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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.
Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen is a refreshing, heart-warming M/M story with a unique and intriguing story line – one that illustrates how one group’s gospel and prescribed dictates should never be taken as absolutes and one that proves that life is to be lived according to one’s own beliefs and feelings because man’s most basic need is to be loved and accepted for who he is and what he deserves due to the person he is NOT his “sinful” sexuality.
Caleb Smith and Josh Royce have been best friends since they were kids – both raised on a compound that adheres to a set of strict rules/laws – mandates that must be unilaterally followed despite contrary views and ideas. It’s clear from the start that Josh doesn’t belong in that environment, and while he’s been brainwashed enough to make him feel ashamed as well as afraid, his thoughts about Caleb and what Caleb means to him are not something he can willingly change nor does he want to because all he wants in life is to profess his love to Caleb and have Caleb reciprocate those feelings.
Caleb and Josh’s story truly begins once they are free from the strictures of the religious cult they were born into and “allowed” to explore what they feel for each other. Sarina Bowen does a fantastic job of illustrating Josh’s confusion and his fear of not being accepted because he’s gay. Josh is much more innocent when it comes to the ways of society outside the compound, and that’s clearly shown when he withdraws from Caleb despite how much Josh wants and needs Caleb. It’s extremely difficult for Josh to not think about how the leaders of the cult viewed someone like him and to change his mentality…his way of thinking and accept that he can no longer be punished for his “sinful” thoughts and actions is not something that will instantly occur. Josh has been wrapped in shame and discomfort for many years, so it’s a difficult process to accept that it’s okay to feel the way he does for Caleb without worrying that he will go to hell for those feelings.
Caleb may only be a year older than Josh, but he was seen as a “promising” member of Paradise, which meant he was given a bit more freedom, and on his journeys outside of the compound, he experienced many things that Josh has never done, so Caleb always knew that when Josh left, he would leave as well because Caleb wanted to protect Josh as well as finally show him what he means to Caleb now that there are not disapproving eyes watching their every move.
Caleb and Josh’s assimilation into society is definitely not an easy one, but it’s one that they must have the courage to experience because it’s their chance to be together in every sense of the word. There are definite obstacles in their way, namely Josh’s fear and Caleb’s need to protect those he feels responsible for, but at the heart of Goodbye Paradise is the true love that exists between Caleb and Josh and their willingness to see past their old world’s mandates and accept that the new society they live in will accept them for who they are and who they love.
Goodbye Paradise is a great read that questions one’s view of sin and illustrates the fact that there is more to life than obedience and subservience, and while shedding the warped values of the only community they have ever known is difficult, Caleb and Josh work to realize that life is meant to be lived for themselves just as much as for others, especially those who make them feel nothing but pain and loneliness.
4.5 Poison Apples