Hello Goodbye #1
If you have read Sarina Bowen’s True North series a lot will sound familiar. This MM romance is set in this world and there are people mentioned we have met. It gives me a fuzzy, warm feeling being back in this setting.
Caleb and Joshua grew up as best friends. There hasn’t been a day in their lives that they didn’t spend time. The place they grew up at is called Paradise and it is everything but. In fact it’s a polygamist cult with a strict hierarchy and rules. And if you don’t follow them you’re getting kicked out like garbage. What this means to a person who has never set foot into the outside world is unfathomable. But I’m rambling…
Josh is at the lower end of the food chain, his future at the compound looks bleak. Being bullied is a daily occurrence. The one person who lifts his spirits everyday is Caleb. He has secretly loved and been in love with his best friend forever but loving a man is a sin and will result in being thrown to the curb. However, it is not Josh’s feelings for Caleb that gets him kicked from the compound but a missing gun and since he was the last doing inventory he is being blamed. Thankfully his loyal best friend prepares him and tells him to meet him at a bus station in Casper.
Caleb is at the top of the food chain and has benefits the other members of the cult don’t have, like spending time outside of the compound. When he runs away from the cult he has already a plan: make your way to Massachusetts, where another runaway is located who is only waiting to give people from the compound a leg up. On their way they meet sleazy people, giving them a healthy dose of reality but also well meaning ones, giving them hope. As they get more alone time with one another they open up to each other’s feelings…but Josh struggles getting 20+ years of brainwash out of his mind.
“I never want you to feel bad. We get to be honest with each other now. I’ve been dying, Josh. Wanting you. Wanting to tell you. I’m sorry if I scared you just now.”
Ooops, that summary has become kind of long and I’m not even scratching the surface.
Both Josh and Caleb are deeply loyal. Josh is the sweet, shy and innocent – almost naive – one. He loves Caleb unconditionally and selflessly and trusts his friend to always do right by him.
“Caleb,” I whispered softly.
“What’s going to happen to us?”
“Dunno,” he mumbled. “’ Cept we’re going to stay together while we figure it out. No matter what.” “Okay,” I breathed.
As time passes Josh gains more self esteem. It was beautiful to see how he stood up to Caleb when the situation asked for it. I was cheering him on for being brave because he didn’t let people run over him.
Caleb is the one in charge, taking responsibility and control even if it’s misguided. He feels guilt for those he left behind at the cult and responsible to take care of Josh. He is the more adventurous of the two and the one with the self assurance. Caleb reciprocates Joshua’s feelings absolutely but has always been good at hiding it. Finally he can act on them. These two are incredibly sweet and adorable together. You can feel their love for one another in every interaction and word.
Caleb’s voice dropped low, and he said only one, soft word. “Okay?” There it was. That one sweet moment of concern. The one that told me that no matter how bossy he was when we got naked, I was always safe with him. That he would always take care of me if I needed him to.
Josh struggles with their new relationship, especially the sexual part of it. He is brainwashed and still considers being in love with a man a sin. Slowly with the help of modern civilization and Caleb he comes to accept that it’s OK to love a man.
What made me take off half a star was a situation towards the end when Caleb acted a little bit out of character. It wasn’t like him to be closed off and to shut out his best friend. I felt that was used a little bit for drama’s sake. Eventually Caleb groveled and redeemed himself though.
“Josh, never meant to hurt you.”
My blood pressure was still off the charts. I could feel it throbbing in my neck. But somehow my voice was still steady.
“You said that already. But it didn’t mean shit. So pardon me if I don’t need to hear it again. Now pick up your clothes and get out.”
“Josh,” he swallowed and his throat worked. “I can’t think straight. Ever since last night, when I heard her tell Maggie…”
“OUT!” I screamed.
The relationship building between them worked very well, however, and I think the reason lies in them being so very different and complimenting and completing each other. They just worked.
Steam, wit, hilarious and heart-wrenching moments, and a heart full of love for the main and side characters – it is what you will get when you read “Goodbye Paradise”. I enjoyed myself immensely and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one in this series. Sarina Bowen’s landscape and situation description is one of a kind and her writing style has become a favorite of mine.