I love Sarina’s writing voice; it always feels natural, particularly the way she uses alternating first-person POV, a personal favorite for the new adult romance genre. I also know that even the most lighthearted of Sarina’s stories holds a deeper meaning, evokes a broad range of emotions, and leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Her MM contemporary romance novels are among the best in the genre, and Hello Forever is no exception.
It would be difficult to outdo the powerful storyline in the first book of the Pay it Forward series (Goodbye Paradise), which is one of the best MM new adult love stories I’ve ever read. That being said, Hello Paradise stands on its own merits as a heart-warming, angsty, second-chance love story between Axel, a young man who has come to terms with his sexuality, and his childhood best friend Cax, who has been denied that privilege by the threats and actions of an abusive, homophobic parent.
Cax’s loneliness and sense of desperation are palpable. He’s trapped in the closet and kept from experiencing the love of his life by a controlling, manipulative bigot. The push-and-pull between Axel and Cax hooked me from the beginning and kept me in suspense from beginning to end.
The angst and longing are offset with humor sprinkled throughout the story, especially through its secondary characters. The sex scenes are sometimes tender and poignant, but also raw and passionate – perfect for the emotional journey of its characters. The only downside for me was that the villain felt two-dimensional, lacking any redeeming qualities whatsoever, so his violent and vengeful actions felt predictable. Nevertheless, I read it in one sitting and will probably read it again.
There’s also one big bonus: Hello Forever brings the beloved characters from book one into the second story — creating a sense of connection and “family” within the series. And one subplot offers the promise of another story featuring Jason, an intriguing secondary character from books one and two.
Hello Forever is a sweet, life-affirming story that is relatively short, engaging and easy to read. Highly recommended for MM, second-chance, and new adult contemporary romance fans alike. Love is love, and nobody can make you feel the highs and lows of love like Sarina Bowen.
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Check out Book 1, Goodbye Paradise, here: