Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Truth (Finding Anna #3) by Sherri Hayes ARC review.

This review may contain spoilers for books one and two.
This review will also be reposted closer to the release date of the book.

Title; Truth
Author; Sherri Hayes
Series; Finding Anna, book three
Genre; Romance, Erotica, BDSM, Sociology > Abuse, Adult, Contemporary.
Source; Publisher, in exchange for an honest review
Format; Physical Copy
Publisher; The Writer's Coffee Shop
Publication Date; July 25th 2013 (This could change at any time without notice.)
Synopsis; The third instalment of the Finding Anna series.

For the last two months, Brianna has discovered something she never thought she would again. Hope. After the horror of being Ian’s slave for ten months, a fate she never imagined she’d escape, it feels as if she is living a dream. She has freedom she hadn’t expected to have again, and she wakes up every morning not fearing what the day will bring. There is also Stephan. The man who saved her from the daily torture she had to endure at the hands of Ian and his friends. The same man who makes her heart race with just the thought of him. Life is good. 

Outside forces are determined to conspire against them, however. When Brianna’s father shows up on her doorstep, it sends her world spiraling out of control. He brings with him new information about how Brianna ended up in Ian’s clutches, but will it make a difference? Will Stephan be able to find a way to make Ian pay for all he made Brianna suffer? As Brianna and Stephan try to find out the truth, their relationship is tested. She is forced to face her past head on, and deal with the ugly reality of what happened to her. Will Stephan’s love be enough to see her through her newest challenge, or will the fragile trust they’ve built come crumbling down around them as the truth makes itself known.
Goodreads Average Rating; 4.37*s
My Rating; 4.5*s
Would I recommend this book/series? Yes, I would.
Will I be reading anything else by this author? I have and I will. 

My Review; This isn't the last book right? There is another book after this? Because I thought this was the last book in the series, but it can't be! It just can't be!

This book. Wow I think I'm trying to get my thoughts in order. I can tell you that I need the next book - there is a next book, right? Right?! - ASAP!

This has to be the best instalment of the Finding Anna series so far! At least it is in my opinion. I just felt the characters emotions and I felt like I was there. I was smiling with the book, I may have leaked a tear or two with the books.

In this book we are introduced to some new characters. We see most of the old ones, but there are some new characters. Some wonderful characters, some that seriously help Brianna and the story.
We get a few of the answers we've been searching for... We also get some more questions to go with them.

We also dive deeper into Stephan and Brianna's life in this book. (I seriously cannot wait for more from these characters!)

Brianna. Well, she's a little bit too innocent in my opinion. For her to be such a strong woman, to overcome so much, to go through what she went through... It is unrealistic that she remains that innocent, but, at times, I also understand this innocence. At least, I understand some of the innocence. That is my only problem with her character though. Otherwise I actually really like Brianna's character.

Stephan. I wish I had his patience. He has amazing patience. The way he looks after and cares for Brianna, the way he tries to help her get back into the real world. He is patient with her, he is kind to her when some people would probably just get pissed off with her a lot of the time. He cares for her and that's why I love Stephan and Brianna together.

Okay, so there are issues with their relationship (as there is with any real relationship.) Stephan bought Brianna to try and save her. That was fine, it is what any person with the money should do if they ever came across a situation like this in real life and there was no way to involve authorities without proof or possible damage inflicted on the person.
It is Stephan's buying of Brianna though that makes me have this next slight problem with these books.

In a way this relates to Brianna's innocence... My slight problem is the way Brianna clings to Stephan. I understand that he saved her, cared for her. He helped her understand things, he took away from (that bastard) Ian. He is her hero I guess. But they way she clings to him, the way that she can't seem to be fully calm unless Stephan is there. The fact that she is numb without him, that she feels empty if he is not right by her side.
I understand the need and want to cling to someone after all she's been through. I seriously do... It's just that it is too clingy. She was afraid of him at first and now...it is like she can't breathe without him there.
I don't like that. Sure, she needs some support. A heck of a lot of it in fact. But she should not need Stephan by her side that much.
Or does she?

