M. Chandler: Shadow of the Templar: High Fidelity (Book 4)

I love it when a story starts with a situation that’s nigh impossible to get out of, but you know it will work out, so the journey there is one with which you want the question of how convincingly can it be done to be answered. All pages read, I am convinced. But that’s not the same as being satisfied. No, I was not entirely satisfied, but I was amused nonetheless.

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The difference between being convinced and being amused is Simon and Mike. I don’t care to spend too much time on him, so I’ll start with Mike. Simply put: I don’t like him.

I’m going to go ahead and retract my previous observation that Mike is annoyingly real. While I have had the unfortunate pleasure of having known (thank goodness for past tense) someone like that, there are some things about Mike that lead him nauseatingly into the stereotype and caricature territory. Each time he appears gives me more reasons not to like him, even as a character. If you’ve read the story, you may understand when I say that he was, in and of himself, a parade of tropes. And that’s all I’m going to say on him.

Before I get into Simon, I want to talk briefly about the team. I must admit, I knew this book would take the story out of the US. There’s only so much time Jeremy was going to spend over there when he promised to keep his dealings off US soil and when Simon was still mired in denial. In regards to that, I knew that Simon would be chasing Jeremy down, but I wasn’t sure how the rest of the team was going to make it to wherever Simon ended up. I have no complaints about their methods or alibis, but I have a bone to pick with their justifications and expectations, rather, Sandra’s.

I got such a rush from Simon’s conversation over breakfast with Sandra. It was out there and I, for one, was relieved. Admitting that he and Jeremy are friends to himself was a big step, but to even go beyond that and acknowledge more than that to someone else, well, I almost wanted to be happy about it–but he had yet to be clear with Jeremy, so I put that on hold. It’s because of this conversation that I just couldn’t understand Sandra’s actions. I didn’t like how she had the nerve to take offense to anything when their very presence put Jeremy in danger. He didn’t ask for them–any of them–to be there, but he reworked his plan a second time to take them into consideration. They were intruding. They were a burden. They, well, Sandra on their behalf, had no right making demands of Jeremy regarding what they would and would not do. So, what if he needed something to happen that was out of their bounds, but their very presence required it to be so, were they just going to abandon him? If so, then why be there in the first place? Jeremy handled it well, as is his way, but they put a lot of unnecessary stress on him. Then all of Sandra’s second guessing and challenges to Jeremy just pissed me off. I understand that they were there for Simon, but he was there for Jeremy and Sandra–confirmed or not–knew the real reason why. Simon made his own choice to be there, so she should have taken her aggression out on Simon and let it end there.

Everyone else was truly there for Simon and didn’t actually question the situation. They understood and trusted Simon enough to go along regardless of whether they knew the whole story or not and even knowing it was a story of Jeremy’s telling they remained. No matter what some of them may have said to the contrary, that team trusted Jeremy and not just because Simon seemed to. But Sandra often seemed like she was there just to police Jeremy. I think she just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Jeremy was a stand-up guy. To her credit, though, Sandra was a voice of reason at times and the notion of having to deal with her was enough to make Simon rethink some things, but over all, I think that her behavior was out of line. There’s a modest part of me that feels like she has lingering attachments form a bygone time that goes beyond the team aspect and she feels like Jeremy is trying to take Simon away from, not the team, but her. Aaaaaand so that bone’s been picked, now to the mausoleum for Simon.

I had always thought Jeremy was incredibly brave to kiss Simon in the air duct in book 1. Sexuality aside, kissing someone who hasn’t given you permission or explicitly shown interest is risky, then when you top it off with who they were and the situation they were in, now it’s playing a game with your life. And to be quite honest, I thought it was terribly cozy in the air duct and giggled at how awesome it would be if they kissed, but I didn’t actually expect it to happen. Simon acknowledged the flirting when they were in the diner, but just because he didn’t shut him down right away, it didn’t have to mean he was interested–placating the enemy, things being as they were. It was one-sided, to me anyway, until Simon admitted that he got it after Jeremy kissed him. And I really wanted to know what he got exactly, because I did not see their levels of attraction being mutual–interest on Simon’s end and outright attraction from Jeremy, but not mutual. Mutual didn’t happen, well, wasn’t accepted and admitted until the end… and not even then, to be honest.

After all the things they went through after book 1, I don’t understand Simon’s hesitation when it came to honoring Jeremy’s request to make the call. How many times has Jeremy called and asked him for a favor? Especially after he understood the circumstances Jeremy was operating under, how could he drag his feet? I think Simon spent so long in denial that he clouded his own judgement. Jeremy choosing to call Simon was, in a way, a goodbye (the first of three) in the event he could not outpace Karpol and I don’t see how Simon didn’t pick up on it. Of all the times for Simon to pretend that Jeremy wasn’t as–excusing his profession, but even then–trustworthy and honorable as he, in fact, was, this truly had to be the worst. I’m glad that was not taken care of so easily and Simon was forced to face a few things in the process. For example, the pregnant sky blue whale.

