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The Lost Apothecary

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A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them - setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose - selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate - and not everyone will survive.

301 pages, Hardcover

First published March 2, 2021

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About the author

Sarah Penner

2 books4,709 followers
NYT Bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary (Park Row Books/HarperCollins), to be translated into 40 languages worldwide. To learn more, visit SarahPenner.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32,009 reviews
Profile Image for Claire Smith.
47 reviews592 followers
March 28, 2021
This concept needs to be confiscated from Sarah Penner immediately and given to literally any other writer.

Between the lovely cover, the book of the month club endorsement and the promise of a Georgian female serial killer working on behalf of wronged women, I was so excited for this book. To say it was a letdown is a massive understatement.

I was expecting a sort of “How’d she get away with it” revenge narrative about a woman who has been pushed to the brink by the cruelty of men and good-old-fashioned 1790s misogyny. I was expecting a deep dive into this woman’s character that would either be thrillerish or a more lighthearted caper-style romp. I was down for either of those.

What I got was The Davinci Code: For Her.

With an inexplicable dash of Julie & Julia.

The story goes back and forth between 3 POV characters. There’s Nella, the apothecary owner who poisons people, Eliza the twelve-year-old girl who’s a little too chill about poisoning a guy, (so far so good), and then there’s Caroline. Caroline is a present-day character who finds a vial on the bank of the Thames that came from Nella’s apothecary.

Caroline has just gone to London without her husband because she found out he was cheating on her. The book did a really good job of making me think her husband sucked right away—but it did an even better job of convincing me that Caroline sucked.

She just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and many of her actions defy any kind of human logic (same is true of her husband, I’ll get to that in a minute). Right away we find out that ~she’s not like other girls~ because while everyone else went to coffee shops in college, she poured over ~historical documents ~ and read ~novels from the 1800s~. Things no other college student has ever done.

If you think I’m kidding here’s the actual line: “I could lose myself for hours in these seemingly meaningless documents, while my classmates met at coffee shops to study. I couldn’t attribute my unconventional interests to anything specific, I only knew that classroom debates about civil revolution and power-hungry world leaders left me yawning.” (Page 17) (Yes, somehow, we are not even 20 pages in).

The first person makes that attitude especially insufferable. She then gets married to James, a man who seems hell bent on making her feel dumb. Great start. Shocked he cheated.

Anyway, after college, Caroline seems to be angry that reading books and ~historical documents~ didn’t immediately get her a job. A twist no one saw coming. She almost applies to Cambridge but then doesn’t because she marries James the Jackass—and we all know that you can either have a degree or a husband. She chooses husband and her husband wants to stay in the states. Little known fact I learned from this book, literally no university in the states offers a master’s degree. They only count if they’re from Cambridge. Oxford isn’t mentioned so unclear if their masters’ degrees count for anything.

Here’s where Caroline completely lost me: she kinda takes her anger about not being handed a job because she likes books out on… **checks notes** the books? Here’s a direct quote: “…thinking only briefly of the boxes still in our basement, packed away with the dozens of books I’d adored in school. Northanger Abbey, Rebecca, Mrs.Dalloway. What good had they done me?”

She swears off books for good and gets a clerk job at her family’s farm. I have a lot of questions about that, but the novel answers none of them. She finally gets a job doing admin work for the family farm apparently unaware that you can still read books if you have a day job.

Then she becomes obsessed with getting pregnant. We have not yet hit page 30.

Spoilers beyond this point! (I highly recommend you don’t waste your time on this novel, but if you still think you might read it and care about spoilers this is a good place to stop).

Here’s a quick rundown of the female characters in this book:

Nella: Wishes she was pregnant.
Caroline: Wished she was pregnant, spends majority of book thinking she is pregnant.
Lady Clarence: Wants to murder her husband’s lover so she can get pregnant.
Eliza: Is 12 and thankfully is not pregnant but she does think her period is a ghost which I think deserves an honorable mention.
Gaynor: Is actually a historian and is, of course, exempt from pregnancy and thoughts thereof.


I would be willing to roll with this if it wasn’t such a high percentage of female characters and if it was examined or dealt with in any kind of thoughtful way. It is not. In fact, the desire to be pregnant/ have a child pops up in the weirdest ways at the weirdest times. Caroline by far wins most bizarre. Her husband is puking blood and the EMTs are telling her she should probably get rid of the stuff her husband ingested, especially if there are kids around. She then is upset that she doesn’t have a kid to potentially get poisoned / witness their father get carried away on a stretcher.

