Wednesday 12 August 2020

Neo-Victorian Voices: The Honeymoon, Dinitia Smith (2016)

 It’s been a crazy week since the release of my debut novel, Bronte’s Mistress, which is based on the true story of Lydia Robinson, the older woman who allegedly corrupted Branwell Bronte. But that doesn’t mean I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled programming here on the Secret Victorianist!

In this latest instalment of my Neo-Victorian Voices series (reviewing books set in the nineteenth century, but written in the twenty-first), I’m talking about The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith, another biographical novel inspired by the life of a Victorian writer and focused on the relationship between an older woman and a younger man.

Here, the woman in question is George Eliot (born Marian Evans), who, after living with George Lewes for 24 years, despite his marriage to another woman, shocked London society by wedding a man twenty years her junior following Lewes’s death.

In her novel, Smith imagines the relationship that might have existed between Marian and John Cross, the younger man she married, using their honeymoon as a framing device from which to jump back in time and tell the story of the writer’s life and the genesis of her novels, including Middlemarch (1871-2).

This surprised me as I was expecting more of an emphasis on the honeymoon itself, Venice, where the newlyweds travelled, and Cross (including the psychotic break he apparently suffered during the trip). However, I soon settled into an enjoyable and readable overview of Eliot’s life.

The focus here is very much on Marian’s relationships—with her parents and brother, and with the various men with whom she enjoyed untraditional romantic and sexual unions during a century we often characterise as sexless and repressed. And this is where the novel is most successful. George Eliot the intellectual doesn’t jump off the page, but Marian Evans, the thinking and feeling woman does. Readers may be disappointed at the lack of older woman/younger man frisson (Cross’s feelings towards Marian seem more akin to heroine worship), but Smith paints a believable picture of a literary great who yearned above all for companionship and feared being alone.

As a writer myself, I found it hard to relate to the occasional epiphanies Marian had about the plotting of her novels (why do films and books usually characterise these moments as happening when the novelist is doing anything but writing??), but anyone who’s enjoyed reading George Eliot’s novels and is looking for a readable overview of her life will be well pleased with Smith’s fictional biography.

Do you have any suggestions of books I should read next? Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

Haven’t ordered your copy of Bronte’s Mistress yet? Find out where you can buy the novel in hardcover, e-book or audiobook here. And to be in with a chance of winning one of three signed copies I’m giving away this August, sign up for my monthly email newsletter below. Already subscribed? You’ve already been entered!

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Saturday 1 August 2020

Introducing…the Bronte’s Mistress Blog Tour!

It’s August! That means it’s finally release month for my debut historical novel, Bronte’s Mistress, which will be published by Atria Books on August 4! I’d love to see you all at my virtual launch event at Strand Book Store, NYC, which will be the night before on August 3 (register here). And, if you love the Victorian period as much as me, please consider ordering Bronte’s Mistress in hardcover, audiobook, or e-book now.

As a blogger who’s shared my passion for nineteenth-century literature and culture with you here for the last seven years, I’m especially excited to use this post to announce the Bronte’s Mistress Blog Tour, which will be running from August 3 to August 16.

What does this mean? Two weeks of great content as popular blogs and websites specialising in historical fiction, historical romance, and women’s fiction feature guest blogs and interviews with me, and excerpts from/reviews of my novel. The tour is being organised by Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose and I’m looking forward to all the stops!

Think of this blog post as the blog tour contents page. Each day throughout the tour, I’ll update the list below with links to the newly published pieces.

Introduction – Austenprose

Before the official launch of the tour, Austenprose published an exclusive preview of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 3 – Bronte Blog

A guest blog by me on 10 fascinating facts I learned about the Brontes while researching Bronte's Mistress 

Aug 3 – The Reading Frenzy

A Q&A with me about my main character Lydia Robinson, her parenting choices, and the Bronte siblings’ demons

Aug 3 – Austenprose

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 4 – Lu Reviews Books

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 4 – Best Historical Fiction

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 5 – English Historical Fiction Authors

A guest blog by me on the villages of Great and Little Ouseburn—the forgotten stops on the Bronte trail

Aug 6 – Historical Fiction Reader

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 6 – Captivated Reading

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 7 – Reading the Past

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 7 – Diary of an Eccentric

An excerpt from Chapter Three of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 8 – Nurse Bookie

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 10 – Frolic Media

I’m interviewed by fellow historical novelist Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

Aug 10 – Historical Fiction with Spirit

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 10 – Bronte Blog

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 11 – A Bookish Way of Life

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 12 – Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 12 – Laura’s Reviews

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 12 – Historical Fiction Reader

A Q&A with me, including who I would cast in a Bronte's Mistress movie...

Aug 13 – The Lit Bitch

An excerpt from Chapter Five of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 14 – Silver Petticoat Review

A guest blog by me on the “Victorian Mrs Robinson”

Aug 14 – The Reading Frenzy

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

Aug 16 – Probably at the Library

A review of Bronte’s Mistress

I hope you enjoy the tour! And if you pre-ordered Bronte’s Mistress, thank you so much. I hope you love it. If you did, please review the novel on Goodreads and Amazon, and spread the word. You can also connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


If you’d like to win a signed hardcover copy of Bronte’s Mistress, sign up to receive my email newsletter below. If you’re already subscribed, or if you sign up in August 2020, you’ll be in with a chance of winning one of three signed copies (open internationally). Winners contacted September 1. 

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