Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin (Bronte’s Mistress Blog Tour)

 Join the virtual online blog tour of BRONTË’S MISTRESS, Finola Austin’s highly acclaimed debut novel August 3 through August 16, 2020. Twenty-five popular blogs and websites specializing in historical fiction, historical romance, and women’s fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and reviews of this early Victorian novel set in Yorkshire, England.

I have a Bronte obsession.  My senior year of high school, my English research paper was on Charlotte Bronte.  I read every Bronte novel and many biographies including the first famous biography about Charlotte Bronte by novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.  I also watched every version of every movie I could get my hands on at the time.  It was intriguing to be immersed in their world.  I’ve reread their novels over the years and get something different out of them each time.  I still love Jane Eyre, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt bad that Anne Bronte has been neglected by history.  Her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was revolutionary. 

The Bronte sisters’ only brother, Branwell, has always loomed large in their story.  Their great hope was that he would be the famous artist of their family.  But he couldn’t hold a job down and alcohol, drugs and women interested him more than his art.  Shocking accusations in the original Gaskell biography state that when Branwell was a tutor for the Robinson family, his older employer, Mrs. Robinson, seduced him, tossed him aside, and was the downfall of the entire Bronte family.  Anne was the governess for the family and resigned abruptly.  Who was Lydia Robinson and what is her story?

Author Finola Austin fills in the gaps and tells Lydia Robinson’s story.  Lydia loved her husband and together they had five children.   After the death of their youngest beloved daughter, the spark has left their marriage.  Lydia tries to get it back, but her husband is distant and cold. Her mother-in-law controls various aspects of the family and Lydia feels like she is trapped in her own home. After Mr. Bronte arrives as her son’s new tutor, Lydia feels like someone is finally noticing and loving her after all.  As their affair steams forward, how can Lydia return to her normal life?  What will happen to her marriage and her children?

I loved the look at the life of a Victorian woman and how even though you had slightly more freedom if you were married, there were still so many restrictions.  Lydia was not able to feel passion, express her true feelings, or even pick where her family summered.  I didn’t feel in the novel that Lydia loved Branwell at all.  It seemed more that Lydia liked the feeling of being able to give in to her passions and control their relationship.  Lydia liked how Branwell thought she was special and gifted.  Branwell seemed to love her, or at least obsess about her, but his alcoholism and seeming mental health problems made it so their relationship could never work.

I enjoyed the author’s note at the end of the novel that went into detail about how the novel was put together, information that was used, what was left out, and what happened to all of the main characters. 

I find it interesting that Gaskell chose to frame Lydia Robinson as the seducer of Branwell and the downfall of the entire Bronte family.  They all had their illnesses, but couldn’t the downfall have been caused by Branwell himself?  Anne was governess to the family for five years before the affair and she was left without a job.  Branwell already had a reputation for women, alcohol, and drugs before he worked for the Robinson’s and a spotty record on actually being able to hold down a job.  But instead of blaming Branwell, it must be the older woman tempting him. It is interesting to contemplate.  I also find it fascinating that this Mrs. Robinson was the inspiration for Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate and subsequent song fame.

Favorite Quotes:
“Imagination is the only passport required for entry there.”

“Waiting is all there is.  That’s all I’ve had, and I can’t – I won’t – have it anymore.”

Overall, Bronte’s Mistress is a fascinating look into the life of a privileged Victorian woman who is yearning to break free from all of her trappings. 

Book Source:  Review Copy from Atria Books for being a part of the Blog Tour.  Thank-you!


  • Title: Brontë’s Mistress: A Novel  
  • Author: Finola Austin
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Atria Books (August 04, 2020)
  • Length: (320) pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1982137236
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1982137250
  • Audiobook ISBN: 9781797106878
  • Tour Dates: August 3 – August 16, 2020


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.


·         “…a page-turning read full of passion and fire…[Austin] dares to give us a main character as flawed as Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara—a real, hot-blooded woman who has desires and passions and isn’t afraid to act on them.” —Syrie James, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

·         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

·         “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

·         "Rich in heart and detail, Finola Austin’s novel Brontë’s Mistress is a beautifully created tour-de-force." —Sarah Shoemaker, author of Mr. Rochester

·         “This is not a book about a nineteenth-century affair - it is about using physical passion and experience to get at the very sense of self that society wanted women of the time to repress and even deny. It is a daring, troubling, and sophisticated first novel, and it heralds a most intriguing new voice in historical fiction.” —Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society

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 Brontë’s Mistress is her debut novel.


Aug 03           Bronteblog (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 09           Girl with her Head in a Book (Excerpt)                        
Aug 10           Frolic Media (Interview)                            
Aug 10           Historical Fiction with Spirit (Review)                         
Aug 10           Bronteblog (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)                                  



  1. This sounds like an intriguing book for Bronte fans! Laura, your review is wonderful, as always.

    1. Thank-you! It was intriguing for both Bronte fans and I think fans of Victorian novels wanting to know what it was like for a lady living during those times.

  2. I did not realize that you are a big Bronte fam, Laura. This book was a great match to your passions. Thanks for participating in the tour.

    1. Thank-you for having me on the tour! There definitely doesn't seem to be near the amount of Bronte books as there are compared to Jane Austen. I always love to read them when I find them!