Which brings me to another weird-ass plot point. James is so upset that Caroline is mad at him for having an affair he willingly drinks just a little bit of toxic Eucalyptus oil to…**checks notes again** get her to stop being mad at him via medical emergency. Because nothing says “honey, let’s get back together” like puking blood in a hotel room in foreign country.

And then there’s Caroline’s discovery of the apothecary. This is where we get The Davinci Code: For Her. She finds the vial. Then she miraculously finds the apothecary. There’s just been this door in the middle of urban London that somehow no one else has seen since 1790. No one tore it down to build luxury flats! The Nazis bombed around it! Everyone who lives on that alley just kind of pretends it’s not there! She finds it in about two minutes. She finds all these documents inside from 1791, touches them with her bare hands, messes up one of them and then ultimately just takes cellphone pics and leaves them all there. She then tells Gaynor, her buddy at the British Library all about it and Gaynor thinks it’s interesting but sees no need to go get the documents out of the forgotten cellar thing. Historians and librarians are both known for being super chill about old documents being exposed to the elements, so this makes sense.

Caroline then reads the pictures of the documents and reads some articles Gaynor the Historian found for her. She’s shocked to find out that they match up perfectly and she’s able to jump to all sorts of conclusions without so much as an additional Google search. Incredible research skills. All that time she spent not at coffee shops clearly paid off.

You may be wondering what’s going on in the 1790s, apothecary of poisons part of the novel. You know, the part that sounded interesting. Well, it was somehow really boring despite there being two murders and a police chase. Oh, at one point the 12-year-old throws herself off of Blackfriars Bridge but she survives impact and icy water because she… **checks notes a third time** drank a tincture that made her really warm…

At the end the police are pretty sure Nella is the poisoner they’re after, but ultimately let her go because they decide in the middle of the street, after the chase, that they don’t have enough evidence to arrest a low-ish class woman. So that’s nice of them. Really feels authentic for 1791.

At the end of the book Caroline does dump James & the Giant Jackass, but possibly only temporarily. There’s an implication that after some time apart and after Caroline finishes her masters’ degree in Cambridge they could get back together. It’s left open-ended. I don’t have a joke here, I just hate that.

Caroline does submit an application to Cambridge. I guess she forgave the books for not getting her a job after all. It’ll be tough to get in of course. Especially because that’s literally the only school where you can get a Master’s.

She talks to Gaynor The Actual Professional Researcher about how she wants to write a dissertation about the apothecary. Guess what Caroline is getting a degree in? If you guessed History you are entirely too logical for this novel. No, she’s getting a degree in English literature specifically she’s applied for a program that covers “18th century and Romanticism” You may notice that’s two centuries and two very different periods of literature jammed together, but at this point who’s counting.

This book ends all too soon. We are robbed of the Cambridge professor’s reaction when she tells them her dissertation will be—not on a work of literature—but a ledger she found in a mysterious basement. Would love to be a fly on the wall for that one.

In short, my sanity has suffered. 0/10 do not recommend.
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.8k followers
October 11, 2022
How can this story be so dull? It's about a secret apothecary that dispenses poison to women so that they can kill their nearest and dearest, for crying out loud!

It starts off with much promise. In the 18th century, we meet Nella, an apothecarist who has been making poison for decades. Women come to her when they have nowhere else to turn, and she provides them with the method to kill their problems. When a young girl named Eliza enters her shop, it sets in motion a chain of events from which there is no turning back. In the present, we also follow history buff Caroline as she vacations in London and researches the apothecary from centuries ago.

The book blurb completely grabbed me. I was ready for excitement and suspense, especially because it also promises to have a mystery and a little bit of magical realism/fantasy sprinkled in. So I started reading and turning the pages, waiting for something riveting to grab ahold of me. And unfortunately, nothing ever did.

To say this story is slow is an understatement. With a dual timeline, there's always this fear that one of them might be more compelling than the other, and that's definitely what happened here. The storyline with Nella and Eliza is the focal point. But even then, what should have been a fascinating narrative quickly becomes plodding. It feels like the exciting moments are glossed over quickly and the mundane ones are stretched out to fill up the pages.

It doesn't help that Caroline's story is completely unnecessary. I can see that the author is trying to juxtapose Caroline's personal growth with what happened to Nella and Eliza, but it just doesn't work, mostly because there are no similarities other than trivial ones. I didn't understand why Caroline would be interested in looking into the apothecary, or why she tried to keep it a secret from everyone, or really anything she did.

