Monday, January 25, 2016

Lizzie Borden Review and A Surprise Guest!

TITLE: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
AUTHOR: Brandy Purdy
PUBLISHER: Kensington
PUBLISHING DATE: January 26, 2016

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.

This is the second book I picked up by Brandy Purdy and I was not disappointed. I will admit I was initially and immediately drawn to this title by the subject matter as I seem obsessed with all things Lizzie Borden, or maybe I am just drawn to serial killers in general. Hmm...what might that say about me? I couldn't wait to find out more about Lizzie and while I know it is a work of fiction, from reading "The Ripper's Wife" I knew Purdy would include so many historical references that I would feel as if I was actually living in Fall River, Massachusetts on The Hill, watching the horrendous murders unfold.

Most people know the story of Lizzie Borden and can probably recite the chant by heart. But this book delves into the mind of Lizzie which I never experienced before in the shows I have watched or the previous information I have gathered. I remain amazed at the amount of work Purdy must put in to complete a historical fiction book like "The Secrets of Lizzie Borden." The book is packed full of details and keeps the reader engrossed to the very end. It looks at all angles of the murders which took place, and at times, actually makes me feel sorry for Lizzie. I imagine Lizzie had to be a complex character when she was alive, and most portrayals show her being extremely manipulative, but even so, I am sure if she was living in the modern world, she would have a few diagnoses and her own reality show and people would not treat her like the pariah she was back then.

I love the cover of this novel and find it extremely haunting. And although I will always imagine Lizzie Borden as Christina Ricci (thanks Lifetime!), Purdy's Lizzie seems much more realistic. The only drawback, and this really isn't a knock on this novel at all, is that I want to learn more about Emma, Lizzie's sister. It seems she had a lot of issues of her own, and I think it would be interesting to see the history of Lizzie shown from another point of view.

This is a glorious piece of historical fiction. Maybe I am not fully qualified to say that as I don't read much historical fiction, or perhaps it is true because I don't read a lot of historical fiction, yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the story it tells. If you love history, strong writing, or have a fascination with serial killers or Lizzie Borden in particular, definitely grab this on release day.

I was provided a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


And for a special surprise, Brandy was nice enough to do an interview with me.  I am so pleased to have made contact with her and will definitely be checking out any of her future works!
1.  The Secrets of Lizzie Borden is the second novel you have written featuring an intriguing historical figure with a notorious past (The Ripper's Wife being the first).  Do you have any more books similar in nature planned for the future?

I don’t know what the future holds, but I certainly hope so. I enjoy telling the stories of dark or flawed historical figures and giving them a voice. I think the more flawed they are the better I relate; if my publisher asked me to write a book about someone who was as perfect as a person can be I’m sure I would fail dismally. I have an almost lifelong fascination with unsolved crimes, disappearances, and mysteries. When I read about murderers and their victims I always want to know everyone involved, I want to know why and what drives them and if and how circumstances conspired for or against them. The one thing I cannot stand in reading about true crime is when victims are treated like just names printed on the page, and all the focus is on their killer, when I wrote The Ripper’s Wife it was extremely important to me that I breathe life back into his victims. I felt the same about Amy Robsart when I wrote my novel about her, The Queen's Pleasure, everything I had ever read focused on the more glamorous affair between Queen Elizabeth I and Amy's husband Robert Dudley while poor Amy was treated as an afterthought, out of sight, out of mind in the country, and giving her a voice, bringing her centerstage, was very important to me.

2.  You must complete a lot of information gathering and research when you write a book such as The Secrets of Lizzie Borden, can you share a little bit about your process?

I do a lot of research, reading and note taking, sometimes I have thousands of note cards. There is a list of books I used in writing The Secrets of Lizzie Borden at the end of the novel in case anyone is interested in the various theories about the murders. The Secrets of Lizzie Borden actually started out as my third novel, The Confession of Piers Gaveston was my first and the book that eventually became The Boleyn Wife was my second, but when I was signed to Kensington I had to put Lizzie aside and do my Tudor series. One thing I have learned over the years is that I am a terrible multi-tasker, the more I have to juggle the more overwhelmed I get; I am a classic movie buff and there is a line in one of my favorite Buster Keaton silent films about trying to do several things at once and doing justice to none of them, and that is me perfectly, so I’ve found it impossible to work on multiple books at once no matter how much I would like to. I’m so glad I was finally able to finish The Secrets of Lizzie Borden and see it published even though it took years.

