Review Round-Up March ’16

Hello readers,

We hope that you have had a super Easter, with plenty of chocolate to enjoy, and a great read over the holiday weekend. We have been lucky with outbursts of sunshine and beautiful daffodils in bloom. This has meant some nice long walks during the day, with a relaxing evening reading, drinking tea and stuffing my face with chocolate – some of my favourite things 🙂

It seems that many authors have had new releases recently, or are just about to. It’s a busy time of year for them and bloggers. We’ve had new release reviews for Tim O’Rourke, C.J. Pinard, Laura Barnard and Martyn J. Pass(please see below), and over the following month we have reviews and/or releases from Alan Jones, Pat Spence, Mark Matthews, Lynda O’Rourke and Helena Fairfax, and more!

Also, keep a lookout for our Tamworth LitFest post, which Tina has been working on, where romance authors will be attending an event at Tamworth’s library and St. Editha’s church on Saturday 11th June, 2016. More to follow soon!

Happy reading!

Caroline & Tina 🙂

Below are all of our reviews from March 2016. Clicking on the book title will take you to our full review post, with more info on the release!

TrappedTrapped in His World (Dark Romance #1) by Roxy Sinclair, dark romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: There is no escape…

I was only supposed to be his replacement secretary for one week. Now he has me trapped in his world of twisted and dark desires. I try to get away and I can’t – but the question is – do I really want to?

Navia Watson is struggling to survive. She has just left school and can’t hold a steady job. Just when she feels that there is no hope, her best friend makes her an offer that she can’t refuse. All she has to do is be a temporary stand in secretary for her friend’s position as the secretary for some billionaire for only a week. One week for some quick cash – how hard can it be? She is in for the surprise of her life when she walks into Jason Black’s office. The dark, sexy billionaire quickly pulls her into his web, one that she can’t unravel herself from. His piercing eyes call to her very soul and the darkness lurking in their depths entices her.

She suspects that the man is dangerous, but she could never have imagined the depth of the mysteries surrounding him. By the time Navia discovers his true nature, it’s too late for her salvation. Even if is she could leave him, there’s no way he will let her go. She is his and she is not sure she really wants to get away.

This is a dark romance novella with NO cliffhanger. Intended for audiences 18+ and not for the fainthearted. Contains situations some readers might find objectionable. 

Lolita LondonTaken by the Sheriff by Lolita London, erotic, historical western romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Widowed Sheriff Terrence Evans has lost it all. No matter how much he throws himself into work, his loneliness is eating him up.

Governess Amanda Carter didn’t plan to fall for her boss, and certainly didn’t plan to submit to him out of wedlock. She quickly finds that his commanding tongue and firm hand, however, ignites something within her that nothing can extinguish.

Or so she thinks.

The passionate whirlwind comes to a halt, however, when they find out that she’s pregnant. Can they have it all together? Or is this a scandal that will tear apart more than just their hearts, but their small town as well?

This book contains explicit sex scenes and is intended for mature readers only.

jaredJared (River Pack Wolves #3) by Alisa Woods, NA paranormal/shifter romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: He was broken by the war. Her secret could destroy her family.

Ex-Marine sniper Jared River left the war, but the war never really left him. He’s a broken wolf who’s only good for one thing now—killing men. And he’s peering down his scope at Senator Krepky, the anti-shifter politician about to ruin the lives of all the shifters Jared loves.

Grace Krepky is the daughter of the Senator, a good girl with a passion for her father’s politics and who’s earned her way into being his campaign manager. Only problem? She’s secretly a shifter… and the clock is ticking until her own father inadvertently forces that secret into the open, ruining both their lives.

Jared’s all set to pull the trigger when he sees something shocking through the Senator’s glass walls—his daughter is a wolf. Jared puts his gun aside to go after the fleeing girl, but he already knows this can only end in one of two ways—either he’ll convince her to reveal herself to the Senator and stop his anti-shifter legislation, or Jared will have to assassinate her father.

If only she wasn’t making him come alive again…

Jared is a complete novel with HEA, the third in the River Pack Wolves trilogy (all standalone stories, but best enjoyed if you read them in order!).