I don't know how victims of this kind of situation would feel. Or should feel. I really don't. And so the question stands on whether I really have any idea what I'm talking about. Or whether I should even address that situation.
Maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it just seems slightly unnatural. Too clingy.

Saying this though I do love Brianna's and Stephan's relationship. I just can't help but smile at some things.

It is wonderful to see how far Brianna has come in the previous two book though. She's got a long way to go, but I believe it can be done.

There is a warning at the beginning of this book;

This book contains conversations, flashbacks, and various other items regarding abuse that may disturbing to some readers. 

This warning is not to be taken lightly. I mean, personally, I didn't find it disturbing because I've read darker books and I've never experienced anything like this, but to some people, this book could be pretty disturbing. The scenes certainly had me feeling bad for Brianna and some even made me shed a tear.

To conclude; I loved this book and I really love this series. The characters, the emotions, it was all just so real to me. I cannot wait for the next book in the series (if there is one) and I can't wait to read some more Sherri Hayes books. If you haven't read the Finding Anna series yet then I definitely recommend it to you. It is an amazing series (so far) despite any faults of flaws it may have.

That ending though... *cries softly whilst clutching book close to chest barely resisting the urge to throw across the room* (Although I would totally pick it straight back up and probably say sorry over and over again to the book if I actually did that. But I'd never throw a book across the room anyway...)

Monday, 29 April 2013

Nice is Just a Place in France by The Betches, ARC review.

Title; Nice is Just a Place in France
Author; The Betches
Source; Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review
Format; Kindle
Publisher; Gallery Books
Publication Date; March 12th 2013
Synopsis; LOOK, MAYBE YOU’RE A NICE GIRL, but we’re guessing you’re more like us or you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book. Not that we have a problem with girls who are nice people. But being nice is just not the way to get what you want. And this book is about getting what you want. Not in like a finding happiness, giving back to the world, being grateful for what you have sort of way. But in a ruling your world, being the most desired, powerful badass in the room way, so you can come out on top of any situation: guys, career, friends, enemies, whatever. How does a betch make that happen?

Here are some highlights:




We didn’t come up with these life lessons. We’re just the ones who wrote it all down. This is not self-help. Self-help is for fat people and divorcées. This is how to deal with your problems when you have no problems. You’re welcome.
Goodreads Average Rating; 3.74*s
My Rating; 1.5*s
Would I recommend it? Nope.
Will I ever read anything else by this author? Nope, probably not.

My Review; DNF at 15% (The amount I promise all publishers through NetGalley and Edelweiss that I will read before I can DNF a book.)

This book gave me a headache. Literally. The only reason I'm giving it 1.5*s rather than just one is because some bits were kind of funny. Even though they really shouldn't have been.

What possessed me to download this title from Edelweiss? I have no freaking idea.

Before I saw this book I had never heard of "The Betches" or anything to do with them. I am also not one to care about having a "celebrity" body. Or, really, any of the matters presented in this book. So, maybe it is my fault I don't like this book.

All I know is that this book annoying, headache inducing, kinda boring, occasionally funny, and always offensive. Or at least it was offensive to me in parts. I just...can't. I just can't. I don't even know what to say about this book really. I just...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan

This review is spoiler free...I think.

Title; Undeniable
Author; Madeline Sheehan
Series; Undeniable, book one
Source; Amazon, Paid for
Format; Kindle Edition
Pages; 332
Publisher; Self Published
Publication Date; October 7th 2012
Description; Warning: This is not a typical love story. This is an all-consuming, soul-crushing, tear-your-heart-into-pieces story. It’s intense, gritty and raw, dark and disturbing, and it doesn’t happen overnight. This is an epic love story that knows no boundaries and has no time limits. It grows and develops—with hurt, sacrifice, and heartache—over the span of a lifetime.

