Double Down (Shadow of the Templar #2)

Title: Double Down
Author: M. Chandler
Publisher: Lulu
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Action, Adventure
Length: Novel/ 350 pages
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

A guest review by Kassa


THE BLURB:

“Hypothetically, I was wondering how you’d feel about working on the side of the good guys. On a purely contractual and highly erratic basis, mind you.” Little did Simon suspect the explosive consequences that would arise from his offer.

Because now Jeremy Archer has a double: another thief with skills and abilities eerily similar to Jeremy’s own. When this mysterious double falls afoul of Simon and his team, Simon asks for Jeremy’s help, because who better to catch Jeremy Archer than… Jeremy Archer?

If Jeremy Archer is anything, however, he’s unpredictable–and there’s more at stake here than Simon could have imagined. Because in the halls of the FBI ‘double’ has another meaning…

The second book in the Shadow of the Templar series, newly revised and updated for the trade paperback edition!

Shadow of the Templar Series

THE REVIEW:

Double Down is the second book in the Shadow of the Templar series and it’s more than double the length of the previous book. Due to the way the story starts and continues, you’ll absolutely have to have read the first book, Morning Star, to really understand and recognize the characters in this one. The story drops you immediately into the action with Simon and his Team Templar looking at a series of heists with a very remarkable style. In fact the style is so similar to Archer’s that Simon calls in the thief to help catch the other thief. In pure Archer style, not everything is as easy as Simon would like and the antics of his team cause no end of gray hair to their leader.

In the first book the non-stop action and hilarious comic relief of the team set a great tone. Here the second book tries to continue that tone but not as successfully as the first book. The plot is somewhat lost in the meandering and non-stop witty commentary and childish behavior. What was funny and enjoyable in the first book – how this close knit team often hit, joked, and picked on each other – starts to run long in Double Down when the majority of the 350 page book is filled with such antics. While they are enjoyable to start, very quickly I realized the entire book is one long comic joke on each other and the non-stop commentary and hits started to become less funny and more immature and annoying as the book progresses.

Part of this difficulty is that the case presented – the similar thief – is not very action filled. Mostly the team sits around and tries to figure out where the thief will strike and there is a VERY brief action scene when the thief does attempt to steal something, but mostly this is a paperwork filled case. So the story tries to rely on the chemistry of the team and Simon/Archer to carry the entertainment factor, which it does mostly. The antics are indeed funny and the dialogue witty and snappy with classic comments, back and forth banter that has become the hallmark of this series. If this ran long, well a more action filled case would have helped some.

Unfortunately I was disappointed that the characters gained almost no additional depth or development. Team Templar is still not very recognizable from each other, although I am learning who is who more but there is still very little to nothing known about the majority of the team. Their names blend together and their actions are often so similar, it doesn’t really matter who spoke or offered what quip. Although the story is told from Simon’s perspective, there is no development to him. His thoughts, emotions, and motivations are a mystery and he comes across very standoffish in this book. He constantly tells Archer how worthless and unimportant the man is, yet sleeps with him whenever Simon feels like it. The constant mixed messages not only translate to Archer but to the reader, since we’re offered nothing to help understand Simon and his actions. Thus I was left wondering why Archer bothered with Simon. Simon’s not an ass per se, but he is very self-centered and controlling while dismissive of just about everyone. He clearly has his reasons and perhaps more depth than the story is offering but the lack of any internal thoughts – especially considering the length and slow pace of the story – was very disappointing.

There is one character given more depth and he shines in this book, Jeremy Archer. Here more of his past is explained, even as his point of view and motivations are never offered. His past is told while swapping stories and the subtly of his emotions comes through even a very British demeanor. Simon is very good at reading Jeremy and offers his internal thoughts on the actions of the thief, so through Simon the reader gets to know Jeremy even better than Simon. Their chemistry is hot and undeniable but Archer is clearly the driving force of their liaison. Simon’s rigid moral code won’t allow him to “like” Archer and thus the thief must be the continuing factor in the relationship. This works somewhat, but still I was left disappointed that Archer’s reasons and thoughts are hidden. Not too disappointed but I did want to know why Archer stayed with Simon and how he viewed Simon’s confusing actions.