Contains scorching hot shifters, alpha military heroes, and dark family secrets. Only readers over 18 should dive into the deliciously hot world of the River brothers.

boardedBoarded (novella) by Annie Nicholas, sci-fi romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Assigned as an interpreter to a mysterious alien race, Liaison Sadie Beckit crosses multiple star systems to the remote Cyngi home world on an old space freighter. Knowledge is essential when dealing with aliens. A misspoken word or a careless gesture could lead to wars so liaisons are necessary to keep the peace, but Sadie is kept in the dark about her new employer. This mysterious species has chosen to withhold most of their culture and language information.

All she’s told is to accompany Ambassdor Nual back to Central Station. Sounds easy enough, but the lawless void of space holds many dangers.

Necessary EvilsNecessary Ends (Nick Harland #1) by Bill Carson, crime thriller (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: John Kane’s quiet mundane world is suddenly ripped apart and he is thrust into a hellish nightmare existence after the murder of his beloved wife. The pain and anguish over his wife’s murder has been harnessed, molded and channeled into a hatred of the most abnormal ferocity, and an un-closable door had now been wrenched open in his mind, and he had crossed over into the darker realms of humanity where the merciless, cruel, vicious and uncompromising sides of human nature reside. His brain had been rewired and the switch had been flicked.

Has all this been preordained? Are there sinister dark forces at work at here? Necessary Evils will have you on the edge of your seat with your heart in your mouth.

Porn Money & Wannabe Mommy2Porn Money & Wannabe Mummy (The Debt & the Doormat #3) by Laura Barnard, chick-lit, comedy/humour (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: What is it about turning thirty that sends rational women into a tailspin?

Suddenly going from having all the time in the world, to cringing at the ticking of her biological clock, Poppy is drowning under the strain of trying to get pregnant.
With a dad in the throes of a mid-life crisis, a crazy mother-in-law and time racing towards Lilly’s wedding, will she be able to cope with it all…and give Ryan the baby they so desperately want?
Finally able to inherit her dad’s porn money, Jazz can’t wait to be rich! She can buy a house in Chelsea, go out partying with her old mates and start living how she deserves.
But with Ollie, Jemima and Meryl each clawing at their own little piece of her happiness, will she have to leave behind those closest to her in exchange for it?

The real question is, can Poppy and Jazz rescue their own lives before everything gets ruined, or will their own stubbornness destroy the lives they’ve created?

Evening BreezeEvening Breeze (novella) by R.M. Miller, literary erotica (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: University student Ray was planning to spend the summer on a simple walking holiday with his gregarious girlfriend, but at the last minute she informs him she’s off on an exciting trip overseas with other friends, including a guy who is sweet on her, and without Ray. Despondent and dejected, Ray consoles himself by accepting an off the cuff invitation to join the pretty but reserved and difficult to know fellow student Daphne at her family home deep in the countryside. Ray sees it as an opportunity to get revenge on his girlfriend with a distracting summer fling, but he doesn’t count on falling in love with Daphne, nor is he prepared for the wayward attentions of Daphne’s scheming younger sister Izzy. An enchanting, provocative and powerful tale of passion, betrayal and love, Evening Breeze is a story you will never forget.

The Unfinished Tale of Sophie AndersonThe Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson by Martyn J. Pass, contemporary romance, drama (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Welding, a Jack Reacher novel and a night in with a bottle of red wine seems to be as exciting as Sophie Anderson’s life gets.

That is until a stint of on-site work brings Tom into her life. He’s been her foreman for years now but when they’re forced to work together for the first time, Sophie begins to see that happiness might have finally taken a chance on her and that the often overlooked manager might just be the man of her dreams.

But Mel, her best friend and flat mate, has a harrowing past that returns with devastating results and Sophie is forced to wonder whether happiness is real or just a fairy tale told to hide the bars and walls of a man-made prison.

Love, heat and passion are as much a part of Sophie’s tale as the grief and suffering which follows her every step. Expect to find her unfinished tale a real and painful journey into the life of someone who might be working a cubicle down from you or in the welding bay on the other side of the workshop. 

