Bronte's Mistress

A Novel


About The Book

“A beautifully written, highly seductive debut….The chemistry between Branwell and Lydia positively crackles on the page….Masterful storytelling which is sure to delight fans of the Brontës and of historical fiction.” –Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

This dazzling debut novel for fans of Mrs. Poe and Longbourn explores 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.

About The Author

Photograph by Nina Subin

Finola Austin, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist and lover of the 19th century. By day, she works in digital advertising. Find her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (August 4, 2020)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982137250

Raves and Reviews

“Brontë’s Mistress gives us a fascinating new perspective on one of literature’s most famous families. Smart and sexy, this captivating novel is true to the romantic spirit of the Brontës themselves, with a modern feminist twist. A delicious treat for Brontë fans!” —ELIZABETH BLACKWELL, author of Red Mistress and On A Cold Dark Sea

“Lydia Robinson, the married woman with whom Branwell Brontë allegedly had an affair, tells her own side of the story in Finola Austin's beautifully written and meticulously researched novel, Brontë's Mistress. Austin's Lydia—unhappily married, affection-starved, and unfulfilled—is exquisitely nuanced. I felt deeply for her, even as I was frustrated by some of her choices. The affair with Branwell is merely one facet in a finely-cut gem of a larger story. Austin's great strength is that she is able to write so that both Lydia's own strengths and weaknesses seamlessly coexist, creating a thoroughly, beautifully, complicatedly human character. Brontë's Mistress gives voice to a woman who, until now, has been voiceless; and, indeed, to thousands of women whose lives, like Lydia's, were so terribly suffocating.” —MOLLY GREELEY, author of The Clergyman's Wife

“A richly atmospheric, compelling portrait of a woman torn between expectation and the wish for more. Brontë's Mistress stayed with me long after I put it down." —MEGAN CHANCE, author of A Drop of Ink

“Finola Austin's debut novel is a stunner. Anyone who has ever thrilled to a Brontë novel needs to read this glorious historical novel about the Brontë sisters and their brother, Branwell, and his affair with the outrageous, scandalous woman who broke all conventions. Atmospheric and beautifully imagined, this is a must-read for lovers of great historical fiction.”—JEANNE MACKIN, author of The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel

“Confident, convincing and engrossing, and with a sure historical touch, it illuminates another dark corner in the Brontës' story.” —GILL HORNBY, author of Miss Austen

"Bronte's Mistress is a beautifully written, highly seductive debut in which Finola Austin delves into the life of a relatively unknown member of the Brontë family. The chemistry between Branwell and Lydia positively crackles on the page, and while Lydia emerges as a delicious heroine in her own right, the better-known Brontë sisters are portrayed with wit and care. Masterful storytelling which is sure to delight fans of the Brontës and of historical fiction. Brontë’s Mistress comes highly recommended by this Yorkshire lass." —HAZEL GAYNOR, New York Times bestselling author of The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

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