Eva Fox is the princess of the Silver Demons Motorcycle Club. Growing up with bikers in the club lifestyle is all that she knows. When she’s a young girl, Eva meets the reason for her existence. Deuce West is the sexy, biker bad-ass of the Hell’s Horsemen Motorcycle Club. Like Eva, he was born and raised in the club—but that’s where the similarities end. Their first meeting is innocent, but as Eva matures into a woman, their chance reunions evolve into a fit of lust and love. Fate continues to bring them together time and time again, but their twisted journey is filled with pain, betrayal, and bloodshed that could tear them apart. Eva sees in Deuce what he cannot see in himself—a man worthy of love—and Eva spends her lifetime proving to him that her undeniable love is the one thing he can’t live without.

This is Eva and Deuce’s story.

It wasn’t easy.
Nothing worth doing ever is.
And love is worth everything.
Goodreads Average Rating; 4.16*s
My Rating; More than 5*s
Would I recommend it? Yes, I would. But you must take my warning into account. And the descriptions warning too. It's a must read in my opinion, but only to those who can handle it.
Will I read anything else by this author? Yes, I really would like to see what her other books are like. I also really need the sequel ASAP.

My Review, or you know, just random gibberish gushing...again; Now...what am I supposed to say about a book like this. A book that I devoured. A book that made me cry a little more than most books make me cry. A book that I feel I have to write something about, whether it is taken as a review or not, at 7AM.
Honestly? I don't know what to say. I don't know how I feel about this book. I know that I really, really loved it and the characters... I also know that, at times, I totally hated said characters for some of the shit they did, but I just kept on loving them anyway. Some characters just made me constantly angry. Some characters, I felt I could wring their neck and cry for them at the same time.

This book. Well, it's gritty all right, and it is certainly raw. It's intense, it's dark, it is disturbing.

Warning: This is not a typical love story. This is an all-consuming, soul-crushing, tear-your-heart-into-pieces story. It’s intense, gritty and raw, dark and disturbing, and it doesn’t happen overnight. This is an epic love story that knows no boundaries and has no time limits. It grows and develops—with hurt, sacrifice, and heartache—over the span of a lifetime. 

This is the warning we are given. This warning is everything this book is. This book is also so much more.

Eva and Deuce... They have so much chemistry. They have so much...I just don't know how to explain it.

They fight. They have sex. They run from each other. They infuriate me, and each other. But I just, they are just...I love them. Ain't no other way of putting really. I must say though, I do like couples when they guy is a couple of years older (Or, you know, 18 years). I like older guys in books. But that ain't the only reason I love Eva and Deuce.

Oh, I don't know how to feel. I just want to curl up in a ball, hug my kindle to my chest as if it were a physical book, and...cry.

There is a lot of swearing in this book (I don't mind, I'm used to hearing all that.) A lot of death. Violence (although not graphic). There is at least two rape scenes. This book is, if you've never really been in an MC, what you'd probably imagine it to be like...maybe. The guys are bad ass and there are a lot of dodgy dealings. There are all sorts of things in this book that I'd be totally shocked about if it was non-fiction. But it's not. And whilst that doesn't make any of the stuff happening any better...I guess it makes it easier to digest. At least for me it makes it all slightly easier. It still shocked me and some things made me feel a little freaked out. Or grossed out.

I would recommend this book. I feel that it is a must read and I cannot wait for the next book in the series, which has an expected publication of June 5th, but I do understand that this book will not be for everyone.
Give it a shot if you want, but if you feel you can't stomach all of that then I wouldn't read. But, you know, if you want to try it anyway, you go ahead.

Okay, so to sum up everything? I love the book. I love the characters. I have no idea how to feel and I'm just going to be going around in a state of not knowingness for a while...I think. I hope not. I hate having reader's block, but if any book might be able to do it? Well, it's a book that leaves your mind reeling. Like this one.

Some Quotes; I know I never, ever usually put in quotes from the books I read, even if I highlight them on my kindle, but I just...I feel I have to.

