The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson | #20BooksOfSummer

Author : Cara Robertson
Title : The Trial of Lizzie Borden
Pages : 375
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Publication date : March 12, 2019


When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August of 1892, the arrest of the couple’s daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence.

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central, enigmatic character has endured for more than a hundred years, but the legend often outstrips the story. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper articles, previously withheld lawyer’s journals, unpublished local reports, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a definitive account of the Borden murder case and offers a window into America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties. 


Lizzie Borden. A name that went down in history but for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t know anything about her, apart from why her name is so well known and I feel that served me really well when reading this account of her trial as I had no idea of the outcome.

August, 1892. Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, are found brutally murdered at their home. With only two people at the house around the time of the murders, suspicion quickly falls onto Andrew’s youngest daughter, Lizzie. With a well to-do family and two gruesome murders in a small town, it’s easy to see why this case was such a big deal in its day and also why it still appeals to people around the world today.

It’s obvious from the start that author Cara Robertson has done her research. Using transcripts and reporter’s notes throughout, I almost felt like I was right there, especially during the trial itself. It was like being a member of the jury, getting all the information and being allowed the opportunity to decide for myself which side of the fence I would land on. There are photos of the victims for instance, plans of the layout of the house and the street it was located in and I scrutinised them all like an amateur detective, ruling theories out left, right and centre and coming to my own conclusion.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all exciting. There is a part in the middle, dealing with the trial mostly from the prosecutor’s side, that dragged a little too much for me. However, I assumed the actual jury members probably felt the same way so that seemed rather apt to me. On top of that, there was a huge amount of rolling the eyes and facepalming, particularly about the way women and their actions were described. That “hysterical” label for instance, but also how all women apparently turn into some kind of demon when on their “monthlies”.

I’ve not had the best results with non-fiction in the past but The Trial of Lizzie Borden really held my attention, apart from that dip in the middle. Based on the information at hand, the jury members reached the right conclusion but the question remains. Was Lizzie guilty or not? I’ve made up my mind.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Book 18 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

Doomed Destroyer by Ron Cope @gilbster1000 @Authoright #blogtour #extract

Good morning! Today, it is my pleasure to kick off the blog tour for Doomed Destroyer by Ron Cope. This is a non-fiction book which shines a light on an important but previously little known event in British history and I have an extract to share with you all. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Authoright for the opportunity!


Author : Ron Cope
Title : Doomed Destroyer
Pages : 560
Publisher : Clink Street Publishing
Publication date : April 10, 2018


On March 1st 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered Operation Weserubung: the invasion of Norway. Having swept across Europe, the Nazi assault on Scandinavia was designed to secure the valuable iron ore being delivered by rail from Sweden to the Norwegian port of Narvik. To complete the task, Hitler sent ten large destroyers, with 220 Alpine Troops on each. Five smaller British H Class destroyers were sent up the fjord in retaliation, with little knowledge of what to expect. On April 10th , the first British battle of Narvik began in earnest. Royal Naval Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee led his flotilla at midnight into the fjord; undetected, under darkness and in driving snow storms. The harbour erupted into a torpedo attack; back into the fjord, the destroyers Hardy, Hunter, Hotspur, Havock and Hostilewere confronted by five German destroyers. A ferocious sea battle ensued and Hardy and Hunter were lost.

In his first account of The Battle of Narvick, Attack at Dawn, Ron Cope focussed on the experience and the survival of the crew of HMS Hardy. After nine long years of research, he now reveals for the first time the untold story of HMS Hunter and her crew. Just forty-eight of the 159 servicemen on board survived in the cold waters of the fjord; picked up by German destroyers, they were eventually forced to march in freezing conditions over the mountains into internment in Sweden. Before the handover to the Swedish authorities, a German Army officer made the British servicemen sign a form: “On my being sent into Sweden I will not take up arms against Germany… Should I do so, and in the event of again being taken prisoner I shall be subject to such conditions as are provided under the Death Penalty Act”.

Doomed Destroyer follows the astounding stories of the Hunter sailors, who would spend the next five years plotting and attempting to escape their captivity. Cope provides an extensive account of the viciously fought events at sea and in the fjords, examining the Norwegian price paid at Narvik and the early impact of war on the local community’s simple way of life. A remarkable account delivered with care and respect for those lost and left behind, Doomed Destroyer shines a light on this important but previously little known event in British history.

“Without dedicated men like Ron Cope, the testimony and the stories of the men who were there – whether they were lost, wounded, or survived – what became of them, their families, might otherwise be lost to future generations.” Percy C. Danby, Lieutenant (E), C.D. RCN Retired. Ottawa. March 2017, survivor on HMS Hotspur.


