Review: Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

I have been looking forward to this book all summer long. It has been on my radar since the spring and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and start reading.

I absolutely love the Brontes and a book like this just sounded so incredible! Not to mention that cover is totally giving me all the heart eyes. What I was most excited for in this novel was that it would explore the story of the Bronte’s brother rather than the famous and talented sisters.

It screamed new and exciting for me and since this is the author’s debut novel, it was just begging to be read and loved by audiences.

Summary

This dazzling debut novel for fans of Mrs. Poe and Longbournexplores the scandalous historical love affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, giving voice to the woman who allegedly corrupted her son’s innocent tutor and brought down the entire Brontë family.

Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact. (summary from Goodreads)

Review

This book. This book. This book. It was so wonderful, and while I knew I would love it, I couldn’t believe how much depth and research this one had. Austin’s research shines in this novel. There are a ton of resources available for the Bronte sisters, but I would imagine that there must have been substantially less on their brother Branwell. I was so incredibly impressed with her research and how well she portrayed Branwell and Lydia.

This wasn’t just another Bronte story or retelling, but the influences are there for readers who like that sort of thing but for readers who want something modern, fresh, and different there is plenty to enjoy in this one too. For me, I didn’t know much at all about Branwell’s ‘ruin’ or his love affair with Lydia prior to reading this novel, but now that I am done, I want to know so much more.

I think the author really picked an intriguing subject matter for her first novel and I was impressed with her research of course but I found that I enjoyed the characters just as much. I wanted to keep reading to see how their relationship evolved and how things progressed between Branwell and Lydia. I was truly captivated and I couldn’t put this one down. I absolutely loved it.

This was a beautifully written novel with interesting content and rich in romance and history. I was completely hooked and couldn’t put it down. I was so happy that one of my most anticipated novels of the summer lived up to the hype. If you are a historical fiction fan, then this is a book you need on your shelf this summer. I loved it and have been gushing about it to all my friends! I can’t wait to see what Austin comes up with next.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Atria Books
ISBN 1982137231 (ISBN13: 9781982137236)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Atria, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: historical fiction

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