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Because We Cared - A Christian Romance (Book 5 in The Transformed by Love Series)

Because We Cared - A Christian Romance (Book 5 in The Transformed by Love Series)

Heartwarming Christian Romance

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When Sasha Jackson, a vivacious, 29-year-old environmental scientist arrives in the sleepy town of Deep River, she finds a town deeply divided. Some want the marina development to go ahead. Others don’t want a bar of it.

She’s been employed to survey the site, but is she secretly in the pocket of the developer?

Brendan Carmichael, the local music teacher and youth worker is captivated by Sasha and takes on the role of protecting her from those who wish her gone.

But can he afford to fall in love, especially as she’s wandered from her faith?

Can God reach deep inside their hearts and weave a transformation??

She’s vivacious and determined. He’s caring and concerned…

Arriving in Deep River, environmental scientist Sasha Jackson discovers a community split over a marina development. Accusations fly about her potential bias towards the developer. Local music teacher and youth worker Brendan Carmichael is drawn to Sasha, despite concerns over her faith and the town's distrust. As they navigate their growing attraction and the town's tensions, they explore whether love and faith can lead to personal and communal transformation.

Chapter One - Look Inside

Lessons had finished for the day at the Deep River High School where Brendan Miller taught music, and he was on his way to collect Tom, his five-year-old son, from the pre-school on the other side of town. Passing the wastelands on the outskirts of Deep River, he brought his bicycle to a halt and climbed off. A large, dilapidated building stood at one end of the overgrown field. It had been there since he was a child, and he couldn’t remember it being any different. No one seemed to fully remember what the property and its grounds had originally been used for, and the older folk of the town, including his grandmother Sylvia gave varying accounts of its history, some more fanciful than others.
What perhaps had once been a manicured garden was now overgrown with wildflowers, reeds and trees. The damp ground from the nearby river had created little bogs that he’d spent hours exploring with his friends as a schoolboy, much to his mother’s consternation when he arrived home with his school trousers covered to the knees in mud. The townsfolk had often complained to the mayor about the whole area being an eyesore, but there was little he could do since it was private property, owned by a family no one could remember.
Except now, a bright red ‘SOLD’ sign splashed across a gaudy noticeboard had had the residents of the small town of Deep River speculating. Sold to whom? For what purpose? They feared it would soon be the site of luxury apartment blocks or offices, an attempt to urbanize the sleepy little coastal town, however, Brendan thought that unlikely. Deep River was pretty, but people rarely moved there to live or work. In fact, they were more likely to move away–to the city like his parents had done, although they made a point of visiting often to see him and Tom. Especially since Marie died.
Brendan pushed away his grief, which after three years was growing marginally easier, and returned his attention to the sign and all it signified. A notice in the Gazette last week had finally answered the rumours flying around town. The land had been bought by Graham Overton, a billionaire leisure property developer who planned to build a marina complex complete with water slides, pools and a mini theme park. Some of the locals, particularly those with young children, had been delighted.
Most of them, however, were horrified. They didn’t want a noisy complex that would take a year or more to build and cause untold disruption, cutting off trail paths and the like, and neither did they welcome the influx of people from the city. Overton had a reputation for being a shark, and the consensus was that the marina would bring more benefit to his pockets than to the residents of Deep River.
Brendan was inclined to agree with them. As a solo parent, he might have been expected to welcome anything that would provide activities for the young, but he was a hands-on dad. He took Tom cycling, walking, and fishing as often as he could, and to music classes twice a week. He had no need for overpriced leisure centres to entertain his five-year-old.
Brendan swung his leg back over his bicycle and blew out a deep breath, giving the site one last glance before pedaling away, his heart heavy. Just last week, Pastor Benjamin told Brendan that he’d seen a number of environmental activists hanging around the site. “They didn’t look very friendly,” the pastor had said in a worried tone.
Trouble was brewing. Brendan sensed it deep inside, but there was little he could do other than ask God to intercede. As he pushed into the headwind, he offered up a silent prayer.
Sasha Jackson hugged her mother Eloise tightly. “I’m going to miss you, Mum.”
