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Summary

“[A] meticulously researched debut novel...In a word? Juicy.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

The scandalous historical love affair between Lydia Robinson and Branwell Brontë, brother to novelists Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, gives voice to the woman who allegedly brought down one of literature’s most famous families.

Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson has tragically 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 25 to her 43. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ imaginative worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But their new passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic, and whispers of their romantic relationship spout from Lydia’s servants’ lips, reaching all three Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Mrs. Robinson 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.

©2020 Finola Austin. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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A Good Book

Nicely written and a believable story based on the brief relationship that Branden had with the lady of the house when he was tutoring the children. Brandon is very sensitive. The lady of the house is well portrayed, you understand her situation yet you can't really warm to her.
I really enjoyed this book.

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  • HistoryNerd
  • 11-10-20

A True Anti-Heroine

Finola Austin’s “Brontë’s Mistress” looks at the well-known Brontë family, honing in on a supposed affair between the drunkard brother Bramwell and his employer’s wife. It’s a well-written novel...6about generally unlikeable people. I don’t think there was one major character that I could like but the characterization was done so well I was still invested in the story. It’s actually a very sad novel—Lydia Robinson (“Mrs. Robinson” as she is known turns out to be a very apt moniker) is a worn down housewife and mother in a time where the Cult of Domesticity reigned supreme. I did feel sorry for her at times, knowing what I know about the period, but then she would go do (or say) something horrifically selfish and my sympathy would fly out the window.

The one perplexing thing was Lydia’s obsession with Charlotte Brontë. I really didn’t understand it and it didn’t figure enough into plot to be a tail worth chasing. The author’s note at the end is well worth listening so don’t miss it.

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  • Reader
  • 09-08-20

Wonderful story behind the story

Really enjoyable listen to a well written novel about a woman and the Brontë sisters’ less famous brother

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  • Syd Young
  • 10-02-21

Powerful Feminist Imagining—in its own time

This is such an interesting, unique book. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book like this, where the woman makes no excuses for grasping at what she needs, and while the modern readers sees and understands exactly why she does. Austin paints Lydia Robinson as a deprived, suffering mess/despite seemingly having everything. Here, she’s brought back to life for a bit by an illicit affair with the brother Bronte. How sad that women had so little say, so little control over their lives. If Lydia’s life was anything like what Austin paints, I’m glad she found some joy, though it cost her much.

Austin is an adept writer, invoking the time period with every turn of phrase and with each bit of dialogue. I knew I’d go into this judging the older
Woman for her behavior; instead, I found Deep understanding and care. If only women could—now days would— stand up for them selves so that these kinds of pains in their lives didn’t have to be born with quite so much tragedy.

Well done, Finola Austin. What’s next? Sign me up!