Title: Jude in Chains
Author: K.Z. Snow
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 130 pages
Characters: Misha and Jude
POV: First Person
Sub-Genre: gay fiction
Hoping further to expose the fallacy of “reparative therapy” for non-heterosexuals, writer Misha Tzerko enrolls in a weeklong program at the Stronger Wings Camp and Conference Center. He’s already lost a long-term boyfriend to the ex-gay movement-Robbie abandoned him for a straight life complete with wife-and for his own closure as well as his job at Options magazine, Misha intends to get an inside look at the ministry established by C. Everett Hammer III. Misha is shocked and dismayed to find someone else from his past at Stronger Wings, a man with whom he shared two brief but captivating encounters. He knows he can’t save everyone in the program, but he’s determined to save Jude Stone… no matter what it takes.
Misha is in his mid twenties when he meets Jude at a coworker’s wedding. They hit it off but things do not work out for them. Jude’s having issues with self-acceptance and has overbearing parents who are not keen on the idea that their son is gay.
Several years later, Misha is devastated when his boyfriend of three years, Robbie, leaves him and checks into a reparative therapy program for “ex-gays”. Misha works as a reporter for prestigious magazine, and they want to do an expose article on this so-called ministry, so Misha seems the perfect candidate for the job. He goes undercover, posing as a heterosexual reporter, and infiltrates the ministry compound.
Once Misha is on the job, he is shocked to discover that one of the program registrants is his former love interest, Jude. Misha and Jude connect with each other, and Misha tries to learn about why Jude wants to change his sexual orientation. Although their relationship as friends blossoms, it begins to be clear to Misha that Jude has his mind made up. He is intent upon being rescued from his identity as a gay man and has no interest in being saved from the ministry.
Suddenly it is clear that Misha may have to accept the fact that he’s lost two people he cares about to this twisted self-help organization.
It came as no surprise to me that I loved this book so much. K.Z. Snow delivered another meaningful yet heartbreaking drama that packed a powerful message. It is sad—even tragic—to see how these so-called ministries prey upon the most vulnerable souls. Often they are people who’ve suffered horrific rejection and judgment from their families and social circles. They are individuals who are confused, ostracized, and have terribly low self esteem. It breaks my heart to think about the people who turn to groups like this for salvation; they seem to be willing to do anything just to be accepted—to be normal.
Jude was the lost soul in this story. He was the one in need of a hero and savior. Reserved, taciturn, sensitive, and utterly vulnerable, his sincerity and innocence were palpable. It was devastating to see the way he’d been manipulated into believing there was something substandard about his identity, especially when it was so obvious how beautiful he was.
Misha, though a bit cocky and over-confident, did not come across as being uncompassionate. Often the people who are most self-assured are the ones who lack any degree of understanding for those who have not been as fortunate. They often are heartlessly critical of the people who need them most, stating how annoyed they are by the weaker and less-confident. I loved the fact that Misha did not seem to have this sort of attitude.
I do think that as Misha began his assignment he had some reservations about what kind of people would willingly participate in something like this. Perhaps it is normal to pity them or possibly even look down on them in a way. But this quickly changed for Misha as he got to know the group of gay men who were enrolled in the program. They became his friends, and he reached out to several of them in ways that genuinely helped.
Yes, the story contains a moral message. Yes, it is a bit of a tearjerker. No, there are not hot sex scenes. But it is a fantastic story with a beautiful ending. Please put down your smut and trashy romance novels for an hour or two and pick up this wonderful book. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening and a book you’re sure to remember for a very long time.
Reviewed By: Jeff