Compared to his sisters eventual notoriety, not much is known about their brother, Branwell Bronte. History has portrayed him as something of a rogue, a drifter, a drunkard. However, in this story, we meet Branwell, a poor misunderstood young man searching for love in what seemed to be an austerely poor, emotionless environment.
When Branwell Bronte is hired to tutor Lydia Robinson’s young son, where his sister is governess to Lydia’s other children, he finds himself attracted to the much older Lydia. He is a young man struggling to find his way in a family where his sisters are so intelligent and trying to make their mark in the world. All the happenings in this book occurred before the Bronte sisters make their forage into the world that would one day come to acclaim their work.
Lydia herself is struggling. She has lost in the space of a year, her mother and youngest beloved daughter. She is married to a cold unfeeling man, whose mother is a thorn in her side. Her other children are distant and emotionally detached from her. She is ripe for the attention and possible love that Branwell seems to offer.
As they come together, Lydia realizes she is besotted with Branwell for he is passionate, a writer of poetry, and someone she can cling to. And so the affair begins.
As she becomes deeply involved with Branwell, she begins to see how flawed he is, how needy, how erratic. The servants in the home are abuzz with rumor and innuendoes about the couple, and the relationship of passion soon fizzles out on Lydia’s part as she tries to contend with the knowledge that others know she is an adulteress. Life does indeed fall apart for Lydia as her husband is gravely ill and at his death, she learns she is left penniless. Branwell himself is eventually banished and left to fall deeper in the dark quagmire of his heart and mind.
However, Lydia is a schemer and she has a way of ridding herself of Branwell as well as securing herself a future of wealth.
Much of what is written by the author is conjecture. There is no solid proof that indeed this affair did take place, but there seems to be various clues that might attest to its veracity.
In the end, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for both Branwell and Lydia. Both were lost souls who could never seem to find that love and passion they both so desired.
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book due out August 4, 2020.
and here’s the author:
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.