Above ProtectionAbove Protection (Imperfect Heroes #1) by C.J. Pinard, contemporary military/bad-boy romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: He’s bearded, angry, highly trained, and has a job to do.
She’s the damsel in distress who’s smarter than she looks, and doesn’t want anyone’s help.
Could it be they both need something neither will admit to? Fate fuelled by the laws of attraction may just decide for them.

I didn’t ask for this. I was just doing my job, and they have the nerve to put me on a Witness Protection detail? This is crap. I’ll do my assignment, then go back to my job and what I love – kicking ass and taking names. I hadn’t spent 6 years in the Marine Corps to be put on babysitting duty once I’d joined the FBI. The witness they assigned me to, Rayanne, is an annoying, brainless blonde with a sassy mouth and a body that belonged on a website you had to pay to access. Not that I noticed or anything.

I can look after myself. I don’t need anyone’s help, and the government is being ridiculous for putting me in the Witness Protection Program. I’ll testify against my former bosses and then go back to my life as a single girl in the big city. I love my career as a paralegal, and once this Neanderthal they’d assigned to babysit me was out of my life, I’ll go back to it. I just wish he wasn’t so easy on the eyes. The beard, hard body, and that voice. Why couldn’t they have sent me someone ugly – and nice? Because Duke is neither of those things.

Vampires of Maze 2Vampires of Maze Part 2 (Beautiful Immortals, series 2) by Tim O’Rourke, paranormal thriller adventure, mystery, romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: From Tim O’Rourke #1 bestselling author of ‘Werewolves of Shade’ (Beautiful Immortals Series One) comes ‘Vampires of Maze’ (Beautiful Immortals Series Two) a vampire and werewolf romance with a twist.

Witch, Julia Miller, has been sent by the Wicce to bring an end to the war that rages between the Beautiful Immortals. Joining a pack of werewolves, Julia must travel with them to a land unknown to her. Here she will learn the horrifying truth about the dark secrets hidden in the town of Maze.

To stay alive, Julia will not only have to figure out who to trust but also who to love. For Julia’s worst nightmares are about to get a whole lot more terrifying as she heads into the war raging between the vampires and werewolves where even her own magic abilities won’t be able to protect her.

Note: This ends on an unbearable cliff-hanger. Part Three will be published within the next few weeks.

For readers 16+

**REVIEW** The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson by Martyn J. Pass

If you’re looking for a short, contemporary romance, tear-jerker then please look no further. His first time at writing a romance story, author Martyn J. Pass has certainly hit the nail on the head with this tender storyline, and it’s beautiful but touching execution. Get your hankies at the ready for this MUST-READ!

The Unfinished Tale of Sophie AndersonTitle: The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson

Author: Martyn J. Pass

Genre: Romance, contemporary, drama

Release date: March 17, 2016

Length: 133 pages

Blurb: Welding, a Jack Reacher novel and a night in with a bottle of red wine seems to be as exciting as Sophie Anderson’s life gets.

That is until a stint of on-site work brings Tom into her life. He’s been her foreman for years now but when they’re forced to work together for the first time, Sophie begins to see that happiness might have finally taken a chance on her and that the often overlooked manager might just be the man of her dreams.

But Mel, her best friend and flat mate, has a harrowing past that returns with devastating results and Sophie is forced to wonder whether happiness is real or just a fairy tale told to hide the bars and walls of a man-made prison.

Love, heat and passion are as much a part of Sophie’s tale as the grief and suffering which follows her every step. Expect to find her unfinished tale a real and painful journey into the life of someone who might be working a cubicle down from you or in the welding bay on the other side of the workshop. 




REVIEW ***** (5* RATING)

The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson is one of the most touching, heartfelt stories I have read in quite a while. The storyline is extremely realistic, with believable characters and told in a very natural way.

Sophie spends most of her free time taking care of her best friend, Mel. After a miscarriage and an abusive relationship, Mel needed a friend to take her in and be there for her. The ever-loyal friend, Sophie, was her rock. However, aside from working as a welder, and spending an evening with a bottle of red with Mel, Sophie hasn’t spent a great deal of time thinking of herself. She seems to plod on and keep going, happy enough in her own shell, but lonely all the same.

