Thursday, January 28, 2016

BLOG TOUR - Book Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
by Brandy Purdy

Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Kensington Books
eBook & Print: 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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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

Any time author Brandy Purdy has a new novel coming out, I jump at the chance to get a review copy prior to the release date of the book. I heard about her newest novel, “The Secrets of Lizzie Borden”, and was excited when asked to review it for my blog. Ms. Purdy is an excellent historical fiction author, and she has a natural talent when it comes to combining the facts gained from her meticulous research, and adding her own spin to the story. As a reader I never find myself bogged down with lists of facts or unnecessary descriptions, and I find it easy to become lost in her unique writing style, as well as her intriguing characters.

I knew very little about Lizzie Borden prior to reading this novel. I think I had watched a documentary about female murderers, and she was one of the women featured.  Lizzie Borden may have come from a wealthy family, but one thing that she had in common with many other murderers or serial killers was a deeply troubled childhood. She was forced to live her life almost as an outcast due to her father’s issues. She grew up different from other females her age, and was not allowed to socialize like a normal female. She spent her childhood and young adult years depressed and isolated, continuously looking towards what she hoped would be a bright future when she receives her inheritance. However, we all know that’s not how the story turned out, and it is interesting to see the author’s take on what really caused Lizzie Borden to commit such a heinous act. Although Lizzie is a murderer, I was still able to connect with her and to feel her isolation and sadness as I read this novel. The author shows that there was a lot more going on in Lizzie Borden’s story than what you see in the historical accounts of her crime.

“The Secrets of Lizzie Borden” was a little slow moving at first, and it did take me a couple of chapters to really get into the story. I would definitely recommend sticking it out if you feel like it is dragging at the start, because once you get into the meat of the story, you won’t be able to put it down! Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I give it a FOUR out of FIVE stars.

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.

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
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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

BOOK REVIEW - French Executioner Series: The French Executioner & The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys

Length: 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (October 7, 2014)


The last thing Jean Rombaud expects upon being summoned to behead Anne Boleyn is to dedicate his life to her. But the ill-fated queen has a mysterious request for her executioner: that after taking her life he also take her infamous six-fingered hand and bury it at a sacred crossroads in France. His oath will set Jean on the most dangerous journey of his life.

In The French Executioner, C.C. Humphreys once again brings the past to life in all its glory and peril. This thrilling novel captures the breathtaking story of how courage, love, and loyalty bound Anne Boleyn to the man who ended her life―and saved her legacy.

My Review of The French Executioner

I am a sucker for historical fiction novels about or involving Anne Boleyn. I have been intrigued and awed by her since I was 10 and came across one of the older novels about her and read it. I fell in love with her story right then, and have read every book I could find about her since then. The French Executioner is not exactly about Anne Boleyn, but it definitely does deal with her life. The premise of this novel is that when Anne was ordered to be executed by her husband, King Henry VIII, because of her supposed adultery with many men, including (supposedly) her brother (in reality the king just wanted to get rid of her so he could marry Jane Seymore). Anne's executioner, Jean Rombaud, was requested from France, where he was known for his ability to execute criminals cleanly and quickly with his sword.  As a last act of "kindness", Henry VIII allowed her to be executed by Jean, rather than by the regular executioner and his ax or being burned at the stake. Anne requests that her hand with six fingers (some historians say that she had six fingers, but I believe it was a smear campaign by those who hated her) be buried at a sacred crossroad in France. Jean pledges to Anne that he will follow through with her request, and after her execution he sets out on a journey to fulfill his promise. The journey is, of course, filled with danger, mystery, adventure, and intrigue. It started out a little slow for me, but once I got into it I definitely enjoyed it. I love historical fiction from the time period of King Henry VIII and his wives, so this novel fit right in with my preferred genre. The book is the first of a set of two, with the second novel called The Curse of Anne Boleyn. I have read both, and really liked both of them. Unfortunately, I read them out of order, and I would suggest reading this book prior to book 2. 

I would definitely recommend this novel to historical fiction fans. It's an interesting read, and the author is an excellent writer. The descriptions of scenery, people, and life during that time period take you right there with the characters. The characters are well-rounded, and likable, which is huge for me when it comes to enjoying a novel. 
I give this novel a FOUR out of FIVE stars.

