Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Goodbye Paradise (Hello Goodbye #1) by Sarina Bowen

* * * *

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.

Source: e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review

Sarina Bowen. She's our hero. She writes some freaking amazing stories so you can rest assured that if she has a new one coming out we definitely want to get our hands on it.

Josh and Caleb have grown up secluded from the rest of the world in a cult called Paradise. Their experience is nothing like its name. Cut off from the outside world, they had a subpar education, a strict upbringing under sometimes impoverished circumstances.  Josh and Caleb have always been close friends with Caleb looking out for Josh most of the time. One's standing in Paradise depends on what family they're from, and as a man how they can contribute to its survival. A person's place within this cult is never guaranteed. Josh knows that he's one of the weakest links and is not surprised when he's thrown out of the cult. What is surprising is that Caleb follows him. And that's how the adventure begins for Josh, the shy, naive and gentle soul looking for his niche and Caleb, the stoic and loyal friend who feels the burden to fix everything.

After enduring years of indoctrination, you want the boys to experience happiness. I think cynics will find some of the events that occur too good to be true. I can't say that I disagree entirely considering how as readers we've come to expect plenty of angst when dealing with a troubled past. However, this is about Caleb and Josh's coming of age under different circumstances, on their own terms along with the support of a newfound family. For the first time in their young lives, they can determine the direction of their future. They get to love whom they want. First though, they need to overcome the guilt that's been drilled into them. Then they have to accept who they are. Running away from a religious cult is one thing. Abandoning their way of life and their force-fed doctrine - it's all they've ever known. Coming to terms with their sexuality when they've never had a point of reference - that has to be incredibly overwhelming and confusing. It's harder yet when they're unfamiliar with the outside world.

Readers of the True North series will recognize the name of the farm that Caleb and Josh run to after their escape (Runaway Farms) but that doesn't mean you have to read that series in order to read this. I was pulled into this sweet story and loved every moment of it except for one where I unexpectedly felt a knife to the heart. It was a "gasp" and "wth?" moment. I kid you not! That's how consumed I became with the story and invested in these two as a couple. 

Basically if you're a fan of Sabrina Bowen's then you want to read this. If you're new to her, read it. As usual she manages to explore complex situations by putting human faces to them, and she does it without shoving any agenda at you. I always appreciate that about her writing. You hope that Caleb and Josh get their HEA by the end. I just wanted to wrap them up in a tight hug and transfer all those years of love and kindness they'd been denied. I can't wait to see what happens next in Hello Forever.

~ Bel

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