Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy

Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Kensington Books
eBook & Print; 384 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


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.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I find the myth and mystery surrounding the Borden murder case absolutely fascinating! Like so many others I'm sure, I've seen the TV movies about it and wondered what really happened inside that house that resulted in two such brutal killings. Having read and really enjoyed Brandy Purdy's previous novel, The Ripper's Wife, I was excited to see how she would handle what little is known and weave it into an attention-grabbing novel.  While I didn't find all aspects of its execution successful I did find it entertaining and thought provoking as a whole.

I think my favorite aspect of the story (which also led to one of my biggest issues, which I'll explain in a minute) was the fact that it was written almost as a journal, with Lizzie telling her life story and giving her excuses for why she did what she did, not only the day her father and stepmother were killed but before and after that point. It covers most of her life and gave a more rounded picture of who this woman was and why she was the way she was then any other interpretation I've seen. Now, this style of writing can bring about its own special issues and this is where my appreciation of the story wavered somewhat.

This Lizzie is an incredibly shallow person. So much of the story is spent with her describing, ad nauseam, the fabrics and accoutrements of every dress she has or wants, the many other material possessions -  jewelry, home supplies, paintings, etc. - she wants or gets over the years, and the endless luxuries she comes into contact with for one reason or another. I found myself starting to glaze over when reading these descriptive passages and found myself more than once skimming through them to get to what I hoped would be deeper feelings and discussions. Sadly there weren't enough of these to satisfy me, which isn't to say that this wasn't completely in line with the Lizzie that Purdy was building in the story, this just wasn't a Lizzie I particularly liked or felt sorry for.

This all being said, the few times she did dig a little deeper, talking about how ostracized she felt during her life, her tender and painfully fleeting brushes with love and acceptance, and the many times and ways people used her over the years, went some way to make me see her as a real person who suffered quite a bit, even if much of that suffering was brought on by her own actions. It still wasn't enough to illicit my sympathy, but it did help me see that she was more complicated than what she initially appears.

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden is an in depth look at Lizzie Borden's full life, in her own words. This Lizzie's not as deep or introspective as I would have liked, but I can see her fully fleshed out in the way Purdy presents her.  I feel like I have a better idea of who this infamous woman of history was as well as the details behind what happened to her family. I recommend this to anyone looking to do the same.


What Did I Think About the  Cover?

It's okay. I definitely has an eerie feel to it and is appropriately dark and foreboding to fit the story. However, the woman on the front doesn't match the Lizzie Borden described in the story. She's described as short, squat and not very pretty, and this woman is clearly thin. The front of the house looks right, however, so it does represent the story somewhat. It doesn't necessarily grab my eye but it doesn't turn me away either.

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Secrets of Lizzie Borden in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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.

Buy the Book

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden Blog Tour Schedule

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

Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, January 29

Review at A Chick Who Reads
Interview at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, February 1

Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, February 2

Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, February 3

Review at Broken Teepee

Thursday, February 4

Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, February 5

Review at The True Book Addict

Monday, February 08

Review at Brooke Blogs

Tuesday, February 09

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Interview at Brooke Blogs

Wednesday, February 10

Review at A Literary Vacation
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at History From a Women’s Perspective

Thursday, February 11

Review A Book Geek

Friday, February 12

Blog Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past


  1. I loved the book, reviewed it a while ago as an ARC!

  2. I reviewed this through Netgalley and thought it portrayed Lizzie Borden very believably.

  3. Whoops, not Netgalley. I reviewed an arc for the Historical Novels Review.

    1. Awesome, thanks for stopping by and commenting, Susan :)!!