill, casting uncertainty on their journey and future. Back at Goddard Downs, significant changes unfold: Sean's return and interest in Elizabeth, questions about his commitment, David's ambitious bridge-building idea, and Janella's dilemma between staying or embracing new opportunities.

  • Book 6: Christmas at Goddard Downs

    Maggie and Frank eagerly await a family Christmas at Goddard Downs, heightened by potential engagements: Janella with Wade, and Sean's anticipated proposal to Elizabeth. Sean, now co-manager, battles self-doubt and his father's critical words, unsure of proposing to Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Elizabeth, tired of waiting, contemplates a nursing career abroad, torn between this opportunity and her love for Sean. Their choices this Christmas could alter their lives forever.

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "This is a beautiful story about a second chance at love. It is full of emotions and God's love. It will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. This book was a joy to read." Ann

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "I absolutely loved this series . I hated for it to end. The characters were all so believable and the storyline drew me in. I felt a part of the Goddard family. Juliette Duncan is my new favorite author." Janice V

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "You just felt you knew the main characters, like you were part of the family. You walked through their joys and their sorrows, triumphs and defeats. I really hated to see it end." Barbara W