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Brontë’s Mistress by Finola Austin []



Austin’s debut novel expands on scholarly speculation that Branwell Brontë (brother to authors Anne, Charlotte, and Emily) had a passionate affair with Lydia Robinson, a married lady whose son Branwell tutored while Anne was governess to her daughters. Lydia is vain, aging, and longs for excitement. Branwell is young, passionate, and misguided. The story is told from Lydia’s viewpoint; we learn she grieves the recent losses of her mother and her youngest daughter, and is challenged by the management of her living children, interference from her mother-in-law, and her disinterested husband. We are privy to her flights of fancy as she imagines becoming involved with the much-younger Branwell and resists her urges, until she doesn’t. They begin an affair, communicating through a servant and meeting in an abandoned cottage to indulge their attraction. The scandal that follows exacerbates Branwell’s mental fragility and changes the lives of both families.

Offer this to fans of Victorian literature, readers who like their historical fiction populated with real people, and those who prefer their romances without happy endings.

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