Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
by Brandy Purdy

Why did you choose this book? I have always been intrigued by Lizzie Borden
When did you read this book? January 2016
Who should read this book? readers of historical fiction or crime stories
Source: Brandy Purdy (the author)
Here is a synopsis of The Secrets of Lizzie Borden from Goodreads

In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime. Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes… Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer.

My Review

I picked this one up for a few reasons. The Lizzie Borden story has always intrigued me; did she or didn’t she? Also, I had previously read and enjoyed The Ripper’s Wife by the same autho, so when she offered me a review copy of her book, of course I said YES! This one was not a disappointment. I enjoyed The Ripper’s Wife very much, but I liked this one even more!

I want to start by saying that there are a few readers who should bypass this one. If you are squeamish, be warned; there is a lot of blood in this book. If you prefer your novels ‘clean’, this one may not be what you are looking for; Lizzie enjoys sex and has a vivid imagination. If you expect a recounting of the known HISTORY of the story, you will probably want to look for a book tagged as nonfiction. If none of these things have dissuaded you, read on.

The author has taken what was known about the Lizzie Borden case and used her imagination to weave a story that was hard to put down! I really like how from the very beginning of the novel, we get inside Lizzie’s head and learn what motivates her and how she thinks. She is an interesting character and her interpretations and ability to rationalize her actions is fascinating.  She almost had me convinced her actions were justified!

Another thing I really like about this novel is the descriptive writing. The author paints pictures with her words. Here is one example from early in the book:

“I was beautiful only in my dreams, inspired by the romantic novels I devoured, where I dwelled in splendid castles and danced through life in my lover’s arms in sorbet- and candy-colored dresses of the latest Parisian fashion with my fiery red hair piled up in mounds and masses of curls entwined with silk ribbons, diamonds, and pearls.”

The characters themselves are not particularly likeable. Though I sympathized with Lizzie’s stepmother, Abby, her father was a cold, manipulative person, always in search of more money. Her older sister was also quite manipulative and a strong influence on Lizzie at a young age. It’s easy to see how Lizzie grew up to also be manipulative.

I think this would make a great selection for book clubs! Discussions might include Lizzie’s relationships with her parents and sister, the motivations for her actions, her ability to justify her actions, and many other topics!

About Brandy Purdy

Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN), THE BOLEYN BRIDE, and THE RIPPER’S WIFE. An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at, you can also follow her on Facebook as Brandy Purdy aka Emily Purdy.

My Rating:  ★★★★     4 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I was provided a copy by the author for review purposes.

Brandy’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 26
Review at Julz Reads
Review at Unshelfish
Wednesday, January 27
Review at Time 2 Read
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Thursday, January 28
Friday, January 29
Monday, February 1
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, February 2
Wednesday, February 3
Review at Broken Teepee
Thursday, February 4
Friday, February 5
Monday, February 08
Review at Brooke Blogs
Tuesday, February 09
Interview at Brooke Blogs
Wednesday, February 10
Thursday, February 11
Review A Book Geek
Friday, February 12
Review at History From a Women’s Perspective

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  1. I'm not sure if I'd like this or not. The premise intrigues me, but I am a bit squeamish about violence. It does seem like it would make for some good book club discussions!

  2. Replies
    1. Hope you enjoy it. I'll watch for your review.