Monday, August 03, 2020

Monday, August 03, 2020 1:06 am by M. in ,    1 comment
BrontëBlog joins the blog tour of presentation of
Brontë’s Mistress: A Novel  
Finola Austin
Atria Books (August 04, 2020)
ISBN: 978-1982137236 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1982137250 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781797106878 (audiobook)

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.
Blog Tour Schedule:
Aug 03 Brontëblog (Guest Blog)
Aug 03 The Reading Frenzy (Interview)
Aug 03 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
Aug 04 Lu's Reviews (Review)
Aug 04 The Best Historical Fiction (Review)
Aug 05 The Write Review (Review)
Aug 05 English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
Aug 06 Historical Fiction Reader (Review)
Aug 06 Captivated Reading (Review)
Aug 07 Reading the Past (Review)
Aug 07 Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt)
Aug 08 Book Nursie (Review)
Aug 10 Frolic Media (Interview)
Aug 10 Historical Fiction with Spirit (Review)
Aug 10 Brontëblog (Review)
Aug 11 Chicks, Rogues and Scandals (Review)
Aug 11 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
Aug 12 Laura's Reviews (Review)
Aug 12 Historical Fiction Reader (Interview)
Aug 13 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)
Aug 14 Silver Petticoat Reviews (Guest Blog)
Aug 14 The Reading Frenzy (Review)
Aug 15 The Write Review (Live Facebook Interview)
Aug 16 Probably at the Library (Review)
Guest Post by Finola Austin:
10 fascinating facts I learned about the Brontës while researching Brontë's Mistress 

Before I started working on the novel that would become Brontë’s Mistress, I thought I knew a lot about the Brontes.

I’d read all the sisters’ novels, starting as a child with Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, embracing the passion of Emily’s Wuthering Heights during my teenage years, and later coming to appreciate the quieter genius of the third sister, Anne. I’d read several biographies of the family and dabbled in the siblings’ letters and juvenalia. I had two degrees from the University of Oxford, including one in nineteenth-century literature. As part of this I’d written a paper on student/teacher relationships in Charlotte’s Villette, The Professor and Shirley.

But in 2016, I finally read Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë, and stumbled upon a new aspect of the Brontë myth that fascinated me. Mrs. Gaskell, a celebrated novelist in her own right, knew Charlotte, and, in this first Brontë biography, she doesn’t just praise her friend and her sisters. She blames one woman for the addictions, decline and death of Branwell, the only Brontë brother—Lydia Robinson, his employer’s wife, with whom he was rumored to have had an affair.

I spent the next year researching, aiming to discover everything I could about this elusive Mrs. Robinson and her relationship with Branwell Brontë, to shape my novel, which would tell Lydia’s side of the story. Here are ten enticing facts I learned along the way.

1. Branwell was 25 to Lydia’s 43 when they first met
Branwell Brontë arrived at Thorp Green Hall, the Robinson family’s home, in January 1843, when he was 25 years old. The Hall was a fine house near the village of Little Ouseburn near York. He was employed to act as tutor to Lydia’s only son, Edmund (known as Ned, as he shared a name with his father). But at this point, Branwell’s youngest sister, Anne, had already been working for the family for nearly three years. She’d come to Thorp Green in May 1840, aged only 20, to act as governess to the daughters of the household. This meant both Branwell and Anne were closer in age to the Robinson children than to Lydia (43) or her husband (42).

2. Lydia was reeling from two deaths when Branwell first came into her life
Lydia’s mother had just died when Branwell arrived at the house, and her youngest daughter, Georgiana, had died of whooping cough less than two years before. Anne Bronte had been in the house for this tragedy, and was governess to the three remaining daughters—Lydia, Elizabeth (Bessy), and Mary.

3. Branwell Brontë didn’t really live at Thorp Green Hall 
Unlike Anne, Branwell actually slept in the Monk’s House, a separate smaller dwelling in the grounds of the Hall. Otherwise known as the Monk’s Lodge, this property still survives as a private residence, although Thorp Green Hall burned down in the late nineteenth century. Branwell shared the Monk’s House with the steward, Thomas Sewell. The man’s sister, Elizabeth Sewell, was the Thorp Green housekeeper, although some scholars have erroneously reported that the pair were husband and wife.

4. Anne and Branwell weren’t the only two Brontës to visit Thorp Green
Their father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, visited and dined at the Hall in March 1843, as he was due to testify in a forgery case held in York the next morning. This incident forms the basis of an important scene in my novel.

5. Anne Brontë sketched the local church
The Brontes weren’t just talented writers. Anne, like her sister Charlotte, liked to draw, and a sketch of hers of Holy Trinity Church in Little Ouseburn still survives. Comparing her drawing to the church today you’ll notice some key differences, due to renovations in the late nineteenth century. We now know that the Robinsons’ memorial plaques in the church were also moved and that the arrangement of the pews in the chancel in the 1840s meant that Anne could have had her back to the preacher—just like the title character in her novel Agnes Grey.

6. Lydia’s daughters gave Anne Brontë her beloved dog, Flossy
A sketch of the Little Ouseburn church wasn’t the only keepsake Anne Brontë brought back to Haworth with her. The Robinson girls also gave her her beloved spaniel, Flossy. The dog is a “character” in my novel meaning everyone, human or animal, mentioned in the book is real, with the exception of one horse, which I christened Patrocolus.

7. Lydia’s daughter Lydia acted in a way that might remind some of Jane Austen’s Lydia Bennet
Lydia the elder wasn’t the only Lydia bringing drama to the Robinson household. No spoilers here (!), but I was shocked and delighted to discover what happened to the oldest daughter entrusted to Anne Brontë’s care, especially since she also shares her forename with the flighty youngest daughter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Her story is an important subplot in my novel.

8. Whatever happened between Lydia and Branwell started early…
The Branwell/Lydia relationship has been debated for nearly two centuries but whatever impropriety happened between them seems to have had its genesis early. In May 1843, Branwell wrote to his friend, “my mistress is damnably too fond of me,” and by that November he claimed to have a lock of Lydia’s hair. However, Branwell wasn’t dismissed from his position until the summer of 1845. My novel suggests what might have occurred in these three years and beyond.

9. Branwell wrote poetry for Lydia after his dismissal
In June 1846, a year after his dismissal from Thorp Green Hall, Branwell wrote a poem addressed to Lydia, shockingly titling it “Lydia Gisborne”—her maiden name.

10. Lydia threatened to sue Mrs. Gaskell for libel because of her biography
Lydia was a titled woman by the time Mrs. Gaskell’s life of Charlotte was published in 1857, and, although the biography didn’t name her, she was in no humor to suffer a stain on her reputation. Her lawyers threatened Gaskell and her publishers with a libel lawsuit, leading to the withdrawal of the allegations. I’m still waiting for Lydia or a Brontë or two to start haunting me for how I depicted the affair in Brontë’s Mistress, but I’ve been visited by no apparitions...yet.

Finola Austin is the author of Brontë’s Mistress, which will be released Aug 4 by Atria Books. Find her online at, tweet her @SVictorianist, or follow her on Instagram or Facebook

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your participation in the tour, Cristina. Finola's research for this novel is amazing.