I was fortunate to have a manuscript in my father Cyril’s archives which after elimination I discovered it to be from Able Seaman Marshal Soult a crew member on HMS Hunter.  After more research I found he came from Falmouth but had long since passed away.  This did not deter me and I was eventually able to find a family friend Barbara Wakeham living in St Austell where I went to meet her.  Once more there were a significant number of well kept archives, including a short narrative titled, “Another HMS Hunter’ story.”  Here begins the first part of this extraordinary document.

 Chapter: Prologue

Lucretia Kelly is a smartly dressed woman with brown eyes. She had sent a photograph of herself, taken more than a quarter of a century ago. I recognised her as soon as she had opened the door of her home twenty minutes ago. That photograph of Penryn Accordion Band and this stone shelter were two threads in a story which had roused my curiosity; and had brought me fifty miles to meet her.

Her story concerned Falmouth in 1940, a year of German conquests in Europe, of Dunkirk and threatened invasion. During the day, Lucretia Kelly [then she was Miss Johns] worked in the book binding department. In the evening, exchanging working clothes for a black and red uniform, black skirt, red blouse, black velvet bolero and red sash; she played the accordion in local dance halls. Those were nights when dancers were moving to music like ‘Roll Out the Barrel’, ‘Somewhere in France’ and ‘Boom’. There were seven in the band; four boys and three girls, five with accordions, one at the drums, another at the piano. It was a year in which Cornish cinema audiences saw Dorothy Lamour in Typhoon, Dickie Lupino in Just William[…] and Shirley Temple in The Little Princess.

One spring evening Lucretia Johns had met a special young sailor, Alan. [Lucretia explains] “It was in the dance hall, then named the Winter Gardens Ballroom, but it really was the Polytechnic Hall; when he came up stage to ask for a request tune. He was fair, rather nice looking; he came from up North, he told me, and he had a sister, a hairdresser. He was aboard HMS Hunter, then in Falmouth Docks, and after that we had several dates.

On March 7th the ship’s company held a ‘farewell dance’ at the Princess Pavilion, and being a naval dance, everybody went to it, so that the other dances were empty. Anyhow, our band had to play in the Winter Gardens and Mr Conyngham, who ran the dances, made us play to an empty hall. But around nine o’clock he had a change of heart, and closed down …. you can guess where I made for!

“The next night – Hunter’s last, Alan and I went for a walk and ended up here in this shelter. At one point in our conversation I turned to him to say something, and had all I could do to stop myself from screaming, because Alan had turned into a skeleton. I turned away, and then forced myself to look and speak to him, and when I looked he was quite normal once again. I didn’t tell him of my vision, as I didn’t want to scare him; but I must have looked queer, because he asked me if I was all right, although I’d done my best to hide it. Alan was just the same after the vision. It seemed to have no effect on him.”

At the end of my book I returned to Marshal’s story about Lucretia Johns meeting the young sailor on board HMS Hunter.  Probably her first loving relationship.

Chapter: Epilogue. 

I now return to Marshal Soult’s meeting with Lucretia Kelly in 1968 [previously Miss Johns]. Lucretia was probably then about fifty years of age. It appears she had a premonition about ‘Alan’, the man she had met for a short while, before the Hunter left to go to Narvik.

Marshal begins, “There were 159 men on board and forty-eight were picked up, three being killed in action, the rest drowned. I felt sure the vision was a presentiment of Alan’s death, and that our goodbye was really and truly forever […]

Now, twenty-eight years later, Lucretia Kelly was sitting on the same seat in the same shelter on Falmouth seafront.  Lucretia, “It’s the first time I’ve been back here. I’ve sat in other shelters but never this one. All because of what happened that night, I suppose. In a way, it’s a strange sensation sitting here again after all those years.

In less than half an hour Lucretia Kelly was experiencing even a stranger sensation.

“Alan Clayton was his name, wasn’t it?” Marshal Soult the manager of Brigg’s shoe shop, in Church Street, who had served on HMS Hunter, looked thoughtful. I’ve got a suspicion he survived. I didn’t know him all that well, mark you, but I’ve got an idea I saw him alive after Hunter’s sinking.” Lucretia Kelly sank into the nearest chair. Bewilderment creased her face. “Don’t tell me he’s alive after all these years.”

Marshal Soult carefully studied a photograph, a snapshot of a group of survivors. “No, he’s not among them.” Lucretia Kelly studied the faces too.

“Your mother showed me this soon after it had happened …” Marshall Soult interrupted her. “But these aren’t all the survivors. There must have been another twenty who weren’t in this. Alan Clayton might be one of them …”

Later, Lucretia Kelly and I continued our conversation over a cup of tea at her home, Grove Cottage, in Swanpool Street, where she lives with her husband, twenty-six-year-old daughter, Marlene, and her Siamese cat, Pasha.