"Her, a fucking angel in a mess of demons, wanted him, one of the biggest fucking demons he knew."

Okay, so that's like the only quote I highlighted that isn't entirely spoilerish in anyway whatsoever. I wish I'd highlighted more, but I just had to keep reading. I wish I could share more, I just don't have anything on hand.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan - Promo post, plus excerpt!

Title; The Cuckoos of Batch Magna
Author; Peter Maughan
Goodreads Link; https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8352987-the-cuckoos-of-batch-magna?ac=1
Synopsis; When Sir Humphrey Miles Pinkerton Strange, huntin' shootin' and fishin' Squire of Batch Magna, goes to his reward (doubtless to find God as true-blue British as his more recent but equally worthy ancestors), his rambling but rotting estate passes to distant relative Humph, a hapless dollar doodler in New York.With $$ in his eyes, Humph decides to make a killing by transforming the sleepy backwater of Batch Magna into a theme park image of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires.But while the village's threadbare businessmen see the plan as a windfall, the tenants of the estate's dilapidated houseboats are above any consideration of filthy lucre and stand their ground for tradition's sake . and because they consider eviction notices not to be cricket.Each disgruntled faction sees the other as the unwelcome cuckoo chick in the family nest!So, lead by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, RN (ret) - a man with a glass eye to suit every occasion (and all painted with naval battle scenes where the Union Jack flies triumphant) - the motley crew takes on Wall Street . broadside to broadside.
Goodreads Average Rating; 5.00*s
Excerpt (Sent to me by the author); When the Sir Humphrey Strange, squire of of Batch Magna, a village on the Welsh borders, dies, the title and what’s left of his estate passes, through the law of entailment, to a distance relative. And Humphrey, an amiable, overweight short-order cook from the Bronx, finds himself most remarkably to be the 9th baronet. Humph – as he likes to be called -  has big plans for the place and they do not include the houseboat (dilapidated Victorian paddle steamers) tenants on the estate’s stretch of the river. Eviction notices are sent out.  
In this chapter Phineas Cook, off the Cluny Belle, hurries with his notice round to the Commander and his wife Priny on the  Batch Castle. 