Tom, on the other hand, is a divorced father who has been through young love, coming out the other side with nothing too much to show for it. He married young, and his relationship became humdrum, with both himself and his wife feeling disconnected from the other. Does the fairy-tale ever really last? He is honest enough to admit he has made his fair share of mistakes, i.e. taking her for granted, and this makes Tom even more likeable in my eyes.

Tom is Sophie’s supervisor, keeping himself in his office for the most part, but when a job comes up where they both need to be on-site, they find themselves spending time travelling together, talking and ever so gradually getting to know each other a little better. Their relationship starts as professional, to friends, and then grows into something beautiful.

Their feelings for each other grow gradually, with neither one expecting how they would become so close. In many ways it reminded me of my own experiences and feelings, especially when Sophie and Tom spend time together away from work and they are just getting to know each other personally. Tom is a very caring person, and I particularly enjoyed reading about how kind he was, when he not only looked out for Sophie, but also for Mel.

This short romance read can be read easily within a day. I couldn’t put the book down. It really took a hold of me, and my feelings for the characters grew just as much as their feelings for each other. It is beautifully and tenderly written with great care; a very gentle read, but with a surprising twist towards the end.

It has certainly left me wanting more from Sophie Anderson, as it’s lasting effects really will get to you. The reader will want to get to know more about Sophie’s past, and indeed what will become of her future. This isn’t a story that you will forget, and for that alone it is well worth the read and a high rating!

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

#FREE until Friday *The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson* by Martyn J. Pass

From the author of  the post-apocalyptic fantasies ‘The Wolf and the Bear’ and Haggart’s Dawn, comes a new romantic read with The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson. Released on March 17th, this fresh read is FREE until Friday, and has been added to my reading list for the near future.

The Unfinished Tale of Sophie AndersonTitle: The Unfinished Tale of Sophie Anderson

Author: Martyn J. Pass

Genre: Romance

Release date: March 17, 2016

Length: 133 pages

Blurb: Welding, a Jack Reacher novel and a night in with a bottle of red wine seems to be as exciting as Sophie Anderson’s life gets.
That is until a stint of on-site work brings Tom into her life. He’s been her foreman for years now but when they’re forced to work together for the first time, Sophie begins to see that happiness might have finally taken a chance on her and that the often overlooked manager might just be the man of her dreams.

But Mel, her best friend and flat mate, has a harrowing past that returns with devastating results and Sophie is forced to wonder whether happiness is real or just a fairy tale told to hide the bars and walls of a man-made prison.

Love, heat and passion are as much a part of Sophie’s tale as the grief and suffering which follows her every step. Expect to find her unfinished tale a real and painful journey into the life of someone who might be working a cubicle down from you or in the welding bay on the other side of the workshop. 




Prices are subject to change after Friday, so please order before then for your FREE COPY.

You can find out more about Haggart’s Dawn (with an excerpt), Martyn J. Pass and The Wolf and the Bear by following this link.

*Promo with Excerpt* Haggart’s Dawn by Martyn J. Pass

Haggart’s Dawn is Martyn J. Pass’ latest release. It has a great fantasy plot, with some strong characters for the reader to really get behind. After fighting enemies of the King for many years, Haggart and the Captain are now living in peace, but rumours begin to change all this. Is it possible that someone they once believed to be dead is now back, and wanting revenge….

And, for this week only (Mon 16th – Fri 20th March), it is FREE on Amazon UK and Amazon US. (Please note that the price will be subject to change after Friday 20th).

After having Martyn’s ‘The Wolf and the Bear’ on my reading list, I am also excited to say that Haggart’s Dawn has also been added.

Haggart's Dawn Cover CTitle: Haggart’s Dawn

Author: Martyn J. Pass

Genre: Fantasy

Release date: March 12th, 2015

Length: 243 pages

Blurb: A vision of the future shows war is coming to Ulfwen. Can Haggart and the Captain discover the truth before it is too late? Or will their world end in fire as the dead return to avenge themselves? 

Haggart and the Captain fought the enemies of the King for most of their lives before being pardoned by those who overthrew him. After retiring to run an Inn out on the northern borders, strange rumors reach them – rumors of a terrible catastrophe ahead and those who listen to them are fleeing north. The Council is worried and Hunters are seen abroad, tracking down Summoners – those with the power to manipulate the very world around them, and murdering them in cold blood. 