“I still think he’s dead”, was Lucretia opinion. “Just a feeling you know …”

“There’s only one way to find out,” said Soult. “I’ll write to Naval Records.”

Marshal Soult continues, “Back in Tintagel, I wrote to the offices of the Commodore, HMS Drake, at Devonport. A Naval man had advised this as the best avenue of information. Four days later, I had a letter telling me my request for information regarding Able Seaman Alan Clayton had been forwarded to the Principle Director of Accounts (Naval), Branch 3D Enquiries, Warminster Road, Bath.

“The following week I was out of Cornwall. A brown ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ envelope was among the hillock of mail awaiting my return.

“’I have examined the ship’s ledger of HMS Hunter,’, the letter read, ‘which was sunk during 1940, but an Able Seaman Alan Clayton does not appear as a member of the crew.’ “My line of enquiry now switched back to the starting point of Falmouth. Lucretia Kelly, for her part, stuck to her story; moreover, she insisted she had written to Alan Clayton during Hunter’s time in Plymouth, and received replies.

Not wanting to spoil the story for readers as to whether Alan Clayton was on board HMS Hunter or not and if so did he survive, what I can say is with more research I discovered the end of the love story.

Ron Cope: Author of “Attack at Dawn” and “Doomed Destroyer”.


Doomed Destroyer will be published on April 10th.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Goodreads


Born in Salford, Ron Cope followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy in 1964, working in electronics. After leaving the forces in 1986, he spent over twenty years working in the probation service, specifically with young offenders. Now a proud father and  grandfather, Cope is retired and living with his wife Alison in Telford, Shropshire. His first naval history book Attack at Dawn: Reliving the First Battle of Narvik in World War Two was published to acclaim back in 2015.



Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird and Richard Newman @Authoright @gilbster1000 #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird and Richard Newman. I have an extract to share with you all but first, here is what this true story is all about.


Author : Veronica Bird and Richard Newman
Title : Veronica’s Bird
Pages : 290
Publisher : Clinkstreet Publishing
Publication date : January 23, 2018


Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the 1950s, as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. Astonishingly, to her and her mother, she won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the re: he took over control of her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as a cheap option on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away and applied to the Prison Service, knowing it was the only safe place she could trust.

This is the astonishing, and true story of Veronica Bird who rose to become a Governor of Armley prison. Given a ‘basket case’ in another prison, contrary to all expectations, she turned it around within a year, to become an example for others to match. During her life inside, her ‘bird’, she met many Home Secretaries, was honoured by the Queen and was asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons.

A deeply poignant story of eventual triumph against a staggeringly high series of setbacks, her story is laced with humour and compassion for those inside.


Prison riots and escapes

Prison riots and escapes are top of the agenda incidents in the prison service: they have to be, because of their unpredictability. A riot, fully flared up is like a raging fire, uncontrollable until highly trained prison officers are brought to bear. In the short time before their arrival, prisoners will often smash the entire contents of their own cells, thus depriving themselves of their own possessions and making it difficult for them, to settle down again after the madness of the moment. They can be extraordinarily unsafe places to be, just as an elephant in musth will destroy anything in its path.

Escapes are of huge concern because the staff, under Veronica’s control, were charged to keep the public safe from what can be very dangerous individuals. If an inmate escapes it is usually because of a singular lapse in the normally tight security which surrounds the prison population twenty-four hours a day.  Prisoners have all the time in the world to plan.  They have the opportunity and will seek out every weakness in the system even before the staff become aware.

As an example, four prisoners escaped from Armley jail, a large prison in Leeds during Veronica’s watch. She was in charge, as the senior Governor was away on holiday, and was woken at three in the morning to be given the news. She threw some spare clothes into the back of her car and roared off towards Armley from Wilmslow where she lived. Arriving, she was told by a policeman she ‘…can’t park there, four prison-’   ‘I know, I’m the Governor.’ ‘Oh yes, Madam’, the Copper replied, seeing a lady in front of him dressed in a nightdress and wearing pink slippers. He received her car keys in his lap with some force. Now was not the time for niceties, she felt, as she quickly set up a Command Post to take charge of the necessary actions according to a plan already drawn up for such emergencies. This involves the police as well as the Prison staff and the media to advise the public accordingly.

Of the four men, three were on the prison roof having dug out the mortar in a new concrete block building with a knife, and were still there. The fourth was a different problem entirely, for he was dangerous, and it was not for the public to do their duty to try and stop such a bad man. Hence the need of the police for the search outside.

Gradually the news was passed up to the Command Post that this man had climbed out of a window and shinned down knotted sheets to a builder’s yard and was away before anyone knew of it. The search operation first learned of it later being told that a milkman had seen a man walking alone up the side of the M1. The milkman stopped and gave the  walker a pint of milk even though he had no money to pay for it, before driving on to make his deliveries.

