Review: Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

Review: Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver, Lindsay Currie
Published by Merit Press on September 15th 2015
Pages: 224
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.


Note: Upon finishing this “review”, it has become apparent that it is one third random story about a bus trip, one third my own searches about Lizzie Borden, and one third fangirling over the book. I am not sure that any of this is helpful, so here’s the TL;DR version:

If you like a good historical mystery, well fleshed out characters, and awesome twists, read this book. If you are at all interested in the Lizzie Borden case, also absolutely read this book. 

So, remember the time I said I read this book in one sitting? Well, that was a simplified version. Here’s how it actually went down: I took a short nap on the way home from New York, and started reading as we crossed into Pennsylvania. I read furiously, and we pulled into the bus station when I was at 91%. Ninety. One. Percent. I cursed the nap, the bus driver, even the lack of traffic, because it’s evil, really, to make someone stop reading so close to the end. So I got in my car, raced home, and finished the book, as you do.

Point being, it was so incredibly addictive that I didn’t stop except when forced to. Because driving and reading are likely frowned upon.

Sweet Madness was basically a compilation of a lot of fabulous things rolled into one.

Fast paced?


Historical awesomeness?

Fabulous, multifaceted characters?

Twists I did not see coming?

Lizzie freaking Borden?

(Granted, that last one is pretty unique to this book, but that doesn’t make it less fabulous.)

If you know about the Lizzie Borden case, you’ll know how creepily fascinating the whole thing is. If you don’t know about it… well, get thyself to Wikipedia. While I’ve never read any fiction about the Bordens before, I have watched an unhealthy amount of documentaries about them. There were a couple years where Investigation Discovery channel was my jam, and nothing was more fun that an old timey mystery. Also, Lizzie had the crazy eyes. For real.


Anyway, the book. So it’s told via Bridget’s point of view. She’s the maid, and she is so likable, which I think is the key to this story. I mean, I don’t think you could make Lizzie likeable enough to tell a book from her POV, because she (historically speaking, not just in this book) was one high maintenance lady. But I think that the authors did a fabulous job of humanizing everyone in this book. Through the story, there was no “villain”, it was just a family with a lot of issues, a maid caught up in their nonsense, a town that knew they were all batshit crazy, and it made it impossible to know the outcome ahead of time, which for me was perfect!

I also loved how the authors were able to really make you feel like you were in Fall River in the late 1800s, but more specifically, what it would have been like to live in the Borden household. There was a lot of very relevant historical stuff included, but in such a way that made it so fascinating. We’re meant to think some of their behavior was odd, just like Bridget would have, but there’s also the glimpses into the each of the family members that show that they were far more than their historical caricaturizations.

Bottom Line: This book is addictive and fast paced, I enjoyed the characters and the mystery; I enjoyed the historical accuracy and ambience. Basically, I loved Sweet Madness a lot. Consider this my open letter to Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver to keep writing together for the rest of time.


You know we’re going to talk about Lizzie Borden now, right? What do you think about the story? Please tell me you’ve heard of it (if not, off to the links you go)! Who do you think did it, historically speaking?

Posted September 9, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 15 Comments

15 responses to “Review: Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

  1. I feel (mildly) ashamed at not knowing who Lizzy Borden is so I will go look at the link before finishing this comment… Okay, after reading through the entire Wikipedia page, I’ve made a choice and I think Lizzy did it. But dang, that is crazy. I want to read even more about this case now, it’s intense.

    I haven’t heard of this book but I NEED it in my life now. Fast paced, amazing characters, a mystery, and a synopsis that makes it sound at least mildly creepy??? I MUST HAVE. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Shannon! I will have to pick it up! =)

    • Well. You are young. We can use that as a somewhat half-assed excuse 😉 But RIGHT!? Isn’t the case so freaking interesting? I love it, and I LOVE the way the authors handled it. This book was just… GAH so good! I hope you love it- it is SO addictive!

  2. I know her name, I know she was suspected for the murders of her parents yet has been released, but kept being suspected, that’s all ! A book lately had the same effect on me, I only dropped it because my kindle’s battery let me down at one point 🙂 Great review, I need to read this !

  3. I don’t know much about Lizzie Borden, but I know some…I know the whole song/saying that goes with her and that she killed her parents…or didn’t kill them. I started to watch a documentary but my mom changed the channel and didn’t finish it. I think there is one to watch on Netflix I believe.

    Anyway, this book sounds amazing. Christy is reading it right now so I’m excited to see what she says, too! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Yes, yes! It’s:
      “Lizzie Borden took an ax
      And gave her mother forty whacks.
      When she saw what she had done,
      She gave her father forty-one.”

      So… that’s not creepy at ALL hahah. I know there was a lifetime movie too, but it was with Christina Ricci and looked SUPER cheesy. I need more out of my historical horror. Hope Christy loves it!

  4. Wow, what a review, Shannon! I’ve always thought the whole story of Lizzie and the murders was fascinating. I’ve never delved too deeply into it… just online articles years ago… but I’m totally intrigued about what this book covers and how it presents Lizzie. I am surprised at how short it is… 224 pages? This one is going right on the TBR. I think I’ll love it.

  5. I do know Lizzie Borden, but I don’t know a lot of the historical details. This sounds like such a fantastic book though, and I’m so glad you loved it. I read the summary and thought it sound great so it always makes me a bit nervous to then read the review. haha


  6. Oh what a fine day I decided to come to your blog because HELLO I LOVE THE LIZZIE BORDEN STORY! I’ve seen the documentary on the family countless times, and have even watched the lifetime movie and short series they created! I have read this asap as well, and I seriously can NOT wait. I have a friend that’s reading it now and she says it’s the perfect level of crazy, mixed with some creepiness up in there, and since your review has confirmed this, I should pick this up . . . like . . . now lol. Omg Shannon, you don’t know how excited I am to hear that you loved it, because since we have similar tastes it means I just might love it too lol 🙂

  7. I can’t believe I forgot about this book, definitely my type of read, and I only found out about the case while watching Warehouse 13, so don’t know much about the case really, other than the poem, but I think it’llbe best not to knowmuch before reading, adds to the creepy, right? Which, I’ll be reading on Halloween (the wait will kill me.), I had a quick look at the family history though, and oh my god, yeah, she definitely had crazy eyes. Really. And to be honest, I do think she could have done it. Maybe that’ll change the more I look into it after reading the book, but, I’m sticking with that for now, because She was remembered by some who knew her in later life as a lady of great kindness and generosity, with a fondness for children and animals a fondness for children and animals, frankly, that gives me the creeps.

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