“And I’m going to miss you, darling, but Deep River’s not that far.” Her mother returned the hug and then held her at arm’s length, her green eyes twinkling. “Anyone would think you were going to the other side of the country.”
Sasha chuckled. “You’re right. It’s only a four-hour drive.” Fiercely independent, she’d moved out of the family home while she was at university to live with friends, but she’d rarely lived more than a short drive or a long walk from her mother.
When it came to her father, that was a different matter entirely.
Samuel Jackson stepped around his wife, a broad grin on his face, and enveloped Sasha in a strong hug. She hugged him back, a rush of affection flowing through her, but it was a complicated affection. She’d forgiven him for disappearing from their lives for so long. They all had, but at moments like this, the ghost of old wounds could still resurface.
“You’ll be great,” he reassured, mistaking her hesitation for nerves. “And it’s a great opportunity to head up something like this. I always said you were going places. And you’ll be back in a few months when you’re done. It’s not forever.”
Sasha nodded, but a flicker of apprehension coursed through her, making her pulse race. This was her first solo assignment. Perhaps she wasn’t up to the task. Perhaps she’d bitten off more than she could chew. She drew in a slow breath. No. She was a fully qualified, highly regarded environmental scientist. She was simply having last-minute nerves.
She exchanged a glance with her mum, and the compassion in her eyes told Sasha she understood. “Phone us when you get there,” she said softly.
Sasha hugged her again, breathing in her floral scent, then threw her suitcase into the car and slipped into the driver’s seat of her red Toyota Prius after quickly checking her bike was secure on the rack.
“Remember, we’re off to the Philippines in two weeks,” her father called out. “You’ve got the number for the centre, haven’t you?”
“I would think so, Sam.” Chuckling, her mum leaned against him as he slipped his arms around her waist. “Every time we go there you double-check numbers, emails and addresses with the kids, even though they haven’t changed in five years.”
He shrugged. “I want them to know they can get a hold of us if they need to.” Although his tone was light, his eyes reflected apprehension. For ten years he’d been estranged from his wife and children, and so it was perhaps understandable that he was somewhat obsessive about staying in touch when he and her mum went away.
“It’ll be fine, Dad,” Sasha assured, “and yes, Mum, I’ll phone as soon as I arrive.” After a round of waves and blown kisses, she drove off, looking back at them in her rearview mirror. Her parents’ obvious love for each other inspired her as much as it unnerved her. She couldn’t imagine ever surrendering so much of herself to another person. She had her faith, family, and career, as well as some good friends from university, and that was enough.
Or so she told herself. After all, she was a busy woman. She’d completed a double major in environmental science and botany with first class honours, then gone on to a job in a government agency in Perth as an environmental surveyor. She loved her job and often wondered if deep down she didn’t prefer working with flora and fauna to people. She also had her cycling, another often solitary pursuit she loved, and she often took part in charity bike rides, including ones that she organized herself to raise extra funds for her parents’ organization.
Her father was once a famous game show host before he’d had a rather public fall from grace and disappeared from their lives for a decade. Now, after reuniting and remarrying, he and her mum ran a charitable organization that worked with communities around the world, including the orphanage in the Philippines near where he’d lived. He used his old fame to make TV documentaries, and Sasha was undeniably proud of both her parents who had gained a new lease on life in middle age. Still, she avoided telling strangers who her father was and preferred not to examine the reasons why that might be. Life was good, and life was…safe. Why rock the boat?
Although her parents travelled a lot with their organization, Sasha had barely been out of Perth in the last few years, and so this new job, surveying land for a proposed marina complex, felt like a step into the unknown. Deep River was a small, coastal town defined by the river that met the ocean less than a kilometre from the town centre. She’d looked online to learn as much as she could about the place that would be her home for the next few months. It appeared to be a stunning spot, with plenty of forest and hiking trails, which no doubt meant great cycle routes, too. It didn’t seem a suitable place for a sprawling, modern leisure complex, but then, many towns were being modernized these days to bring in the tourist dollar.