Reviews for The French Executioner

"Humphreys has fashioned a rollicking good yarn that keeps the pages turning from start to finish."―Irish Examiner

"A wonderful saga of magic and heroism. If you can find a first impression, hoard it and wait till it rises in value like a first edition of Lord of the Rings. This is as good."―Crime Time, UK

"A brilliant, brutal, and absorbing historical thriller on the real-life figure of Jean Rombaud, the man who beheaded Anne Boleyn."―Northern Echo

"Set against the backdrop of the Protestant Reformation, his superbloody Princess Bride-like adventure is, at its heart, a tale of redemption, well earned and hard-won." --Library Journal

"Humphreys (Jack Absolute) breathes life into 16th century Europe with this fascinating tale of adventure and mystery...Humphreys's characters are well drawn and deeply empathetic, and Rombaud's mission remains entertaining throughout. " --Publishers Weekly

Sequel to The French Executioner

Length: 416 Pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 5, 2015)


From the masterful C.C. Humphreys comes the captivating sequel to The French Executioner

Nearly twenty years have passed since Anne Boleyn died at the hands of her slayer and savior, Jean Rombaud. All he wants is to forget his sword-wielding days and live happily with his family. Yet her distinctive six-fingered hand, stolen at her death—and all the dark power it represents—still compels evil men to seek it out.

When Jean's son, Gianni, joins the Inquisition in Rome and betrays all his father worked for, Jean discovers that time alone cannot take him—or his son—far from his past. But he never expected his whole family, especially his beloved daughter Anne, to become caught up once more in the tragic queen's terrible legacy.

From the savagery of way in Italy to the streets of London and Paris and the wilds of North America,The Curse of Anne Boleyn sweeps readers into a thrilling story that puts love, loyalty, and family to the ultimate test.

My Review of The Curse of Anne Boleyn

Give me a novel about Anne Boleyn, and I am a happy reader! This might sounds like an exaggeration, but I have been reading novels about Anne Boleyn's life, every book I can find, for well over 10 years. "The Curse of Anne Boleyn" by C.C. Humphreys is another great novel that is related to Anne Boleyn’s fascinating story. I like how the author wrote a book that is not really about Anne, but more so about the legacy she left, and how her life, and her death in this novel, affected those who had any connection with her. This novel is the story that follows C.C. Humphrey's first novel, The French Executioner. It is a continuation of Jean Rombaud's story, as he attempts to follow through with a promise he made to Anne Boleyn prior to executing her at the King's order. The author takes the reader on a fast paced journey through many parts of the world. The amount of research that had to have gone into this novel is astounding, however the reader is never bogged down with lists of facts. There is intrigue, adventure, and several twists that will surprise the reader. It is definitely a book that I recommend reading if historical fiction, especially during the time period of the Tudors in England, is a genre you enjoy. Several others have suggested reading the first novel, The French Executioner, before this novel. I would have to agree, because there are details that might be lost to the reader if they have not read the first book. It is possible to read this as a stand-alone, but I think the reader will enjoy it more if they read both novels.

I give this novel a FIVE out of FIVE stars, and I definitely recommend reading The Curse of Anne Boleyn, as well as The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys.

Reviews for The Curse of Anne Boleyn

"Humphreys is a master of the sweeping epic, merging the battles of an Errol Flynn movie with all the intrigues of the Borgias. Fans of good old-fashioned adventures will adore this ambitious novel." - RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

"C.C. Humphreys stays true to his adventurous style and flair and treats his audience to another great read in his latest book: The Curse of Anne Boleyn... What a treat to read yet another engaging adventure penned by the likes of Mr. Humphreys" - Feathered Quill Book Reviews

"Great for readers who are looking for an action story with a little bit of mystery included." - A Bookish Affair
"Humphrey's attention to historical detail, his deftly crafted characters, combined with a storyline replete with unexpected twists and turns, makes for an engaging and thoroughly entertaining read from beginning to end. " - Midwest Book Review

Friday, January 15, 2016

GUEST POST: Michael Murphy, Author of The Yankee Club and All That Glitters

One of the most common questions I receive about my writing is how did I come to write a historical mystery series set in the 1930’s. People have heard about the Depression, the Dust Bowls, soup kitchens and breadlines and are surprised I would attempt to write a witty, sophisticated mystery series.

The thirties were tough times. Lives, careers and hopes were shattered by The Great Depression as unemployment soared to twenty-five percent of the workforce.

Prohibition had proven to be a noble but failed experiment leading to the rise of organized crime. Gangsters such as Al Capone, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow achieved wealth and notoriety. 

The Great Depression caused an immense void between those with wealth and those who struggled to find food, shelter and employment. Those with money battled to keep their wealth and power. The void led people respond to extreme politicians who promised to right the world’s wrong; Nazis and Communists in Europe and America.