Chapter Four 
Phineas walked along Upper Ham, and through the door of what was once the ticket office and waiting room of the Cluny Steamboat Company, to reach the Batch Castle, and out onto the landing stage, all now part of the paddler’s plot and moorings.  
Both the building and landing stage looked much as they did in the photographs on a wall in the lounge bar of the Steamer Inn. There was a wooden triangular pediment still under the eaves, like that of an old branch line station, hanging baskets of geraniums, hollyhocks and foxgloves in the beds, and begonias blooming in the fire buckets. And a Victorian lamp-post that had once flared in the river mists, a yellow rambler climbing still up one side of the office door, and crimson roses under the windows, the heated air velvet with their scent.  
Phineas found the Commander standing at the starboard rail of the boat, bracing himself on his good leg, a pair of marine binoculars trained steadily on the wooded hills on the other side of the valley, as if watching for the smoke of the enemy.  
He lowered the glasses when Phineas came up the gangway, and wiped at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand.  
“A buzzard,” he said. “Hear it whistling? There’s a nest up there somewhere. I love to see them soar, riding the sky, so effortlessly. And so free. I shall reserve a second life, after first returning as an otter, and come back as a buzzard.”  
He glanced at the letter Phineas was holding, the white envelope red-franked with the name of a firm of Kingham solicitors. “Ah, I see you received the same signal, my boy.”  
“So it’s not just me?” Phineas said, stuffing the letter into his shirt pocket.  
The Commander smiled. “No, old chap, it’s not just you. Ours came in the same post. As did one for the Owens. And presumably Jasmine’s been paid off as well.”  
“A hell of a blow!” Phineas said, and looked at the Commander as if waiting to be told otherwise.  
The Commander nodded solemnly. “As you say.”  
“And completely out of the blue.”  
“Oh, completely,” the Commander agreed.  
“Jasmine’s not there, by the way. Or at any rate her car isn’t. I was going to give her a shout.”  
The Commander motioned towards the living quarters. “The First Lieutenant,” he said, meaning his wife, “is in there now, ringing both you and Jasmine. Annie’s with her.” When storm threatened, those on the river tended to turn for the lee of the Castle 
“And you’ve been given the same notice on your moorings?” Phineas asked.  
The Commander nodded. “Three months.” He and his wife, Priny, were the only ones to own their boat, buying it out of what was left of a venture farming edible snails in Cornwall, something else which had ended in a lively exchange of letters with the bank. “They don’t say what they’ll do if we haven’t moved by then. Sink us, I suppose.”  
“Well, at least he’s given us good notice. Two months more than he was legally obliged to. Which is decent of him.” Phineas thought again. “Or is it?” he asked himself suspiciously, seeing that it involved business and lawyers.  
He decided it wasn’t. “He’s probably got his own timetable. Besides,” he added indignantly, “the estate owes the Owens a bit more than that. A damn sight more than that!”  
“Oh, I quite agree. I quite agree,” the Commander said, peering at his wrist watch.  
“And what about you, James, you and Priny? What will you do?”  
Emm? Oh, well, we’ll have to sell her back to the estate – always providing of course that they want her back. Or we could arrange a tow – if, that is, we can find somewhere to tow her to. And if, that is, we had something to steer her with. The old duck certainly couldn’t go anywhere without a push of some kind.” He looked at Phineas, as if Phineas had suggested she might. “There’s not enough of her plumbing left for anything else.” The Castlewas also the only one of the paddlers to still have the remains of an engine.  
“Although I’d dearly love to be able to do that for her. To take her out as she arrived …. To put a fire in her again … smoke and steam in the air… her wheels churning the water white round Snails Eye .…” 
The Commander’s good eye was distant and full of it.  
Then he remembered Phineas. “And what about you, Phineas? What will you do, my boy? What are yourplans? Will you stay here? Move on? Have you given it anythought at all yet?” he demanded anxiously, making up for it with a flurry of concern for his friend.  
“No – I don’t know, James. I don’t think I’ll stay. Not now. I mean, it won’t be the same, will it?”  
“No, old man, it won’t be the same. Not the same thing at all.”  
“And what about Annie and Owain? And after all this time.”  
“It’s an outrage. No other word for it.”  
“And Jasmine and her family,” Phineas went on. “Where will Jasmine go, with … with all those children of hers?” he said vaguely, never sure, like most people, like Jasmine herself seemed not to be sometimes, quite how many that meant.  
