My bar with free online fiction is pretty low. Was the story compelling? Did the characters sound realized? Was I able to sink into the writing? Was there some use of grammar and punctuation? Did it have an ending??? (Instead of being lost in the depressing wasteland of broken dreams known as “Abandoned Works-in-Progress”…?)
Even with my low free fiction bar, The Morning Star, part one of Shadow of the Templar series, was a nicely solid read, and is easy to recommend for m/m fans of capers and action romance.
The story follows Simon, who leads an FBI team of specialists who have talents that range from fast driving, to explosives, to hacking networks. They’re brought to a swanky party to prevent the potential theft of a huge diamond, and here is where Simon comes face to face with professional thief Jeremy Archer, a smooth-talking, ceiling-scaling operator who knows, to Simon’s chagrin, how to work around even the most skilled of FBI teams.
But even smooth Jeremy can be surprised, and soon he and Simon are working together to prevent that precious gem from being the igniter in a terrorist attack.
The word for Simon and Jeremy is “UST”—unresolved sexual tension—as these two banter and play against each other. Jeremy is the most overt with his flirtations, which confuses Simon at first. Is my enemy coming on to me? BUT thankfully Simon doesn’t stay too icy to Jeremy’s raised eyebrows and sneaky smiles, and slowly starts to allow Jeremy to worm his way into his mind and maybe be something more than just a criminal.
I really enjoyed Jeremy and Simon’s interactions in the story, and the second half of the book flew by with lots of action. I will say that the first half felt much slower though, and my main beef with it is that the author really loves her team of characters, which is great, but a team of six is hard to juggle and introduce at once, and for the first 50% or so, they felt very interchangeable, except for Sandra, the one woman on the team. Even in the second half, only a few of them felt very distinct.
It’s good to know for high heat lovers that there is no sex in this story, although things progress in that direction. (There is a free short story coda to this book that does have sexy times, but I would save it for after.)
The Morning Star is the first in a complete four-part novel series, and I am intrigued enough by Jeremy and Simon to continue on.
Interestingly enough, the first book is also the shortest, less than 200 pages, where books 2-4 are between 300+ to 500+ pages. (Normally I LOVE long books, although I am a little wary that these might be full of banter between the many characters, but still, Chandler’s writing is compelling enough to take the plunge.)
If you’re wondering how you can get in on this action romance, you can read this book and the sequels for free from Chandler’s websites here or here. They are also very affordable (less than $1 each) on Amazon, which is a pretty sweet deal, especially with the later, longer books.
And for those already on Team Templar, you may enjoy knowing that just like any other series, it has fanfic on AO3.