Unable to live a life of peace after years on the battlefield, they set out at once to discover the truth behind these strange events. They soon realise, however, that someone from their past, someone they believed to be dead, has somehow returned. With him come machines far more terrifying than anything they’ve seen before and destroying them becomes their only hope of stopping him from taking over their world. 

Can Haggart and the Captain act in time to stop him, or will the dead be summoned to life again to exact their revenge upon the living?

Bio of Martyn J. Pass

Martyn J. Pass was born in Lancashire, England and is a tradesman in Metal Work. His first book, ‘At The Dawn Of The Ruined Sun’ was written in 1999 as Martyn was reaching the end of his time in High School. It was first published in paper back by the time he’d left. It tells the story of several friends trying to survive in a world where adults have been killed by a deadly plague. Set primarily in the UK, this book precedes the ideas of many films and books that would go on to follow an uncannily similar story line. 

Several years later, Martyn wrote alongside his brother, Dani, to create the crime thriller ‘Waiting For Red’. Stepping away from Science Fiction for a spell, this novel follows the exploits of Ben and Spiff; notorious criminals who follow very different paths that cross with bloody and explosive results. 

Martyn returned to Sci-Fi in 2013 with the release of ‘Soul At War’ published in Kindle format. This is the first title in the John Shap series, following the exploits of Lieutenant John Shap who finds himself drawn back into a war he neither wanted nor believed in. Only a request from a friend to find his son carries him back to the battlefields of deep space and into some of the fiercest fighting he has ever seen.

The Wolf And The Bear‘The Wolf And The Bear’ was published through Kindle in May 2014 and tells the story of Alex Hogg, a girl on a quest to find a relic in the cursed city of Glass and Bone. Bear, a Dalesman, offers to be her guide and together they head south, discovering that a man from Bear’s past has plans of his own, plans to rebuild the old world – even if it means destroying the new.

Speaking in 2014, Martyn said “For me, character wins over plot. That’s not to say plot doesn’t matter, but people want great characters they can relate to. A story with a poor plot can be carried by outstanding characters who ‘steal the stage’, but a great plot with poor characters is doomed before it begins. My writing is readable because I start every novel with a hero or heroine people can get behind and then I just write down what they do. The plot follows right behind them without me even trying. That means that what you read is what the character wanted you to read, not necessarily what I wanted you to read. Sometimes they even surprise me!”

Excerpt from ‘Haggart’s Dawn’ – by Martyn J. Pass

Raiders,” said the Captain whose voice was suddenly drowned out by the screams of the villagers and the clatter of steel on steel as they crested the slope. “Talbert, stay with Lorrie. John, to the left on the rise, Haggart with me.”

Talbert muttered something but it was lost in the noise. Haggart jumped down from his horse and quickly unfastened his saddle bags and let them drop to the floor. In a few moments he’d put on his armour and helm and was back on the horse and riding alongside the Captain.

Circle around and come from the east,” said the Captain. “I’ll meet you in the middle.”

Haggart wheeled the horse to the right, leaping over a fallen lean-to and spurred the animal faster around a burning barn. As he hit the turn he saw someone, there was a flash of pink skin in the corner of his vision and he changed course, bearing down on the rapist before he had time to realise what was happening. His sword cut through the air and came down on him in a blur, slicing deeply into his chest with a spray of blood and fingers where he’d attempted to fend off the strike with a feeble hand.

He sped on, seeing that the Captain was already ahead of him on the main pathway into the village. When he reached half-way he turned and charged down two more fighting over a young woman whose clothes hung off her in tattered shreds. The first was crushed under the horse, the second had time to draw his sword and swing for him. Haggart had no room to turn but he felt something in the air suddenly whip past his ear and the raider collapsed with an arrow embedded in his neck.

