Series: Hello Goodbye #1
Published by Self-Published on 03/21/2017
Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.
In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.
But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.
It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.
Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.
Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?
Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord's name in vain, and love against the kitchen counter. This book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone.
Goodbye Paradise was previous published in 2015 under the pseudonym Nealy Wagner. I think I picked it up off a freebies list on Amazon, but what really grabbed my attention was the original title; In Front of God and Everyone. I was hoping to see how a romance would play out with two men who were born and raised within the confines of a cult, how their religion would influence their actions and how much effect it would have on their internal conflicts.
In November 2015 I wrote: This was just okay. I’d label it a “nicey-nice” read, which is definitely not my usual. The characters were likable and the initial storyline interesting but the author took no liberties to introduce any real climax or issues. It ran pretty lukewarm for me the whole time. I did enjoy the relationship between Caleb and Josh. It was built on friendship first and the author did an excellent job portraying the trust and honesty in that relationship. The steam scenes were great – loved Caleb’s dirty talk. In switching from one POV to the other it did not feel as though there was any identifying voice for either male lead. When I got the Caleb’s first part I didn’t even realize and had to go back and make sure whose POV I was reading when I finally caught on. I don’t know that I would recommend this.
All that I knew when I signed up to review Goodbye Paradise was that it was a m/m romance written by Sarina Bowen. So when I learned that this was the same story that I had previously read, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but I was pretty bummed that it wasn’t something totally new. To be honest, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to read it. Yet every time I opened my kindle app, there it would sit, staring at me. So what the hell, I started reading.
After this reread, I’ve truly grown to love Josh and Caleb. Josh is reserved, quiet, introspective, a nurturer. Caleb is protective, assertive, hands-on, physically strong. As an avid romance reader, it becomes easy to predict how these types of character’s actions will play out through a story. It and did become mildly stereotypical later on in the book with Josh as quasi nanny and Caleb a mechanic at a local garage. But – what I loved best was how contradictory both Josh and Caleb became to their initial character sketches. I love great character growth, it gets me every time.
As this quiet story unfolded, it was the actions of our seemingly alpha male character that really propels their individual growth. Caleb consistently yielded to Josh’s inexperience. He allowed Josh to set the pace emotionally; even sacrificing his true feelings for him early on knowing Josh wasn’t ready to receive those reciprocal feelings. In turn Josh finds truth and encouragement behind Caleb’s emotions and gains the confidence to love him freely despite their religious upbringing. Caleb literally puts Josh in the physical position of being on top, allowing Josh to gain sexual confidence. Caleb is just the best beta-alpha ever.
And no matter what the circumstance that allowed it – similar upbringing, close friendship, shared faith, whatever – what organically develops from their friendship is an intense emotional relationship built upon trust, acceptance, and honesty. Their love story is so emotionally strong that it doesn’t need those fabricated issues or conflicts I originally found to be “missing”. Duh.