3.   What/who inspired you to start writing? 

I have loved books since I was a little girl and I always sort of had the notion of being a writer at the back of mind, I would hear stories and say “if I ever write a book that’s a story I would like to tell,” but I never really wrote unless I had to for a school assignment. Books have been the only real constant in my life. I was a very lonely and anxious child, I had no friends and was bullied and made fun of all through my school years, and reading was where I found comfort. When I can’t read for some reason I know I am in trouble. After my mother died I kept trying to read and putting the book down in frustration because I could not take a single word in, I remember reading the same sentence over and over and not being able to absorb any of it. Then I picked up this book about royal scandals, it was written in a light, frothy entertaining style, and I opened it at random, and the story on that page was about the medieval king Edward II and his paramour Piers Gaveston and the scandal about their relationship. I don’t think I had ever heard the story before but for some reason it just captivated me and I started researching the subject and sort of spontaneously decided to try writing a novel. No one believed I could do it, they sort of humored me, but it was something to occupy me and help me work through the grief of my mother’s passing. That’s how it all began and eight novels followed, I am currently working on number nine.

4.  What is the last book you read?  Can you share some of your favorite books or authors?

When I am writing I don’t get to read as much as I would like to, and I miss it terribly, but I can’t write my own if I am distracted by someone else’s characters and wondering what is going to happen with them, so I mostly watch movies when I am actively writing a book. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher for about three years when I first heard about it on a Houdini themed blog that I follow, it tells the story of Harry Houdini’s investigation of the spiritualist medium known as Margery, and I did take a couple of days off to read that, and I just loved it and hope to read it again in the near future. My favorite historical novels of all time are Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell (my family is originally from Georgia, they moved to Texas before I was born, and some of them knew Margaret Mitchell as a nodding acquaintance. I read GWTW for the first time when I was in third grade, it was in fact my first adult level book and is still my favorite movie), Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, Green Darkness by Anya Seton (I am slowly savoring reading all ten of her novels), Family Money by Doris Shannon, and Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.  I also love The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham and Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham and have read each of them several times. I always try to keep up with the latest novels by Jodi Picoult, she writes such interesting, thought-provoking situations, but sometimes I’m a book or two, or even three, behind. I also love interesting non-fiction, especially about true crime or unsolved mysteries, biographies, archaeology, and shipwrecks. One of my favorites is Ghost Ship by Brian Hicks about the ill-fated Mary Celeste, I have his latest about the civil war era submarine the Hunley near the top of my Leaning Tower of Pisa “To Read” stack as well as Erik Larson’s latest book, Dead Wake, about the Lusitania. I am also looking forward to reading Troy Taylor’s book Two Lost Girls about the murder of the Grimes Sisters and a recent book about bog bodies by Miranda Aldhouse-Green, mummies of all kinds are another almost lifelong fascination.

5.  Booker T (my pup) loves to review on my blog so this question is from him - Do you have any pets?  Do they help you read or write (I am in charge of keeping Mom warm while she reads)?  Are they as spoiled as me and my brother Cassius?

My cat Tabby is the love of my life. You can see many pictures of her on my blog, just click on “Tabby” in the labels list and you will finds years of pictures, including all her birthday cakes, I haven’t had any new ones recently unfortunately because my digital camera finally died and I just haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet. Tabby loves to help me work. She loves to lie on top of books, so if I am editing a manuscript and lay it down she will immediately climb on top of it and not budge until she is good and ready to, if I try to move her she will bite me. She also loves my red editing pens and God help my poor fingers if I need that pen when she is playing with it; she wants the one I am using not the old empty ones or any other pen. Same thing when I take pictures of books to sell on ebay, she loves to pose for pictures, so lying on top of books I need to take a picture of is a dream come true for her. Recently we discovered that we like to color together. I found out that this recent trend for grown-up coloring books truly is a wonderful stress reliever for me, if I run into a snag writing or am stressing out over a hundred and one things I can’t worry about all that and concentrate on staying inside all those delicate little lines, it works even better for me than my beloved word seek puzzles. I will point to something on the page and ask Tabby “what color should I make this kangaroo?” or whatever it is, and I will push the pack of markers or colored pencils towards her and she will pick a color for me. She makes some very interesting choices, but then I like to color things unnatural colors so I don’t mind at all, that’s part of the fun of it, and if anyone doesn’t like my magenta and purple roosters, hot pink koi fish, and red storks I can always blame my cat.

Thanks Brandy for stopping by and nothing but the best for you and your new release!


  1. I know how much you were looking forward to reading this book so I'm really pleased that you enjoyed it! I might pick it up at some point once I tackle my rising book pile!

  2. Great review and post! I am really intrigued with this book since I first heard about it a few months ago. This one really looks and sounds utterly fantastic. So glad and happy you enjoy it! Thank you for your awesome post my friend.