Goodbye Paradise (Hello Goodbye #1) by Sarina Bowen

This is a throwback review. I read and reviewed this book way back in 2017 but I was looking through some of my older reviews recently and came across this one. I remember absolutely loving this story. The sweetness and innocence of these two boys still sticks with me. And I’m reminded that I never did go back and read the second book in this series – I think I’ll have to rectify that sometime soon!

In the meantime, please enjoy this old review of Goodbye Paradise!

“You want me,” he said simply. “It’s just that you don’t want to want me.”
“I’ve always wanted you. And I’ve always tried not to.”
“What if you stopped trying?”

I’ve got a confession to make – I’m sort of addicted to Sarina Bowen’s M/M romances! I went crazy for Him & Us (that she co-wrote with Elle Kennedy) a few weeks back and was excited to see that she had a few more to offer so I instantly scooped this up when it was recently re-released. I’m no authority on the M/M genre, but I definitely think that Sarina has a real knack for bringing these stories to life in a thoughtful, heartfelt way that will totally endear the characters to the reader and pull out all the feels! That’s exactly what happened with Caleb and Josh’s story and I’m so happy that I had the chance to tag along on their journey. And what a journey it was!

“You’re a gentle soul, Caleb.”
“Not as gentle as you,” I whispered.
And that was the truth.

Caleb Smith and Joshua Royce have never known a day without the other in it. Growing up in a polygamist religious cult in Wyoming, they’ve been best friends since the day they were born. Neither one had an easy time living at Paradise, but Josh had it especially hard. He was weaker than most of the other boys and had to work hard to not make himself a target, to further complicate things, he’s burdened by “impure” feelings toward his best friend. As hard as it is for him to keep up with the other boys, it’s even harder for him to hide his feelings toward Caleb. When Josh finds himself kicked out and all alone on the streets of a strange town, will Caleb be able to find him in time to protect him like he’s done his entire life? And now that they are out on their own, will they be able to find someplace to go? And will Josh finally learn what Caleb’s been hiding from him all these years?

“I never could help loving you. It’s just the way that I’m wired.”

These two boys were just beyond sweet, Josh in particular, he was such a sensitive soul. It was easy to see why Caleb had always been so protective of him, it didn’t take long for me to feel the same way about him. Josh and his “babies” were the cutest darn thing I’ve ever “seen”! Caleb too had more “real life” experience than Josh (though, arguably it still was practically nothing) and was definitely the more macho one, but he still had a sweet heart and was sensitive in his own way. I loved the sort of dual journey they had to go on. Not only were they suddenly thrown into a strange world they knew virtually nothing about, and they had to retrain their brains to fight years and years of ridiculous brainwashing, but they were also able to finally truly explore their sexuality which they’ve had to keep hidden for so long. The two things together are a mighty tricky combination because you can just imagine the horrible lies that had been drilled into their heads regarding having feelings for another man. I loved seeing them navigate these uncharted waters, though, I thought that their struggles and their triumphs were portrayed beautifully. The story was so simple and some of the things they go through might seem mundane to most of us, but considering where they came from, something as simple as having a Coke for the first time turns out to be a profound experience.

I loved all of the secondary characters that we meet, as well. They come together to create this brilliant little family. It may be unconventional, but it works and the love and respect they all have and the way they support one another is truly heartwarming. This is just one of those stories that’ll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside (but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of steam to heat things up, too!), and even in the moments of turmoil, there are still little triumphs that’ll have you cheering. I enjoyed this story and look forward to the next book that’ll be coming out in this “series” so I can continue indulging my Sarina Bowen M/M addiction!

“Caleb,” he whispered against my skin. “Just make me yours.”
“You,” I said, kissing him on the forehead, “are already mine. You have always been mine.”

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