A HAWORTH clergyman’s attraction to all three Brontë sisters is laid bare in a new novel.

Stephen Whitehead exposes the story of the Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls who he claims loved two of the sisters and revered a third.

In The Last Brontë he shows how death snatched away the young curate’s first love Anne and how he moved on to her sister Charlotte despite her initial dislike of him.

York Publishing Services said the book, out of September 5, dramatised one of the most extraordinary love stories in literary history.

The author, writing as SR Whitehead, details Arthur’s time in Haworth during the 1800s as the Rev Patrick Brontë’s right-hand-man.

The publisher said: “He was Charlotte Brontë’s husband, the love of her life, until she died, carrying their unborn child.

“That is how Arthur Nicholls is remembered, but his bond with the Brontës ran infinitely deeper than that.”

The publisher said Arthur was devoted to the older priest, the father he’d never had, but he was snubbed by Charlotte and Emily, and Branwell was in decline.

Only Anne extended the hand of friendship. Arthur believed that the pair could have become more, until she died from consumption, followed by Branwell and Emily.

The publisher said: “It was a traumatic triple loss, and those that were left made a prickly ménage: Arthur and Charlotte, who had never got on, and her father, whom they both loved.

“But grief can be a bond and, through that bond, Arthur glimpsed hope. He pursued it. It was a tortuous journey through exile, return, love and loss that finally gained him the acceptance he had always craved.”

The Last Brontë is narrated by Arthur, as he bears witness to all the triumphs and tragedies of the Brontës’ adult lives.

Mr Whitehead spent 20 years at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, first as a member of staff and later on the Board of Trustees and as chairman of the museum committee.

He began writing by producing guides and profiles for the education department and research papers for The Journal of Brontë Studies.

He wrote the historical guidebook The Brontës’ Haworth for Ashmount Press, which is being reissued at the end of this year.

Mr Whitehead’s second novel, Nelson, The Hamiltons And Me, is due out in late 2018.

Rebecca Fraser, a biographer of Charlotte Brontë, described the novel as a wonderful imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s enigmatic husband.

Dr Jodie Archer, co-author of The Bestseller Code, said: “This book is outstanding: a story for the heart, the mind and the soul.”

The Last Brontë costs £8.99 in paperback and £3.99 as an e-book, from Amazon.