The writing and dialogue is very similar to the first book but the gaps in strong editing show more here. There are way too many superfluous scenes that add nothing to the book, characters, or story but reiterate the Team dynamics. By now this is well established and the yet the book seems to stick to the one trick that works – childish antics. This book could have shined with a much tighter plot and good editing; there are way too many commas and editing problems. I admit I have some trepidation knowing the next two books are 540 and 495 pages respectively. If the action is fast and there is less banter, then what is there will shine. Too much of a good thing can ruin it.

For fans of the first book, I’d still recommend Double Down with only a few hesitations. The entertainment factor is still there but there are more glaring problems in this offering that are not overcome. While I have some concerns about future books, I’ll give it a try and suggest you do the same.

If anyone’s read the entire series and can tell me if the characters are developed in future novels, please let me know! If the characters are given more to them, I’ll definitely continue. If it’s just more banter, I would probably pass. Though I wouldn’t pass on some sex scenes that aren’t fade to black.

16 comments

  • Kassa

    >>I think I’ll take a chance on the third book (540 pgs!) < < Did you say 540 pages? I'm hyperventilating already. 😀

  • Kassa
    I’m disappointed that Double Down had so many problems. I would have asked the question “Where’s the meat”? If Double Down is mostly banter throughout a 350 page book, how could the author sustain the dialogue with not much of a plot?
    *
    I was looking forward to reading the entire series after you gave the first book, Morning Star, such a high rating. Now I’m not so sure.
    *
    Excellent job on the review as usual Kassa and I’ll wait to see if you decide to read book 3.

    • Hi Wave 🙂
      I was pretty disappointed too considering I loved the first book so much. And you hit my issue very accurately – where is the depth to the story? Where is the real characterization? Dialogue is fun but perhaps because I don’t read much fanfiction, it runs dry for me after a while and I want more.
      *
      I’d say no matter what, the first book is worth reading. It easily stands on its own without needing a sequel so you can read it and enjoy it without going further.
      *
      I think I’ll take a chance on the third book (540 pgs!) as most have said the action picks up and I’ll hope the characterization is finally fleshed out more fully. Maybe just not immediately lol.

  • Hi Kassa,
    oooh…only 3,75…Double down is almost my favourite in the series…
    *
    I must say in advance I am a fan. SOTT was what ultimately hooked me on m/m, and I shared with gaycrow the Q/A session with the author. Chandler is indeed very open to her readers, even kindly answered my questions by email.
    That said, I can confirm that the style doesn’t change a lot. The entire series is in fact one huge novel. But in the next book you will learn a lot more about the characters, because it has diffeing points of views, and the action is definitely better. A lot of fans like “With a Bullet” best; I don’t, but that’s just me.
    *
    I liked Double Down better because in my opinion, the relationship between Simon and Jeremy changes there. The banter didn’t bother me, but again that’s just me.

    • Hi Feliz! Well everyone is different and it’s always fun to see which in a series attracts each person. I’ll probably have to read the entire series to pick a favorite but it’d be hard to top the first book in my opinion.
      *
      The banter doesn’t bother me, on the contrary, it’s funny and entertaining. I just found myself wanting MORE than just banter. The comments and antics started to blur together for me into a repetitive nature so it took away the fun (for me). The witty comments are great and they pack more punch when they come out of nowhere than constantly.
      *
      But I do give kudos to the author, who everyone has said is a wonderful person and I’ve no doubt. Thankfully I’m only reviewing the work and not the author.

  • The next book, With a Bullet, moves things along a little faster, mostly due to the fact that the story starts with someone getting shot. Most of the character development happens with Mike and Nate.
    *
    I agree there are parts of the series that drag on forever. For example the “traveling” Simon has to endure to find Jeremy in “High Fidelity”. Almost thirty pages of plane rides, boat rides, smugglers; all of which could have been condensed into one page. But if you weather the storm you get to see a long awaited reunion.
    *
    I wish The Shadow of the Templar series was better edited, but I still love it for the team banter and strained relationship between Jeremy and Simon. Hopefully the third book will be more to your liking.

    • ooo Thank you Kim! It’s good to know the third book moves faster and that helps cement my decision to read it. I do like the banter and really who wouldn’t love Archer/Simon? Even fade to black they have more chemistry than a dozen other explicit novels.
      *
      With everyone’s advise, I’ll continue on with hope.

