ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
I was immediately intrigued by the originality of the premise. I’d never read anything set, even partially, in a religious community/cult. Even just this thing alone set Goodbye Paradise apart from every other MM romance, and book in general, I’ve ever read. Because, you see, their harsh religious upbringing had such a huge influence on the romance itself.
But I’ll get to that later.
Now, let’s talk about the reason this book deserves all the stars. Josh and Caleb.
Josh is the gentle soul of the two. Not being born in the elite of the community, he grew up thinking he’d never be as good as the others in manual work, and that therefore he’d be “tossed away” from the community. From the very beginning, we know of his feelings for his best friend, Caleb. Feelings he tries with all his might to quench and to deny. Almost resigned to his fate, he doesn’t know that Caleb has a plan.
When his worst fears become a reality, also his wildest dreams do. So the two boys find themselves alone, out in the real world, and finally give in to their passions and feelings. They manage to find a home at a friend’s relative house, where they try to build their new lives, but decades of ingrained beliefs, guilt and other obstacles will test our heroes strength and love.
Now, before this brief “trying-not-to-be-too-spoiler-ish” summarization, let me tell you what I absolutely adored.
The characters. All of them. They were so fantastically human. At first I was afraid Josh would be the weak-link of the duo, being so insecure and seemingly emotionally frail, instead he flourished at the farm with Maggie, little Chloe, his cows and just taking care of those he loves. He’s just so innocent, kind and endearing.
Caleb instead is the more assertive one. He’s good with engines and at making decisions. He knows what he wants, but is also conflicted. He’s abandoned more than just an oppressing community and his past will catch up with him.
It was almost a relief for me to read about Josh being the strong one when it came to fighting for their relationship. At first, he was the more troubled one about being in love with another dude, while Caleb had embraced who he was without many reservations. But when hard times really hit, it was Josh who saved the day. Also, seeing him interact with newborn Chloe was priceless. It melted my heart.
The two of them together oozed meant-to-be from their every pore. They were so different, yet they never question their love for each other. They were so great together, so in tune that it didn’t bother me at all how soon the ILUs were exchanged. It made perfect sense to me that two people who’d been best friends since forever would finally claim their love for each other short after being free from their cult’s thumb.
Also, the hot parts of this book were definitely meaningful. The perceived forbidden quality of their love added spice and a bit of desperation, especially at the beginning, while deepening their feelings throughout the narration.
The supporting characters were equally as amazing. Daniel, Maggie’s husband with his acceptance but also frustration at seeing Josh taking such good care of his daughter, Maggie, so bright and alive, but also suffering from something many readers will be able to relate to. And then Washington, the truck driver who was the guys’ true saving grace.
There weren’t many plot twists or much angst in general, and I loved it. It gave the characters time to develop and to get used to being with the other, especially Caleb and Josh given how, prior to escaping, they’d hardly been allowed to look or speak at each other freely.
All in all, Goodbye Paradise was a unique book, truly heart-felt and sweet, but not sugarcoated or make-believe. It was sometimes raw, overall human. I certainly know the ending will be loved by many, me included. Now I cannot wait to see how the story will go on in Hello Paradise.