Axel has been offered a job working sports marketing for a small college in a small town. He is debating whether to take the position when, while watching their basketball game on TV, he spots Cax, a man he thought was lost from his life forever. As boys and teens, Axel and Cax were friends who saw each other regularly at church events. When they were 16, the two shared a kiss and a bit more, but things fell apart dramatically when they were caught by the pastor. While Axel’s mom was unfazed, Cax’s father was furious and Axel never saw Cax again.
Seeing Cax now six years later brings back all those old feelings for a young man Axel thought was lost to him forever. Axel knows it is crazy, but this is the sign he needs to go ahead and take the job. And when the men reconnect on campus, it is clear that the spark between them isn’t gone.
Unfortunately, Cax’s life is complicated and pursuing their connection is nearly impossible. His father continues to be a horrible bully, and while Cax is grown up, his three brothers are not. His father is verbally abusive to the boys (and had been physically abusive to Cax), and he needs to stay a part of his brothers’ lives to make sure they are ok and have a safe place to turn. But Cax’s father has been very clear that any sign of his homosexuality means he can’t get near them.
Cax has been hiding his feelings for men his entire life. But now that Axel has come back into his life, he would like nothing more than to explore the connection that is still so strong between them. The men find staying away from each other nearly impossible, but with Cax’s father looming, every time they are together is dangerous. The men want to continue to grow their relationship, but neither can figure out a way to make it happen without risking the safety of Cax’s brothers. The men have fallen back in love and dream of a future where they can be together, but figuring out how to make that happen seems impossible.
Hello Forever is the second book in Sarina Bowen’s Hello Goodbye series, following the excellent Goodbye Paradise. This story features new MCs, and while we do get to see Josh and Caleb from the first book as Axel’s landlords, this book stands alone perfectly fine. Like the first story, this book was also previously released under the pen name Nealy Wagner and was originally titled It’s Never Over; however, it is my understanding that the books were not appreciably changed upon re-release.
I really enjoyed the book and felt for Axel and Cax right away. I think Bowen does a great job here making these guys work as teen lovers reunited. Sometimes as a reader I have a hard time feeling the connection strongly enough to believe the characters would still have such intense feelings for one another years later, but here I really could believe in their emotions. After years of a close bond, the two are ripped away from one another, and those feelings are still close to the surface. It creates great tension as emotionally these guys easily slide back into a relationship, but huge obstacles stand in their way.
I also think Bowen does a great job setting up this conflict. We can feel the chemistry between Cax and Axel, and it is obvious they want each other from the start. Yet they are in this seemingly impossible situation. Sometimes when I read, I find the road blocks to happiness aren’t nearly as big as the characters make them seem. But here I really could see why Cax can not come out or be caught with Axel. It makes the conflict all the more intense as these men are clearly so drawn to one another, yet they must force themselves to stay apart. I did wonder why Cax never dated or even hooked up with men in college. It seemed he was far outside his father’s reach, so that part did make me wonder a bit. But I could completely understand his fears of risking his brother’s safety now, even at the expense of his own happiness.
I found this to be just a really warm, lovely story. Both of these guys are engaging, they are sexy and romantic together, and the conflict felt real. I liked that Axel, while frustrated with the situation, is always understanding and supportive. And I appreciated that when the time comes where Cax needs to just face the situation head on, he is willing to do that too. This book just made me happy reading and it has really engaging characters and a solid romance that I totally enjoyed.