“As you say. As you so rightly say, my dear chap. Where will they go? Where will they go? It’s appalling, appalling.”  
“And what’s he going to do with the paddlers, that’s what I’d like to know? The notice doesn’t tell us much, does it? Just that he wants vacant possession. So what is he going to do with them?”  
“What indeed. What indeed, my boy. That’s the question,” the Commander said, frowning about him. “Thatis the question …”  
He found his stick on the deck table, a heavy blackthorn, cut and shaped for him by Owain Owen, the handle, with a shine stroked into it from use, carved into a badger’s head. He then fished about in his trouser pockets, searching for his fob, before remembering that he was using his wrist watch this morning. Life had suddenly become rather hectic.  
“What indeed. What indeed, my dear fellow,” the Commander muttered, studying the watch face.  
“That’s it!” he said then. “Wardroom’s open.”  
He was wearing a pair of creased white ducks, with a Royal Yacht Squadron necktie for a belt, and what was left of his hair sticking out in the heat in damp, greying, tufts. He had his head to one side slightly, favouring his good eye. Phineas peered at the glass one.  
The Commander’s leg had been shattered when, as a wartime naval pilot on the deck of his carrier, a Swordfish aircraft, coming in after him, and with the pilot wounded, had landed nose down, shredding the air with splinters from the wooden propellers. When the same accident later caused him to have an eye removed, the Commander commissioned a miniaturist to paint a collection of plain glass ones, depicting naval battles and landscapes that spoke of England, and one flying the Union Jack when a bit of swank, a bit of defiance, in the face of whatever was called for. 
“The Stubbs,” the Commander told him. “Huntsman and Horse.”  
“Ah,” Phineas said.  
Phineas followed his friend up the steps to the wardroom, a room stuffed with books and bottles, and copies of ancient charts, like storybook charts, marked with brimming treasure chests and spouting whales, and warnings of monsters, and cherubs with winds on their breath. Here, the Commander pursued his theories of such things as time, and of moons that had shone down on this planet before, and monsters that still lived here, and the location of lost Atlantis.  
Carrying their drinks, they came out into the dazzle of sunlight and white-painted upperworks as Priny and Annie Owen left the sitting room opposite.  
“Ah, there you are, darling,” Priny said when she saw Phineas. “Jasmine’s not here,” she added to her husband. “She’s gone to Shrewsbury for the day, the babysitter tells me.” She smiled at Phineas. “What is it about your legs, Phineas, that reminds me I was once a mother?”  
Phineas frowned down at his legs, in a pair of white shorts. Annie laughed. “It’s because they need fattening, like the rest of him.”  
“I was hoping,” Phineas said, “they’d look less sort of obvious, once they got a bit brown again.”  
“Leave the man’s legs alone. He’s got a perfectly good pair,” the Commander said. “The sort of knees that helped carve out an empire. His shorts could do with a press, and his hair’s too long, I grant you. And he needs to straighten up a bit, stop slopping about the place. But his legs will do.”  
“At least he’s got the sense to wear a hat in this heat,” Priny told him. “Put yours on, James, please. You’ll boil your head.”  
The Commander had caught the sun on a trip yesterday in their mahogany dinghy, pulling strongly upriver, with a lunch hamper in the stern. His leg, which rarely failed to let him know it was there when on land, forgotten.  
“I can’t, Number One, you’ve hidden it. She’s always hiding things,” he told Phineas. “Something to do with her age, I expect.”  
“Where’s Owain?” Phineas asked, while Priny located the ancient red-and-white striped rowing cap her husband had left on a deckchair.  
“Helping out on a pigeon shoot over at Boden,” Annie said. She smiled sympathetically at him. “You’ve got notice as well, then, Phineas?”  
Phineas nodded. “Yes. He hasn’t wasted much time, has he? And to not say anything to you when he was here!” He shook his head. “Incredible.”  
“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t know it at the time, Phineas. He couldn’t have.” Annie looked appalled at the thought. 
“He’s a businessman, Annie. A money man. To them, people go in one drawer, profit in another. And they never confuse the two.”  
Annie had met the American at the Hall when he was over briefly to inspect his inheritance, and had liked him, as he had seemed to like her. She hoped he hadn’t known that one of the houseboats was hers, that with a few impersonal words that weren’t even his own, he was pulling over twenty years of family memories up by the roots.  
“And Owain doesn’t know about it yet?” Phineas said.  
She shook her head. “No. No, none of them do. Not yet.”  
