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Title: Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen (originally In Front of God & Everyone (Pay It Forward #1))
Series: Hello Goodbye #1 (Pay It Forward #1)
Release Date: March 21st, 2017 (first published February 18th, 2015)
Format: e-ARC Pages: 331
Genre: Gay Romance, Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Cult romance
Purchase Links: • Amazon US • Barnes & Noble • Kobo • Google•
Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh & 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. For more about its previous publication, you can read this blog post.
This is one of those books that makes you believe in the young people’s resilient spirit and the kindness of strangers. It was sweet, hopeful and just encouraging that people can recover after horrifying childhoods peppered with traumatic experiences.
This story was told from both Caleb and Joshua’s POV as young people trapped in a cult where the elders usually kept 4-6 wives, some as young as fourteen. Consequently, boys over the age of 14 were considered a threat to their family structure and were sent to live the bachelor quarters. The young guys considered “weak” usually disappear from the compound after they are reach age of majority. Joshua and Caleb grew up together as best friends and live together in the bachelor quarters but it was generally understood that Joshua was a weak link. So, when Joshua was thrown out close to a bus station with $50, Caleb ran away to join Joshua.
From the beginning, it was clear that the bond between Joshua and Caleb was stronger than just mere friendship. It was ardent, devoted and passionate. It was as though their hearts were always bound together from day one but it had to be hidden. Once outside the confines of the religious cult, Joshua and Caleb had to learn how to deal with the feelings that they had been taught were sinful and perverse. Joshua struggled a lot harder than Caleb. I struggled with Caleb’s seamless transition from accepting his feelings to use of cuss words. I was expecting the guys to have some difficulty adjusting to the “outside” life as well as some language barriers since cult language seems to be more biblical and less informal/conversational in secular society. In addition, this story lacked the angst that I expected from boys tormented by the cult leaders. It’s almost like their past was forgotten. There was no mention to save those left behind or even rescue other boys who were sure to be discarded like Joshua.
Regardless of those issues, I found the love that blossomed between Caleb and Joshua to be so sweet and endearing. In Maggie and Daniel’s home, Caleb and Joshua found freedom, acceptance and finally, their talents. There were wonderful secondary characters that made this story richer. From Washington, Daniel, Maggie & Chloe, the supporting cast helped make this story heartwarming. Caleb and Joshua would have had a much harder and rougher time but for the continual support of the secondary characters. Most of all, I love that they all helped Joshua find his voice and gave him the strength to use it. Joshua was the one I rooted for the most because I am always drawn to the underdogs of the world. His development made this book for me.