  • I’m with Lady M here. This is one of those series that became an obsession for me. Once I got to the end I re-read in a loop over and over again. I love Jeremy. Simon did annoy me, but he has so many issues that I sort of forgave him in the end.
    *
    It might be that you have to read the whole series to enjoy it better.
    *
    Poor Chandler! We all wanted more of those “fade-to-black” scenes. Her explanation that they interrupted the pace of the stories is true; they do hurtle along at break-neck speed. However, she’s very obligingly written some fantastic snippets which are very satisfying.
    *
    Her interaction with her fans is amazing. We had a wonderful Q&A session with her. The internet is a wondrous thing.
    *
    The Live Journal community has 187 watchers, so I guess there are a few interested readers. 🙂

    http://community.livejournal.com/teamtemplar/profile
    *
    (Can you tell I’m not objective either? :D)

    • I’m not surprised she has quite a few fans and readers! Her style is unique, fun, and entertaining. I think if anything her series just lacks a strong editing hand that would take out the repetitive scenes while keeping the heart of the books consistent.
      *
      I’ll try her next book but I’m not sure if reading the entire series at once is a smart option, for me anyway. I found that ~pg 130 of Double Down that the constant banter was wearing on me and I actually was thinking of putting it down for a while. I didn’t and did get to the end but I think if I read all 4 back to back, the series would lose enjoyment. But that’s just me and there are plenty of series I can read over and over that others tire from.
      *
      If you love it, you don’t have to be objective! 😀

  • This is why I like reading reviews for books I’ve already read! You’ve eloquently expanded on why I lost interest in the story. The “banter” got boring at some point and the pace of the plot as it were was definitely dragging.
    *
    I have to admit, I only skimmed through the rest of the series (mostly to find out about what would happen between Jeremy and Simon), so don’t quote me, but from what I read, the style is pretty much the same. Things do happen and it wasn’t “just banter”, but there’s no big change in the writing and the character development is still pretty much “implicit”, as in, you got to read between the lines. That didn’t work for me, but it was a fun read nonetheless. I’d say keep it for a rainy day!

    • Yea I may try the third one when I can put it down between reading. I really like the humor but 540 pgs of it is daunting. Thanks for the update and I’ll keep going but probably not immediately. Need some lag time in between.

  • I started reading your review and I realised I recognized the story…. but I knew I hadn’t bought it as a ebook, I’ve read it online. So I went to check and I was right 🙂 I’m not crazy, I have been reading this series online. Then I took a closer look at the site I’ve been reading it on, to see that it wasn’t breaking copywrite or I was doing something illegal 😉 and I read the author faqs and *puh* I wasn’t 😛 the author herself put it up as a “free read” online, and then made it avaliable as ebooks. If anyone wants the link to the site let me know. Just had to tell you about my “research”:). Have a great day!

    • Hi Maddie, you’re right. It is available as a free read. I’m currently reading the PDF copies that are available for purchase for $0.99 thus the link to the download copies. In my review of the first book, I mentioned the series is available online for free or download at a cost. I should have also clarified for this one too.
      Hope you’re enjoying it!

  • I must admit that I am not very objective when it comes to this series. I’ve read all four novels one after another, like one HUGE novel really, and my (mainly) positive opinion is based on the entire series. I love it and I can’t help it. I love Jeremy & Simon, Mike, Sandra, Johnny, Nate, Dave, I like the banter, naivete, action, all of it. I highly recommend that you read all of it to form the final opinion. Oh, they will grow, all right, in both With A Bullet and, especially, High Fidelity (this is Simon’s eye opener), but sex – nah. M. Chandler thought the sex scenes would disrupt the pace. She wrote ‘the missing scenes’ and some additional shorts (you can find them on her site), but you’ll have to read the entire series to be able to enjoy them. ~_^

    • Hi there! I do enjoy the series and I’m a huge fan of Archer/Simon and the team. I’m definitely not slamming them. I just want more to the books than just banter. It’s fun, but it started to feel like empty calories when I wanted to know more about the characters. I’ll try the third book and hope for a quicker pace and tighter, less meandering story.

      Oh I know there’s no sex lol. I’m somewhat surprised at the reasoning but I don’t feel the lack of it is detrimental. Just if you’re going to throw so many repetitive scenes in, why not add sex! Or I’m just a perv.

      • “Or I’m just a perv.”
        ~
        Nope, sorry, you are not. ^^ Or maybe we all are, since I don’t think I’ve meat a reader of this series who didn’t ask the question “Why not sex?” The interaction between Simon and Jeremy is just soooo delicious. Ah, but, imagination is a wonderful thing. XD

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