Imagine my surprise when I received an email saying Sarina Bowen was releasing two m/m romances. EXCITEMENT! YES, YES, YES! Then imagine my surprise when I continued to read and realized these weren’t new m/m romances, but were previously released by this author under another pen name. I think everyone knows by now that I’m a total Sarina Bowen fangirl. If she writes it, I will happily gobble it up in one sitting. I thought I had read everything there was by this author, but I was wrong. Which actually makes me happy, because I will always want more.
Goodbye Paradise started out with another name, In Front of God and Everyone. I’m mentioning this because there might be some confusion as the titles are linked on Goodreads. If you’ve read Zach’s story in the True North series, Keepsake, I think you will be familiar with some of Caleb and Josh’s backstory. They were raised in the same polygamist religious cult as Zachariah. If I’m being completely honest, I had anxiety going into this book. Anxiety over Josh and Caleb’s treatment at the hands of their fellow cult members, and anxiety over how their relationship would develop in that strict, religious setting. Not that I don’t have complete faith in this author, but she’s been known to rip my heart to shreds on occasion, so I had to wonder if this would be one of those stories.
I shouldn’t have worried. This is so much more than a just a love story. It’s about survival and finding yourself. It’s about making a family by choice.
Josh is cast out by the community not too far into this story. His hands and feet are tied, and then he is dumped on the side of the road with only $50.00 in an envelope. As he has had almost no interaction with the outside world, he is woefully unprepared to find himself alone with no previsions and very little money. Thankfully, his best friend Caleb has suspected this would happen for awhile and manages to make plans for this exact scenario. If Josh can just get to the bus station at the closest town, Caleb will meet him there as soon as he can.
They do meet up, and even though they are finally together, they have no money, no car, and no food. Josh doesn’t even have a birth certificate to prove his identity so he can find employment. Luckily they find help in the form of a wonderful man who offers to let them ride along with him as he drives his big rig home. Washington isn’t their only guardian angel, while on the road they contact another outcast from the cult, Maggie. She is more than happy to offer them a safe place to stay until they can figure out where to go and what to do next.
Oh my word, you guys are going to just adore Maggie.
Josh and Caleb have a lot to learn. About themselves and about living in a world where they have the freedom to live how they choose and love who they want. They have to adjust to finding jobs, and becoming part of a new family who loves and accepts them. There wasn’t quite as much angst as I expected, because while Josh and Caleb had so many challenges, their shared history and deep friendship lent a feeling of steadiness to their relationship. I knew they would make it. I knew that they would love each other to the end and find a way to make it work. It was a beautiful thing to watch them embrace their feelings for each other and make plans for the future.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up a bit at the end. What a wonderful send off to this couple. I loved it. Now I’m counting down the days until the second release in this series. Final Grade-B+
He was the last one I saw before I closed my eyes at night and the first person I looked for when I opened them again in the morning.