Go right!” yelled the Captain as they met in the middle of the village. Haggart pulled on the reins, feeling the wind cool his sweating brow through the slits in his helmet and he saw that at the end of the path a defensive line was being formed.. They rallied behind their leader – a short, fat man who was struggling to close a clasp on his stolen armour that bore the sigil of the Council City Guard. Haggart adjusted the straps of his shield and drove his mount forward, leaning into the wind and settling into the saddle with the muscle memory of twenty years of cavalry warfare. With a roar he charged the line, finding its weak spot and hacking the scalp from the nearest raider in an arc of blood, bone and brain-matter. He sped onwards and turned as the Captain passed him to charge the rear of the line. His axe found its target, cleaving the skull of their leader in two and causing the remaining few to break ranks and run for it. Haggart gave chase immediately, killing two and maiming another before returning to the Captain who had called John down from his vantage point on the ridge.

Building by building, let’s make sure they’re dead. I’ll take the left, Haggart, you take the right. John, keep an eye out here with the horses, kill anything that tries to escape.”

Yes, Captain,” he replied.

Haggart, sweating and sore but still alive with the thrill of battle, cleared each building as quickly as he could. He found many of the villagers hiding inside and they screamed when they saw him silhouetted in the doorway, his sword dripping with blood. In the next two huts he found nothing but bloody corpses and looted rooms but in the last, a white-washed two-storey house, the rest of the village children were being protected by the Farmer and his wife.

Come any closer and we’ll butcher you, you scum!” he yelled when Haggart managed to force the door open.

I’m no raider,” he said, taking off his helmet. “We saw the fires and came to help. Are there any more?”

I don’t know,” the Farmer replied. “We’ve been hiding the little ones in here the whole time. It was the only thing I could think to do.”

You’ve done well. Me and my friend are clearing out the last of them. Their leader is dead. Wait here until I return.”

Haggart left them, closing the door behind him and meeting the Captain on the pathway.

Anything?” he asked.

The Farmer and his wife are in there with as many children as they could save. There are a few more in that house there. The rest are dead. You?”

Nothing but meat in those.” A maimed raider was crawling across the muddy ground, moaning and bleeding heavily from his cloven shoulder. The Captain strode over to him and placed his boot on his back, pushing him deeper into the bog.

Rapists and murderers,” he cried. “Thieves and scum. Not even fit to burn lest the rest of us breath your foul stink.” The wounded man squirmed under his foot, trying to claw air into his lungs. Haggart plunged his sword into the back of his neck and he went still.

What did you do that for?” asked the Captain. “Mercy is too good to be wasted on them.”

I have no time for suffering – my own or another’s. There is enough evil in the world without adding to it. Let’s…”

A scream tore through the silence of the village and his heart froze.


Her horse was rearing when they found her. One of the raiders was wrestling with the animal’s reins trying to rip them out of Lorrie’s hands and she was swinging her sword wildly but ineffectively. He managed to tear them from her and he yanked the horse downwards, grabbing her arms and pulling her off the animal. She hit the ground hard and the air was knocked out of her lungs. Seeing his chance he hitched up her robe and pinned her to the floor. John crested the hill and raised his bow, planting his first arrow in his shoulder whilst he ran and the force was enough to send him sprawling across the ground. John’s second arrow pierced his skull and left him twitching helplessly where he lay.

Lorrie – where’s Talbert?” cried Haggart as John swept her up in his arms. She was weeping hysterically, unable to answer. There was no need – he came swaggering along the road, his crossbow on his shoulder, laughing.

I got one!” he said.

Haggart ran to him, launching his fist into his stomach. Talbert doubled over and vomited.

What the hell were you thinking?” he yelled. “Why did you leave her alone?”


Haggart, seething with rage, came back to Lorrie who was sobbing into John’s shoulder. The Captain had retrieved her horse but the one with their equipment was gone.

Find it,” barked Haggart as Talbert got unsteadily back on his feet. “Or your life won’t be worth living.”

He got his breath back and turned away in search of the horse, his face still a livid red colour.

Let’s head back and see if these people need any more help,” said the Captain. Haggart, still boiling with anger, managed to nod and led his own sweating mount behind him. When they returned, the survivors were just starting to gather in the centre, already picking through the rubble for their belongings or trying to put out the fires that destroyed them. The Captain approached the Farmer who looked pale and weary as he stared at the devastation.

Is that all of them?” he asked nervously. “Are they dead?”