He saw she had been crying, the kohl she wore on her eyes smudged, and never very good at that sort of thing, made an awkward job of hugging her.  
“Drinks!” Priny said brightly, looking at their glasses. “What a good idea.”  
“Where’s Pink Gin?” Phineas asked when they were seated. Pink Gin was the Cunninghams’ aged mongrel, a dog who, when the drinks came out, usually liked a drop of something in her bowl. 
“Too hot for her, darling,” Priny told him. “She’s getting rather ancient now, I’m afraid.”  
“She’s inside,” the Commander said. “Dreaming of past glories. Ratting and rabbiting in her sleep.”  
They were sitting at the round white plastic deck table, under a large, Patio Living pink-and-white striped parasol, an oasis of shade and the chime of iced drinks.  
Priny lifted her glass. “To survival.”  
Like her husband she was good at that. Priny couldn’t be kept down for long, no matter what the weather. Even Hitler, with his promise to bomb Malta to dust, couldn’t do that when she nursed there during the worst of it. Not even the matron of her hospital could do that.  
She was wearing a wide-brimmed sugar-pink straw hat, and what she called her mad old bag spectacles, emerald green, with two electric-blue butterflies perched on the frames, crimson lipstick to match her nail extensions, a poppy print shirt and floral Capri pants. A party of one in full swing, a Plymouth gin in one hand, a cigarette in an amber holder in the other.  
“I’m just surprised the General didn’t do anything about all this in his will, you know?” Annie, who’d been thinking about it, said. “I mean, it’s not just us, is it. It’s the paddlers, and all that. Part of the history of the place, the old CSC. Our old tub was named after his mother.” She shook her head. “Just didn’t think, I suppose. That would be it. Poor old love.”  
“It’s this place. We are childrenhere!” Phineas cried suddenly. “Strolling heedlessly along, smelling the flowers and admiring the view. With no thought of what might be on its way round the next bend.”  
He shook his head incredulously at the sheer folly of their ways. “Well now it’s here,” he said, looking at them accusingly. “Now it has found us.” 
Phineas’s newfound maturity, worn over the past few days with a solemn, aloof sort of air, like that of a visitor from an enclosed order to the frivolous world he’d left behind, was now less in evidence. His expression, as he gazed hotly out across the water, more that of an aggrieved teenager who had done what he’d been told to do, had taken a more mature, a more serious, responsible view of things, and had ended up getting evicted. 
“Bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose,” the Commander said equably, tamping his pipe down. “It’s the times, my boy, the times. O tempora o mores. The new orderIt goes under different names but always calls itself progress, and we are in its way. And the last sad squires ride slowly towards the sea, and the new lords take the land. Lords who look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies. With bright dead alien eyes. Something like that.” 
He put his pipe in his mouth, and then took it out again. “Come to think of it, I had a letter from one of them only the other day.”  
Priny laughed, the sound pure bottled nightclub. “James thinks the bank manager’s been taken over by an alien.”  
“It’s the only possible explanation,” her husband said.  
“That’s what happens, darling, when you leave your hat off in the sun.”  
The Commander ignored her, and lifted his glass. “Here’s to the General,” he said, and winked mysteriously at Phineas.  
Annie laughed then, suddenly, at her own thoughts, and wiped at her nose with a hand. “He’ll go mad, Owain, when he hears. Go mad, he will. Probably take an axe to the old boat, the work he’s put in on her. He only got round to finishing the paint job a couple of months back, her letters and scrollwork and all. Hopping, he’ll be. Bloody well hopping.”  
“Perhaps that’s what we should do to all of them,” the Commander said. “Rather than simply hand them over. Hazard them ourselves. Sink them. Blow them up. Send them to join their sister ship, the Sabrina. Better that than into the hands of the enemy, and God knows what indignities. It could be said we owe them that. Both the little ships and the General.”  
The PSSabrinathe old Roman name for the River Severn, and the vessel that had made the full complement of the CSC, had blown a boiler two years into service, when her crew, in an attempt to beat a previous time from Water Lacy, tried to shovel more speed out of her than her maximum eight knots safely allowed. She lay upstream of the Cluny Bellenow, a diving board for generations of village children, and with moorhens nesting in her broken wheels.  
“What, a few limpet mines on their hulls, you mean, James?” Phineas asked with interest, remembering a film he’d seen recently on television. 