The public longed for heroes and found them in Cole Porter, Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, boxers James Braddock and Joe Louis, movie stars like William Powell, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Shirley Temple.

In Hollywood, the thirties are now referred to as Hollywood’s Golden Age, the rise of talking
pictures and the pre-code era that produced so many naughty and bawdy movies. The golden age of mysteries included this decade with writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie produced some of their classic novels during these years

I believe readers of historical fiction enjoy their fictional heroes interacting with historical figures. The thirties presented a perfect opportunity to take readers along on a journey into these fascinating times and interesting people; the bright lights and dark alleys of New York and the glamour and glitz of Tinsel town.

In my Jake and Laura mystery series, readers will get to know Jake Donovan, a former detective turned mystery writer and Laura Wilson a Broadway actress with dreams of Hollywood. And they’ll journey back to New York City in The Yankee Club, the Golden Age of Hollywood in All That Glitters, and meet Amelia Earhart in the upcoming Jake and Laura mystery, Wings in the Dark.


Michael Murphy is a full time writer and part time urban chicken rancher in Arizona. He and his wife of over forty years recently adopted five children.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW - The King's Sisters by Sarah Kennedy

Series: The Cross and the Crown (book 3)
Pages: 320
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing


It is now 1542 and another queen, Catherine Howard, has been beheaded for adultery.  Although young Prince Edward is thriving, and the line of Tudor succession seems secure, the king falls into a deep melancholy and questions the faith and loyalty of those around him. Catherine has found herself in a unique position as a married former nun.  Now she is a wealthy widow.  She has two children, a boy who has successfully joined the young prince’s household and a daughter who lives with her at Richmond Palace, home to Henry’s cast-off fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, now designated “The King’s Beloved Sister.”  Catherine also enjoys the attentions of widower Benjamin Davies, and in the festive court atmosphere, she has furtively indulged her passion for him.  But England has changed again. Anne of Cleves hopes for reinstatement as queen―until questions arise about the finances of the houses she keeps.  Catherine, as one of the king’s “reformed sisters,” is singled out, just as she realizes that she is carrying a third child. The King’s Sisters explores the Tudor court under an aging Henry VIII.  He now has a son and heir, but his two daughters remain players in the political intrigues. The Cross and the Crown series follows the very private Catherine as she is thrust into the scheming.  She is skilled enough to serve a former queen . . . but this may be the very quality that endangers her future.

My Review

The Kings Sisters by Sarah Kennedy is an extremely well written, as well as interesting work of historical fiction, however it was a little slow starting for me. After I had gotten a chapter or two into the novel, it began to pick up for me. The slow start could be due to the fact that it is book three in The Cross & the Crown Series, so I had to figure a few things out, as I have not yet read books one and two. However, I don't feel that it is necessary to read the first two books in order to follow along with what is going on in the novel. The main character, Catherine, belongs to Anne of Cleves household in Tudor England. King Henry VIII is still King of England, and has just recently beheaded his queen, Catherine Howard. The atmosphere is that of intrigue and conspiracy, and the main character finds herself embroiled in one intrigue, and must use her wits to stay out of the grasp of Martin David Martins, who is after more and more money and power.

Ms. Kennedy does an excellent job at staying true to Tudor history with her novel. I really like that she obviously has done a lot of research, and there are no areas in the novel where I had to really suspend my disbelief. The author also is able to take the facts, and turn it into a tale that reads nothing like a history book, but like a fascinating story that takes the reader right into the midst of Tudor England.
I will definitely be looking into books one and two of The Cross & the Crown Series. The only reason I am giving this novel a four, rather than five stars, is the fact that it took a little bit to get into the story. I like to be pulled into a story within the first couple pages, but it took a couple chapters for me to be able to get into this novel.

Praise for The Cross and the Crown Series

“A true page-turner.”—Historical Novels Review

“It is not necessary to read the first novel in the series to enjoy this book, but those finding this their first introduction to Catherine will surely search out the first novel to spend more time with this feisty woman in her richly detailed world.”—Foreword Reviews

“….In City of Ladies Kennedy takes her place with Daphne du Maurier, Anya Seton, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Hilary Mantel as writer of superb historical fiction.”—Suzanne Keen, author of Empathy and the Novel

About the Author

Sarah Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Purdue University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. The author of seven books of poems as well as The Altarpiece and City of Ladies, books one and two in The Cross and the Crown series, she has received individual artist grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, as well as an award for scholarship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She teaches at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Her website is

Want to start reading The Cross and the Crown Series? Click below to purchase book 1 in the series, The Altarpiece.