We think so,” replied the Captain. “Though it would be wise to be on your guard. Do you have any idea where they came from?”

One of my farm hands says he’s seen them before, gathering at some caves to the east. You’ve done more than enough for us already, we’ll deal with them,” the Farmer said, though it was clear that such a task was beyond them.

We’ll go and look,” said Haggart, putting his helmet back on. “You’ve suffered enough today.”

Aye, we will,” agreed the Captain. “In the mean while, two of our friends will deal with the dead and help you bury your own.”

Thank you, thank you so much. If you hadn’t been passing by…” The Farmer began to sob and the Captain put a gentle hand on his shoulder and assured him it would be okay.

Search the raiders,” he said to the others. “Pile up their gear in the middle of the village and give these people the first choice. After that take anything you think is valuable to us, then burn the bodies outside the village and help them bury their own. Understood?”

Aye,” said John. Lorrie was calmer now but refused to let go of John for the time being. Haggart didn’t think it was a bad thing. Then they led their horses back towards the path and turned them eastwards, feeling their sweat cool upon their backs as their breathing calmed a little.

Raiders and bandits. Under the King this would have been dealt with severely,” said the Captain. “This Council has a lot to answer for, leaving these people defenceless and their borders unchecked. Remind me, Haggart, what did we fight for again?”

It does make you think, doesn’t it? But the older I get the more I realise that it’s just a great big wheel that goes round and round. Nothing really changes. Remember how we took back Barahad one year only to hand it back during peace talks the year after?”

Aye, I remember that one,” said the Captain, laughing. “Didn’t we take it back again the year after?”

We certainly did.”

We rode in from the west and cut off their rearguard. Twice if I recall.”

General Kazak led the infantry charge the first time, remember? Grizzled man with grey hair and a bald patch. Always used to twitch when he gave commands.”

That’s the one.”

The first time we rode in hard, struck their rear lines and harassed their reinforcements until they pulled out.”

The second,” said the Captain, gesturing with his fist, “we punched straight through their pikemen before they had chance to form ranks. We were behind that hill for most of the battle. What a stupid place to put a fort. No killing grounds and too many places for us to hide in, no wonder it kept changing hands.”

The good old days, eh?” said Haggart.

The memory always tastes better than the deed I say.”

Their horses stepped deftly over a patch of broken wall and began to climb a long sloping hill that led up to the mouths of the caves that were hidden in the shadow cast by the setting sun.

Going back to what you were saying, I’ve heard that they’re even demolishing the old Forts and outposts now, using the bricks to build better housing. Back in the old days those were places to flee to in danger. Now where will these people go? They’re isolated, cut off from the help they need. Any common raider will probably love the Council now, their life is so much easier.”

Well, there’ll be a few less of them to worry about in a minute. Look up there,” said the Captain, pointing upwards.

Haggart saw that thin wisps of smoke were wriggling out from the mouths of the caves and escaping into the evening skies.

Nothing like secrecy,” said the Captain, sniggering.

They set off along the path, stopping just before the plateau that marked the entrance to the cave. A raider was gutting the body of a recently slaughtered goat and when he looked up he dropped the carcass and shouted back over his shoulder to someone just inside the mouth of the cave. He was soon joined by three more, clubs and swords in hand and they stood in a line, waiting for them to attack.

I love a warm welcome,” said the Captain. Then, turning towards the raiders he said: “We’ve killed your friends. Now we’re going to kill you.”

You’re welcome to try,” said the butcher whose hands were still bloody and Haggart could see them trembling as they gripped their feeble weapons.

We won’t be trying, I’m afraid.” The Captain climbed down from his horse and tied it to the nearest tree. Then, taking a firm grip of his axe, he pulled his visor down and began walking towards them. His armour rattled and clanked as he walked, each footstep sounding more and more terrifying as his tall form cast a deathly shadow over them.

Haggart followed, still wielding the sword and shield of Alfred Dern which glittered in the sunlight. The nearest raider stood his ground bravely enough but the one who’d been cleaning his kill, realising the cave was on a high shelf with no other exit than through them began to stumble backwards. When the Captain’s axe disembowelled his friend, he soiled his pants.