The Commander shook his head. “No. No need for that, old man. A few sticks of something in the bilges should do it. Linked to a central detonator.” 
“A plunger. Yes, yes, I know,” Phineas said, nodding at it. 
“Then bang!”  
The Commander leaned towards him. “And we’re far enough away from the village not to cause civilian casualties or to take the Masters’ Cottages or the pub up with them. The General wouldn’t want any of that. No, it would just be our party. Us and a plunger. Bang!” he said again, the huntsman’s pink in the Stubbs like blood in his eye, the good one with enough blue life in it for two eyes, twinkling away, signalling devilment like a ship’s lamp.  
“At night, of course?” Phineas said. These things were always done at night.  
“Well, of course at night, old chap. Not a lot of point in fireworks during the day now, is there.”  
The Commander’s head reared up at a sudden thought. “Of course! The very thing. The very time. On the day of the Regatta. A grand finale to the fireworks. It could scarcely be more appropriate. The little ships started the whole thing, let them finish it. Let them have the last, loud word. Eh? Bang …!”  
“I think,” Priny put in, “that perhaps we should try something a little less explosive first, darling.” She could never be entirely sure with either of them. There was a part of her husband, she always felt, that had yet to return from the war. And Phineas, despite being in his middle thirties, had still to grow up. “And do bear in mind, James,” she told him, just in case, “if you are inclined to get any silly ideas, that the Castle is all we have in the bank at present.”  
The Commander sighed heavily. “Yes, I know, Number One, I know. I’m sorry, Phineas, old man. It’s age. It makes misers of us,” he said dolefully. “Counting out our lives in small change from a thinning purse.” 
Priny ignored it. “We’ll meet tonight. In the pub for the happy hour, and see what we can come up with. Jasmine should be back by then. I’ll pop round and leave a note for her, in case we miss her, and she throws a drama.”  
Annie finished her wine. “And I’ll get over to the Hall now, see what else I can find out.”  
“What shall I do?” Phineas wanted to know.  
“I’ve got you down for keeping an old party company over another glass in the wardroom,” the Commander told him, getting up stiffly with the aid of his stick.  
“It’s not over yet, Phineas my boy. Not over yet, my dear fellow,” he said then, quietly, confidingly. “Did I tell you that a few days back I saw an otter? No, not a mink,” he insisted, as if Phineas was about to suggest it might be. “A mink is much smaller and a darker brown. No, it was an otter. On Snails Eye. Disporting itself on a bank there. Sliding down a mud run and splashing away without a care in the world. A lord of time, with a fine set of whiskers.”  
The Commander stopped and looked at him.  
“Time for animals like the otter, you see, Phineas, is different from, for example, time for a farm animal. On the whole, time for farm animals stands still, scarcely moves from where they’re grazing. If we were able to represent it on a clock face, you would see that in the evening, when it’s time to sleep, the minute hand had barely moved from where it was in the morning, when it was time to start eating. Which of course is how it should be.”  
The Commander started and stopped again.  
“Time for wild animals, on the other hand, you see, my boy, is almost constantly on the go. Here and there, this way and that. It leads them by the nose, as well as the belly. And when they’re not questing or eating, or engaged in sundry other matters, then they’re squabbling. And when they’re doing none of those things, they are playing. And then they are lordly, lordly. Time for us, Phineas, we humans, is a poor shackled thing in comparison. We are tied to it from birth, and burdened with its future as well as its past. The baggage of our lives, and our fears of what might be. And the usual spree of youth aside, we spend it with one eye on the clock. Unlike animals such as the otter, who chuck it about as if there were no tomorrow. Which of course, for them, there isn’t. They live only in the present. They cannot know time and so are free of it. And lords of it. With fields of time, seas and rivers of time, and all the skies to play in.”  
The Commander shook his head with sudden impatience. “Anyway, anyway,” he said, moving again, and as if Phineas had diverted him. “The point is – the point is, my dear Phineas, that I have never, in all my ten years on this river, seen an otter here before. Never.”  
He stopped again, and sighted Phineas with his good eye. “You do realise what this means, don’t you?” he said. “It means, it means, old chap,” he explained patiently, when Phineas appeared to have no idea, “that the General is once more among us. And why? That’s the question, Phineas. That is the question, my dear old fellow. Why? Why now of all times?” the Commander asked, and winked.