by KZ Snow, contemporary (2010)
Dreamspinner Press, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-61581-421-3
In Jude In Chains, KZ Snow takes on the gay recovery movement, although her distaste of such a movement is pretty clear from the first paragraph of this story, heh.
Misha Tzerko, our hero, has already lost a boyfriend to such a movement, so you can say that he has a very big ax to grind when he decides to infiltrate the Stronger Wings Camp and Conference Center for a week-long recovery program. He is doing all this in order to write an article for the magazine Options. His plan takes a detour of sorts when he meets an lover from his past, Jude Stone, also attending the same program.
Now, I personally don't believe in the gay recovery moment. I'm on very good terms with some priests who are happy to explain to me how those programs work - please don't hold that against me - and from what I've heard and from reading the pamphlets they pass to me, I don't see how one can fully reform from attending such programs. There's no solid scientific and psychological foundation in those programs - just plenty of peer pressure and guilt tripping. Therefore, I am on KZ Snow's side in this.
But goodness me, Jude In Chains is about 130 pages of blistering condemnation from the author's pulpit, delivered in an increasingly tedious self-righteous tone mixed with eye-rolling sarcasm and cynicism through Misha. Misha is such a predictable and unlikable protagonist - I could picture him with a permanent sneer on his face because he seems incapable of deviating from his script of forced and monotonous sarcasm. Even when he's having a quickie with a bartender early in the story, he can't resist from mocking the situation. It's hard not to roll up my eyes at a hero who can't seem to bring himself to enjoy anything. He's like... well, he reminds me of some first-year film school students who affect an artificial air of better-than-everyone kind of pretentiousness. I'm tempted to tell him, "Dude, you're getting off with a bartender in some bar - no need to act so superior to everybody. You're a rutting douchebag like the rest of us."
Jude In Chains is way too preachy and condemnatory for my liking - it seems more like propaganda written by angry people than a gay romance story - and worse, the message is delivered via a fellow who is trying way too hard to be cynical and sarcastic. There has to be a better way to deliver a message via a romance story, I'm sure.
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