Brontë Fanfiction: Paying Homage to (or Starring) the Brontë Sisters

The Brontë fanfiction canon isn’t as voluminous as the fanfic genre dedicated to Jane Austen. The Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—between them wrote just seven finished novels in their short lifetimes, but the lasting impact they’ve had on world literature can’t be overstated. 

For a time, the sisters feared they’d never get published, so arduous was their path to publication. But they, or rather, Charlotte, persevered, on behalf of not only herself, but her sisters. 

The sisters lived to see their major works published in the 1840s, though under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell to obfuscate their genders. These were Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Villette, and Shirley; Emily’s Wuthering Heights; and Anne’s Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Charlotte’s first novel written with the intent to publish, The Professor, came out posthumously, in 1857. 

Here is a selection of novels featuring the characters in the Brontës’ works — mainly referencing Charlotte’s Jane Eyre  and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Some in this listing star the sisters themselves. In one case (The Brontë Mistress), their wayward brother Branwell is the focus.

 

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I am Heathcliff:
Stories Inspired by Wuthering Heights (2018)

I am Heathcliff

Unlike the other listings in this roundup, this isn’t one novel but a collection of short stories by various authors paying homage to the central characters of Wuthering Heights. What compelling evidence of the lasting impact this novel has had on generations of writers!

From the publisher: 16 modern fiction superstars shine a startling light on the romance and pain of the infamous literary pair Heathcliff and Cathy.Short stories to stir the heart and awaken vital conversation about love. Curated by Kate Mosse and commissioned for Emily Brontë’s bicentenary year in 2018, these fresh, modern stories pulse with the raw beauty and pain of love and are as timely as they are illuminating. I am Heathcliff on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*

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Edward Rochester: The Master of Thornfield Hall
by R.Q. Bell (2017)

Edward Rochester - the master of Thornfield Hall

From the publisher: Edward Rochester endlessly searched the world for love … In a bitter, disappointed frame of mind he at last returns home to England, believing that true love will never be his. But an unexpected encounter with destiny in the shape of the remarkable young woman, Jane Eyre, upends his world.

One fateful night, Jane’s daring and courage snatch him from the ravages of a mysterious fire. In the intimacy of the aftermath, Edward’s feelings will be denied no longer: he is desperately in love with her. But can he resist, knowing the terrible secret of his past must keep them forever apart? Edward Rochester on Amazon*.

 

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Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker (2017)

Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

From the publisher: A deft and irresistible retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s beloved classic Jane Eyre—from the point of view of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself. Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most complex and captivating romantic heroes. Sometimes cruel, sometimes tender, Jane Eyre’s mercurial master at Thornfield Hall has mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte’s masterpiece for generations. Mr. Rochester on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

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H.— The Story of Heathcliff’s Journey Back to Wuthering Heights
by Lin Haire-Sargeant (2012)

H.- The Story of Heathcliff

From the publisher: In Emily Brontë’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights Heathcliff overhears Cathy in a conversations with Nelly Dean say, “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…” Devastated Heathcliff runs away without hearing the rest of Cathy’s sentence, “…Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” Heathcliff’s misunderstanding will set him on a journey that changes him. 

Heathcliff will return to Haworth three years later, transformed into a gentleman with money. But, what happened in those intervening years to turn him from a wild creature into that gentleman? Emily Brontë left that part of her story a mystery. Lin Haire-Sargeant ingeniously fills in Heathcliff’s missing years. H.— on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

 

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys 1966

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is such a fine work of literature in its own right that it seems not quite accurate to call it fanfiction. Considered a prequel and response to Jane Eyre, it presents the perspective of Antoinette Cosway, the sensual Creole heiress who wound up as Mr. Rochester’s wife who came to be known as Bertha, the “madwoman in the attic.” 

The W.W. Norton edition introduces the slim novel by describing how Antoinette is “sold into marriage to the coldhearted and prideful Rochester, succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors’ sins of slaveholding, excessive drinking, and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak British home.” Learn more about Wide Sargasso Sea on this site. Wide Sargasso Sea on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

Following are novels in which the Brontës are the characters, drawn from real-life events or, in the case of The Brontë Mysteries, imagined.

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Charlotte & Arthur by Pauline Clooney (2021)

Charlotte and Arthur by Pauline Clooney

From the publisher: It is the morning of June 29th, 1854, here is the groom coming up the cobbles in Haworth, for his nuptial appointment with Charlotte Brontë. Only a handful of guests have been invited, and you, dear Reader, are one of them … Charlotte Brontë has married her papa’s Curate, Irishman, Arthur Bell Nicholls. At thirty-eight years of age, and the unlikelihood of there ever being further proposals, Charlotte’s dread of the lonely life of the spinster has convinced her that this is a calculated risk she must take.

For the month of July, the couple’s itinerary brings them from the castles of Wales to the most popular tourist attractions in Victorian Ireland, spending some time along the way with Arthur’s family in Banagher, on the banks of the River Shannon. Set against the backdrop of the recent famine, their tour exposes the contrasting lives of the poor and the privileged of Irish society.

Read an extensive Q&A with the author, Pauline Clooney, here. Charlotte & Arthur on Amazon US and and Amazon UK*.

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Brontë’s Mistress by Finola Austin (2020)

Bronte's Mistress

From the publisher: The scandalous historical love affair between Lydia Robinson and Branwell Brontë, brother to novelists Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, gives voice to the woman who allegedly brought down one of literature’s most famous families.

Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson has tragically 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. Brontë’s Mistress on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

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The Vanished Bride (The Brontë Mysteries)
by Bella Ellis (2019)

The Vanished Bride (Bronte Mysteries)

The Vanished Bride is the first in a series of charming mysteries that cast the Brontë sisters as amateur detectives. This first installment is followed by The Diabolical Bones and The Red Monarch.

From the publisher: “Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters— the Brontë sisters—learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance. 

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent ‘lady detectors.’ Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, ‘detecting is reading between the lines—it’s seeing what is not there.’” The Vanished Bride on Bookshop.org* and Amazon.*

 

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Without the Veil Between: Anne Brontë, a Fine and Subtle Spirit
by D.M. Denton (2017)

Without the Veil Between by DM Denton

Rejoice — a novel about Anne Brontë, the sister all too often overlooked!Without the Veil Between follows Anne through the last seven years of her life. It begins in 1842 while she is still governess for the Robinson family of Thorpe Green, away from Haworth and her family most of the time, with opportunities to travel to York and Scarborough, places she develops deep affection for.

Although, as with her siblings, circumstances eventually bring her back home, she is not deterred in her quest for individual purpose and integrity. She stands as firm in her ambitions as Charlotte does and is a powerful conciliator in light of Emily’s resistance to the publication of their poetry and novels. Read an excerpt from Without the Veil Between here. Without the Veil Between on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

 

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The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë
by Syrie James 2009)

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

From the publisher: Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Brontë possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings … Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates. 

But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires—and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have . . . and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë on Bookshop.org* and Amazon*.

 

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