Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen
Hello Goodbye, #2
M/M Contemporary Romance
Released: March 21, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “You’d wreck me so that you can not quite save her? Does that sound like a solid plan?” “You won’t be wrecked,” Caleb sighed. “You’ll just hate me for a while.” “Not true,” I whispered. “Because when I said I love you, I meant it.
Please note: this book was originally published under the title, In Front of God and Everyone released in 2015.
Bridge to nowhere. Muchado about not much at all. When I read the blurb for Goodbye Paradise I was enticed. Young men, on the cusp of manhood, living under the pressure and control of a nefarious cult community, forced to hide their affections and when turned out from the only home they’ve known, homeless and facing the cruel, dangerous new world, survival is the best they could hope for. Practically penniless and emotionally waylaid by their own emerging sexuality.- totally my jam!! I revel in this angsty, dramatic turbulent stuff! Freak me OUT ok! So given the promises of all that and more from the blurb, I settled in and began to read it and it was instantly –
Full on omigawdthisisgoingtobethebestshitever. I had the excited goosebumpy feels that I get when I know things are going to be good. Told in alternative points of view that switched every few chapters, Goodbye Paradise was poised for greatness. We first meet 19 year old Josh, born into what is described as a Midwestern polygamist farming compound, with only a third grade education. He knows he is on one of the bottom rungs of the food chain, his pecking order practically unranked. His bleak future and meager existence is mapped out for two paths. A. Somehow manage to earn the right to wives after working himself threadbare for the next couple of decades B. Be cast out, kidnapped and abandoned out into the world off the compound; an exile the result of his perceived weakness by the compounds elders. Josh’s skills are few, and he does not excel on the farm, which makes him a target for some of the other young men to tease and shame him. Without family or support, his only solace is forbidden to him in every way, 21 year old Caleb, his boyhood friend has grown to mean everything to Josh, in the most sinful way.
Beside me, Caleb dropped more beans into the bucket formerly known as mine, his tanned hands threading into the dried sheaves the way I’d always wanted them to tangle in my hair. Biting back a sigh, I grabbed a pod and cracked it in my hand. Discomfort and shame were my constant companions. Caleb covered for my mediocrity as best he could. My best friend had saved my backside too many times to count. And how did I repay him? With sinful, lusty thoughts. Just another day in Paradise.
Caleb appears oblivious to Josh’s affections, however, when Josh is falsely accused of a compound infraction and kicked out, Caleb becomes his fiercest protector, making plans to runaway with him, forging their way into the world together at last. As expected, they are cash poor and hitchhiking, their lone hope is to get to Massachusetts and by a miracle find acceptance from an old friend, Maggie, who escaped the compound years before. By now it is only chapter two/three and I am white knuckling it. They have already nearly frozen to death of fever (Josh), sexually harassed and propositioned at a bus terminal (Caleb and Josh), considered trading blow jobs for a lift (Josh again), and are hanging on by a thread (poor Josh!). Soon enough they are rescued by a kind trucker, Washington, who offers them a ride to Albany, NY and quite literally saves their lives. They begin their journey (both geographically and sexually) in the back of Washington’s rig, unsure of what lies ahead but facing it together.
It was sweet. Too sweet. So sweet in fact that for chapters on end, I kept vigil for the other shoe to drop. For Washington to turn wolf in sheeps clothing and do something awful. I awaited the shock and awe of events so unfair and cruel that Josh and Caleb would be forever changed. Chapter after chapter, I waited for their new feelings of security to be lambasted by something so OMG that the consequences would be debilitating. I had my pearls ready, shined and primed for clutching. There may have been a paper-bag handy for the hyperventilating I’d been planning since chapter two. By 67%, I am a defcon 2 and can not understand- where did the story go? Nothing was happening. All of my prepared readiness and the most difficult things Caleb and Josh faced were unwavering love and support from Maggie and her husband Daniel, coming out of the closet and unemployment?
Things got a little too mundane after awhile… the crux of the plot became Josh’s reconciliation with Caleb being ready to blow the doors off of their closet and his fears of losing the acceptance he believes has eluded him all his life. I mean it’s set in 2015 so it’s not like being gay would be revolutionary… but Josh has very deep seated anxiety regarding how he believes those around him would react if they knew his secret. Toward the end, I could not help mourning the missing ” umph!” the story would have had if it skewed just a little heavier, maybe gone a shade or ten darker. I adored Josh, and Caleb was such a beautiful soul- but dammit, they all were. All the assholes were left back in chapter 1-2!! Aside from the weirdos at the truck stop, literally, everyone else was a freaking saint. Too nicey-neaty for me. Josh and Caleb had nothing but good luck and opportunity once they left the compound. Surely, ok, their upbringing was a travesty, but dare I say aside from the emotional trappings of being gay in an unknown new world- they lived a safe, good life. I’m frankly bummed. Even the blurb had more punch and was more dimensional than the story turned out to be. So much undeniable potential and it fell flat. Redeeming qualities? Goodbye Paradise is exceptionally well written as far as “just the words” go- and the sex is probably the best M/M romance I’ve ever read- and that is no exaggeration. Josh and Caleb were amazing in bed and their emotional connection and unconditional love and support of one another is unrivaled. Caleb is so intrinsically good and Josh is a hero. I loved their love.
“Caleb!” I gasped. “What are you doing?”
“Told you I wouldn’t let you make a mess. Gonna use my mouth on you. I’m going to suck you off, and swallow everything you’ve got.” A wave of burning hot lust shot down my spine. I flexed my hips upward, because I just had to. Caleb yanked down my underwear and moved, until he was kneeling over my body. And before I could even prepare myself, he’d bent his head down to lap his tongue against my cockhead. My shout of approval could probably be heard all over Nebraska. A big hand grasped the base of my shaft. Then, he began to bathe my dick in kisses. Wet, sloppy kisses everywhere. My hips began shaking with excitement.
“Oh, Caleb. I can’t…” He opened his mouth and sucked me down. I never felt anything so amazing in my life.
Even when Caleb and Josh had their big fight, I wasn’t the least bit frayed and the only person who believed Caleb and Josh were in any real trouble were Josh and Caleb (lol @ Josh’s showdown), I was completely unable to take their fight or the circumstances surrounding it seriously. Which added to my general sentiment that things were sweet beyond repair. Even a little drama tossed in at the eleventh hour could not overcome it. Too bad.
Though I have another novel of hers on my self, this is my first Sarina Bowen read and it shall not be my last. I’d be cheating myself to pass on other works, but I will tamper down and be cautiously optimistic from now on. If nothing else, I know I will be in for a well written, piece of work that I can connect with and enjoy consuming- but I’ll be aware that it can potentially (probably?) lack flavor. Goodbye Paradise is like water. There isn’t anything wrong with water. After all, we need water to live and it can be enjoyable as it quenches the spot when thirsty- but it sure as hell isn’t wine!