Her job would be to inspect the land to ensure the development could go ahead without disrupting the local ecosystem. She would also make reports on projected pollution and noise levels. It was a task she loved, partly because she got to spend all day on her favourite subjects, but also because it gave her a sense of contributing to the world and helping to preserve God’s creation. Modern developments were a great thing, but she fervently believed that they should be, as much as possible, in harmony with the natural world, not opposed to it. That, in her opinion, was one of the things good stewardship was all about. God hadn’t made humans in His image so they could make a mess of the creation He’d called ‘good’, but sadly, mankind seemed to be doing a great job of doing just that. If she could do her small part to work against that, for God’s glory, then she was happy.
She possessed a deep and abiding faith like her mother, and, in later years at least, her father, and she often found that being outside in nature gave her a greater sense of God’s presence. In such moments, Psalm 95 often came to mind.
In His hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
The sea is His, for He made it,
and His hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture,
the sheep under His care.
She smiled as she headed out of the city and started the long drive south. This job could be like a vacation, because by all reports she was going to a beautiful place. She’d rented an apartment for a few months from a woman called Sylvia O’Brien who’d sounded lovely on the phone, and now that she was on her way, excitement bubbled inside her.
She remained upbeat for most of the drive. The highway ran parallel to the coast but didn’t hug it, and only occasionally was it close enough for her to gain any glimpses of the ocean. She stopped at the seaside town of Busselton to stretch her legs and eat a sandwich. She also checked her bike to ensure it hadn’t moved in its rack on top of the roof. Three hours later, she reached Deep River. The road had narrowed and the forest had become thicker the further south she’d driven, and she wondered at some point if she’d ever see the sky again. As she passed the sign welcoming her to Deep River, population 1,500, the forest morphed into a mixture of open land and patches of dense bramble. In the distance were houses and shops, some with smoke spiraling from their chimneys. She scrunched her brows. Wood fires at this time of year? It was still hot in Perth, but maybe they had a different climate down here.
She jammed on the brakes when a small group of people crossed the road in front of her. They appeared to be in their early twenties and walked together, holding placards, chanting. She strained to see what was written on them, but she wasn’t close enough. A flicker of anxiety coursed through her. The way they were dressed and the banners they held reminded her of the environmental activists she’d come across before in her line of work and had always shied away from–the ones who could be overly militant, even earning themselves the title of ‘eco-terrorists.’ They were very much fringe groups and not at all representative of people who cared about the environment, in Sasha’s experience, but unfortunately it was often the extreme voices that were the most easily heard, causing trouble for everyone.
She chided herself for making judgments based on appearances as the group moved into the undergrowth and out of sight, but a gnawing anxiety in her gut told her she was right. Still, it didn’t mean they had anything to do with the site she’d be working on.
But as she continued to drive, she couldn’t let go of the feeling that this job was going to be more challenging than she’d anticipated.

Main Tropes

  • Christian Romance
  • Opposites Attract
  • Inspiring
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What Readers Say....

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "This is a wonderful heartwarming book of faith, courage, perseverance, and love. Juliette Duncan did a wonderful job of weaving the story of Brendan Miller a teacher and a part-time youth pastor as well as a widowed father of a small child, and Sasha Jackson, a highly regarded environmental scientist who come together in the small town of Deep River. Together they save a piece of land save an endangered species as they face, adversity and fear by leaning on their faith, standing on their Bible as truth this couple comes out victorious finding love together! I like this book so much but I will go back and read the whole Transform By Love series again!" Melissa M

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "A truly inspirational story! Sasha is a special lady. When she comes to Deep River her life and the lives of many will change. Brendan is trying to raise his son and doesn’t expect to ever be interested in another woman. The characters in this book are all very special people. You will feel God working throughout this wonderful book." Deb J

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    "Sasha is an environmental scientist who comes to Deep River to survey because a developer wants to change the area. He has made it known that Sasha works for him, which she does not! Brendan is the local music teacher and has taken it on himself to protect Sasha in the deeply divided town. A fascinating story with suspense and some romance. A sweet, clean, must read!" Jan T