Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Goodbye Paradise 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.

Author’s Note: This book was previously released under the title In Front of God & Everyone.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

It took me a week to read Goodbye Paradise. Now anyone who knows how I read will think it’s because I couldn’t get into the book because I usually read a book a day, sometimes more. However, I chose to savor Josh and Caleb’s story, reading several chapters a day instead of devouring it in one sitting as I easily could have done. I wanted to spend time with them on their journey – experience their sudden departure from Paradise, watch them avoid danger and find the goodness in humanity as they made their way across the country to Massachusetts, see them make friends and family as they found out who they were and who they wanted to be, and fall in love as they discovered that two men could share their lives and love with one another. I absolutely loved Goodbye Paradise and am glad that I was able to force myself to read it over several days because it meant that I got to spend even more time with Josh and Caleb.

For some reason, I enjoy m/m romances that contain a religious theme, whether it be the characters overcoming religious zealotry to find happiness or showing how they balance their religious beliefs and homosexuality despite the prejudices of homophobic Christians who use the Bible to condemn them. As such, Goodbye Paradise is the kind of m/m romance I would have snagged on its own merits. But as a fan of Bowen’s True North series, I was familiar with Paradise because of Zachariah’s story and wanted to know more about the world he had escaped. Although Josh and Caleb exit Paradise by the end of the second chapter, it was more than enough time to get a pretty good picture of just how dark their lives were there, especially Josh’s as he struggled both internally with his “impure thoughts” and externally as the target of bullying by the older bachelors. Paradise is one of the worst kinds of perversion of religion you can imagine and don’t want to believe exists, but they do. So as difficult as it was to see Josh thrown out like trash, I couldn’t help but be relieved for him; of course, knowing that Caleb planned to join him so they could “escape” together made it easier for me to have hope for them.

Goodbye Paradise is an interesting mix of coming of age and new adult genres. Because Josh and Caleb were given responsibilities and put to work as teens, they are more mature than the characters we often see in these genres. Due to his job, Caleb has more knowledge of the world outside of Paradise and is able to help guide Josh somewhat. It is Caleb’s limited experience that helps them find a safe ride to Maggie’s farm in Massachusetts. Once there, we get to watch both young men come into their own as they discover that life is not at all the hellfire and damnation they’ve been raised to fear. I especially loved watching Josh flourish as his innate caretaker was able to show his love and provide for those around him in ways that would never have been allowed in Paradise. But never fear, Bowen does provide a perfectly angsty plot twist that tips its hat at the new adult genre perfectly, at the same time it will likely make you want to shake Caleb… vigorously. Despite his more “worldly” experience, Caleb never dreamed that their departure from Paradise would enable him to live with Josh as anything more than roommates, so to see that unexpressed wish come to fruition was beautiful, just as beautiful as the final chapter in the book. I cannot adequately express how happy I am that the author chose to rerelease this book under her Bowen pen name, making it easy for fans like myself to discover Goodbye Paradise because I loved it. I cannot wait for the release of its sequel, Hello Forever.

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, including the Brooklyn Bruisers series, the Ivy Years series, and the Gravity series. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Goodbye Paradise (Hello Goodbye #1) by Sarina Bowen to read and review.

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