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.
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2n10OZ1
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2lTgYUN
Reviewed by Donna ~ 4.5 stars
***ARC received for an honest review***
“Nobody gets to throw me away.”
Sarina Bowen totally swept the rug from under me with Goodbye Paradise, this was another blind read for me, no synopsis read, just an M/M read from an author who nails this genre every single time. From the moment I started reading Goodbye Paradise I was transfixed, totally transported into the lives of Caleb and Joshua, two young men stifled by the life they were born into.
Josh and Caleb are nineteen and twenty respectively and at the beginning of this book are still living within a religious, polygamist cult in a self-sufficient compound. The young men have no prospects and dependent upon your standing within the cult, the chances of ever getting married off and becoming “someone” are pretty slim, there are simply not enough women to go around. Those young men are deemed expendable when their “usefulness” expires or they go against the cult, unceremoniously dumped with fifty dollars to make a life for themselves when they have no credentials whatsoever, not even a birth certificate.
“My whole life I’d wished for things. But I’d never known how confusing it might be to see my wishes come true.”
Josh and Caleb were best friends, had been brought up together and were as tight as tight could be. Joshua had noticed that his feelings towards his best friend were becoming more and more dishonourable and it became hard to hide it. Caleb was “being promised” to another, his father had a higher standing and so Josh’s unrequited love was a hard cross to bear, even if it was a sin. Caleb had always been Josh’s protector, Josh wasn’t strong physically and being on farm duty was causing this to be more noticeable. What Josh lacked in strength though he more than made up for with a huge heart and compassion. Both Caleb and Josh were adorable in every single way, there was nothing I didn’t like about either of these two boys.
“I think you have it all wrong…A real man does what needs doing. He takes care of the people he loves. You know this instinctively, even though every man in your life treated you like shit.”
When it becomes apparent it is Josh’s turn to be “thrown away” Caleb makes a promise to be there with him and so these two embark on a journey to freedom and a voyage of discovery for both of these virgins (YES!!! VIRGINS!!!) It seems Josh’s affections were certainly reciprocated, Caleb was just better at hiding it.
The friendship that Caleb and Josh have was all-consuming, the way that Sarina Bowen gave these characters’ depth, heart and soul brought these characters to life in an instant and that character connection that I crave was prevalent in spades. I experienced life with them, the confusion, their growth from sheltered boys to men with life experience, to that leap of faith of being open and vulnerable, taking that next step and falling in love for the first time.
“I’m so hard for you right now. That’s never going to change. Whether I’m stupid or smart, and whether you still love me anymore, or not. I never could help loving you. It’s just the way that I’m wired.”
Goodbye Paradise was poignantly penned, masterfully crafted and was a perfect balance for the story being told. No unnecessary angst or drama, the character’s journeys spoke for them, held you captive with every single scene that came before your eyes. Josh and Caleb’s resilience, their strength for one and other and those around them and that the fact that the only thing holding them back from a future they both wanted was their own fears and insecurities.
“When I get to touch you, every awful day we’ve survived seems worth it.”
The secondary characters in this book were far from superfluous, all had their parts to play and Washington, the man that started their journey for them will always hold a special place in my heart. Maggie and her family were selfless to a fault and played a huge part in Caleb and Josh’s integration into the real world and to see that kind of support network was heart-warming. I did shed a few tears but the majority of my emotions were saved for those uplifting moments that were plentiful. The fact that these two were virgins brought some extremely emotional and tender moments that pulled at every heart string but once these two found their footings, Sarina Bowen brought out the big guns with some emotionally charged, steamy scenes. Loved this book!