Not unlike Simon, I was pretty beat after his trip. The account was detailed enough to make me feel it without the whole thing being too prosaic. He arrived not too much worse for the wear and that was more than he deserved. Later, I was quite indebted to Ethan for putting Simon on the spot. I didn’t know how much longer I could take him getting away with skirting the issue–the conversation with Sandra doesn’t count because that was more confirming the sex and vaguely agreeing not to talk about the fact that there’s more to it. Jeremy’s acknowledgement, to some degree, of his feelings for Simon is one of the reasons I liked him. Beyond him being unashamed of his sexuality–although he wasn’t broadcasting it–he was unashamed of his feelings. It can make for engaging storytelling, but I will never truly understand why it’s–more often than not–a go-to stumbling block for many characters. whether or not they are expressed is something to consider, but the feelings in and of themselves should not be a point of contention. It seems to me that Simon was not at all unconcerned about the homosexual aspect of their relationship, but he gave me the impression that his biggest concern was that he was consorting with a criminal. He could hardly admit that they were friends to himself, let alone that he had feelings for the guy. I’m of the same mind as Ethan where Simon is concerned and if it weren’t for his multilayered internal conflict, I may have not liked him at all. But there came a point where the team accepted Jeremy, not so much as one of their own, but as admissible company, I’ll say, and the consorting issue, to a certain degree, was no longer and that just left the issue of them being two men. Which I don’t think Simon had as much of a problem acknowledging it himself as he does letting people know. I don’t know how to put it. He’s not ashamed of his sexuality, but isn’t so keen on people knowing. On the other hand, I think he wasn’t so keen on keeping that kind of secret either, at least from his team. That intersection being the crossroads for him. Moreover, I think that Jeremy being the person he was involved with just made it more complicated in his mind because it’s Jeremy (and everything that goes with that) and recusant to what he had been saying, not just this guy.

Despite all of the nonsense that spilled from his lips, though it wasn’t love from the beginning and he never so much as admitted that they were anything more than bed partners, Simon had a Jeremy shaped space in his heart from the day they met. Love came later and he knew it. He even knew it was mutual and he fought against it, but he knew it nonetheless. I don’t intend to dismiss Simon’s guilt, sense of responsibility, and his perpetual struggle, but heaping the burden of safety for Team Templar on Jeremy when he didn’t ask any one of them to be there was out of line and then using the termination of their relation as a threat if something went wrong proves that he at the very least understood how Jeremy felt, and that makes it one of the lowest things he could have ever done. And for that, among many other things, he will never be worthy of Jeremy. If he doesn’t know it already it, once he stops BSing himself, he will.

Something else that bugged me was Simon’s unfathomable obtuseness. He leads a Special Ops team for the FBI, yet he acted like covert wasn’t in his vocabulary. He was loud and obnoxious when he saw Jeremy at the newsstand. You know the man is running for his life, have you not the wherewithal to take note of appropriate behavior? I’m not buying that he was so happy to see Jeremy that he forgot himself. Although it was rather cute. Still, it baffled me to no end. Then there was him breaking his promise not to argue about the decisions Jeremy made and dismissing his requests. Jeremy told him the guy he was meeting was jumpy and wanted him to come alone, but Simon had to tag along and even had the nerve to get out of the car. Jeremy’s whole plan to take on Volpe could have blown up in smoke if Bran decided Simon’s presence violated his request. And then what? It’s like he completely forgot about the fact that Jeremy was doing fine long before he came, that he could take care of himself. Where was his common sense?

On the subject of Volpe… so, book 3 did not have enough Jeremy for my taste, but the comparatively short time without Jeremy after the Volpe encounter felt like eons. Even though I realized something else was at play, I pretty much held my breath until Jeremy returned to the page. Also, I very much enjoyed Simon quietly spazzing out back at the house and then later, not so quietly to an ostensibly unconcerned Jeremy.

And that takes me back to Simon’s incongruous trips to oblivion. So, the call to request a call to Annabelle was the first goodbye–he missed that. The kiss in the kitchen after Mike and Jeremy returned was the second goodbye; Simon didn’t pick up on that either. Then the return to the scene of the crime after which Jeremy wanted to lie low, was the third goodbye. Though he said to call him in a week or so, Jeremy didn’t think he would and Simon… Simon didn’t realize until much later. Not so much oblivious, but more of a do know what you’re doing kind of thing was his decision to sleep in the black room. What if his final decision was otherwise, but he got caught by someone on the team, how would he explain sleeping in the black room? Of course that wouldn’t be the story, but what if? In this case, I suppose taking his stuff and making the decision to sleep in there in the first place meant that he’d pretty much made up his mind already… I even think that he felt left behind when he didn’t find anything in the room after turning it inside out. I was getting very happy right about that time because I could just feel it coming; I could feel his resolve.

Now, up to this point, I had just wanted to hear Simon say something to Jeremy–directly to Jeremy. I felt cheated when both his conversation with Jeremy and the team did the typical BL oh-ah-turn-the-page-and-it’s-the-next-morning-thing! And for some reason I didn’t even consider him going to Upstairs or OPR, so I had nary an idea that him revealing his relationship to his superiors would feel positively orgasmic–upper octave, arresting sighs and all. My goodness. It didn’t quite make up for missing out on his talk with Jeremy, but since I had hopes that they would kind of rehash it when they were reunited, I let it tie me over. Although the rehashing never came, the unexpected meeting didn’t lose any of its sheen and I have to say that I still get chills when I think about.

There are times when you reach the end of a series and you say to yourself or the last page, “finally.” There are times when you reach the end of a series and you say to the book or the author, “noooooooooooooooooooo!” Then there are times when you finish a series and you can’t go back to the beginning fast enough. Well, right now I’m at a peculiar place where all three are vying for dominance and I haven’t the slightest idea of which to succumb to. I have graveyard of bones to pick with most of the characters, but not the story–it was great. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten so wrapped up in one. If you hadn’t noticed, you could chart it by how my primarily spoiler free progress report degraded over the four volumes into what you see above.

As much as I read, it’s been a while since I read a lengthy story without pictures–that’s such a strange thing for me to realize. I’m kind of exhausted, actually, but happy still, because I was wondering if I still had the attention span for it. I’m quite pleased that it was through this series that I learned that I still do. But I’m not done yet. I noticed that there were short stories on the site, so I’m going to check those out soon. I’m guessing there will be some fill in the blank stuff and in between volumes stuff, or so I hope and maybe some porn. Porn would be nice.

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