In the middle of directing operations from her office, Veronica heard on the local radio she was, apparently, up in a helicopter, hovering over the prison, over-seeing the action. It is not always wise to believe everything one is told.

The prisoner had disappeared into the morning mist with the milkman never stopping to think it might have been a bit strange to have encountered a man on the motorway at that time of the morning. Eventually, the three men were returned to their cells with loss of remission, the fourth took longer to find but, as always, he ended back inside Armley. The enquiry exonerated Veronica on the basis the building works had created the opportunities for escape. The prisoners had been very quick to see a route out.  The enquiry did, however, issue recommendations for lockdowns whenever a knife, say, or a tool disappeared. The following search would continue until the missing item was found.

Riots put the staff most at risk; escapes put the public at risk. Veronica always recognised this and strove to ensure that prisoners grievances did not grow until they became unmanageable. There was always something she could do to keep the prison population calm: ‘…it’s not rocket science, just common sense.’


Veronica’s Bird will be published on January 23rd.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads


After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system.

A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. Since then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.


Monika Cover 2

Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff @RosieMargesson @TransworldBooks #blogtour




“Over time, I nursed victims of war, the posh, the poor, the famous and the infamous… Oh, the stories I can tell!”

To a young girl the life of a nurse sounds exciting, but with long hours and short shrift it’s never easy. So when Maggie Groff embarks on her training at London’s King’s College Hospital she must quickly get to grips with a demanding career. It’s sink or swim.

From the watchful gaze of stern sisters and the trials of nursing on a poor south-east London housing estate, to the explosive dramas of staff health checks at sophisticated Selfridges, Maggie shares warm and witty stories of mistakes and mayhem, tea and sympathy, and the life-affirming moments that make it all worthwhile.

Played out against the march of feminism and fashion, IRA bombings and the iconic music and movies of almost half a century ago, Not Your Average Nurse is a delightful romp through time.


When I was offered the chance to be on the blog tour for Maggie Groff’s Not Your Average Nurse, I was slightly hesitant. I don’t normally read memoirs, autobiographies, true stories, whatever they’re called. I tend to find them stuffy or some kind of promotional tool for those who think they’ve accomplished I-don’t-know-what when really, most of the time they are just lucky to have been born pretty.

However, in the spirit of this whole broadening my horizon journey I’ve embarked on, I quite happily agreed to read this true story of a student nurse in the 1970’s. And when the very first page already made me chuckle, I felt confident I had made the right decision.

Not Your Average Nurse is a realistic account of life in the 70’s. A time when a woman lost her job when she got married because having a husband and children was still supposed to be her only ambition in life. But Maggie wanted something else completely and set off to London to train to become a nurse. Of course things don’t always go exactly how she wants them to and it’s not all roses and sunshine. But her decision would take her to numerous places around the world and enable her to have a very fulfilling career.

This story has a little bit of everything. Great friendships, finding love and losing it, celebrity encounters, plenty of chuckles but it also highlights the plight of the poor, the elderly and even the Aboriginals. Maggie’s travels take her from England to Switzerland to Australia, constantly needing to adjust to new ways of doing things. Don’t be put off by the title if you’re of the squeamish sort, by the way. There’s really none of that here.

I thoroughly enjoyed Maggie’s recollections about her training days at King’s College Hospital and I found this true story to be a fascinating and entertaining read. Maggie is an excellent and witty storyteller and I would definitely recommend this book, if only to see how different things were back in the day, as a woman and a nurse.

Many thanks to Rosie Margesson and Transworld Books for inviting me on the tour and for my advanced copy!

Not Your Average Nurse will be published on May 18th.

Amazon USAmazon UKGoodreads


Maggie Groff is a multi-award-winning novelist, columnist and non-fiction writer living and working in Australia. She is the author of two non-fiction books: the best-selling Mothers Behaving Badly (1999) which showcased her hilarious experiences as a mother, and Hoax Cuisine (2001) which garnered a loyal following and led to a regular column in Fairfax weekend newspapers.

Her first novel Mad Men, Bad Girls (originally titled Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute) was published in 2012 and received rave reviews. It was nominated for the Ned Kelly Award and went on to win both Australian Sisters in Crime 13th Davitt Awards for crime fiction – Best First Fiction and Best Adult Novel. Her second novel Good News, Bad News was also published to high acclaim and voted one of the top fifty books you can’t put down in the 2013 Australian Get Reading Campaign. Both novels have been published internationally.

Maggie’s latest book Not Your Average Nurse is a memoir of her richly-varied career working as a nurse at some of the world’s most iconic locations. Publication date is May 2017 in the UK and Australia.