This story also employs one of my pet peeves, which is that pretty much every conflict comes from a misunderstanding that can be quickly explained away with a sentence or two. Not telling the truth isn't that interesting of a plot device. And also every character makes a mountain out of a molehill, whether it's deciding to panic or pulling meaning out of irrelevant conversations or interactions.

For me, this is a case where the book overpromised and underdelivered. Based on the description of the book, I expected mystery and intrigue, darkness, suspense, magical realism. But none of these occurred because the book is 100% historical fiction, and it wasn't a very interesting one at that. Instead, it became a slogfest through an utterly forgettable story, one I'm already having trouble remembering only days after finishing it.

This was a pick for my Book of the Month box. Get your first book for $5 here.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,194 reviews40.5k followers
March 24, 2023
An avenger female who can concoct poisonous formulas to help you get rid of man trouble. This hell of an outstanding synopsis idea put this book on my radar!
To the attention of the abusers, cheaters, bullies and most disgusting human wastes who treat the women like doormats: you should beware because there is an intelligent, vicious angel of death who is also apothecary is coming after you!

Nella is a ghost, wowed to help the mentally and physically hurt women who needs her support, hiding behind the secret walls of small store, conducting her business discreetly. She is playing by the rules: Rule number 1:She has two basic rules: those concoctions she dispensed cannot be used to harm another woman!
Rule number 2:Names of murderer and victims must be recorded at the apothecary’s register.

When she starts to form a unique friendship with Eliza Fanning who is only 12, working at the store with her, a string of unfortunate events put her and the women whose names are recorded at register in danger to be exposed.

At the present time, we’re introduced to aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell who plans to celebrate her tenth year anniversary with her beloved husband. But as long as she finds out her husband dearest is a cheating bastard, she travels alone to London, meeting with a mudlarking group on the shores of Thames. As she mucks through the water, she finds a glass vial which brings out so many secrets and with the help of an employee from British library she finds herself digging out to solve 200 years long mystery. Those three women’s paths cross and Caroline gets closer to solve the secrets behind apothecary murders!

This is so much exciting, mysterious and intriguing than I ever imagine. After finishing this book, I decided to read more about mudlarking and since I’ve read the story about Mary Ann Cotton who had poisoned nearly 21 victims at the 19th century, I want to take a time travel trip and search for more intriguing stories.

Overall: Attention capturing, well- developed story with impeccable characterization and high tense, gothic, dark atmosphere won my heart! I truly enjoyed it! I have to congratulate Sarah Penner for her brilliant debut!

Special thanks to NetGalley and HARLEQUIN / Park Row for sharing this incredible ARC with me in exchange my honest opinions.
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Profile Image for Sarah Penner.
Author 2 books4,708 followers
July 15, 2020
Dear Reader,

Last summer, long before lockdown, I found myself standing in the mud of the River Thames in central London, wearing blue rubber gloves and a pair of old tennis shoes. I was mudlarking—hunting the river for old treasures, which is the inspiration for my debut novel, The Lost Apothecary. Given such an adventure would be impossible right now, I hope my novel provides you an opportunity to escape back in time and embark on a story that begins with one woman’s discovery of a mysterious vial on the banks of the River Thames. The vial is connected to a string of unsolved murders two centuries ago and the female poisoner behind them—an apothecary who sells well-disguised poisons to other women seeking freedom from the men who have wronged them.

The Lost Apothecary is very much a story about women controlling their own destinies. There are dark aspects to the story—like the burden of secrets and the destructive pursuit of vengeance—but it is also a story of hope and the way women can protect, honor, and free one another, even when separated by the barrier of time. While researching this book, I loved digging into historical documents and antiquated ephemera, particularly those relating to eighteenth-century London. Over the last few years, I’ve happily passed many an afternoon in the Rare Books room of the British Library, my head buried in fragile manuscripts from bygone eras. I’ve studied firsthand accounts of apothecaries, druggists, and poisoners. (I know enough to be dangerous, as they say.) So, although The Lost Apothecary is a work of fiction, I have done my best to research and craft a story that is true to history.

As lockdowns continue and many of us turn to books to escape our present reality, I hope you feel swept away by the mysterious world of The Lost Apothecary and the complex female heroines at its heart. You will become familiar with the secret apothecary shop and the many vials lining the shelves—their contents, their preparations, their sinister uses—and peek into the apothecary’s register of names, discovering who stepped through her hidden door in pursuit of poison. And you will, of course, be alongside the apothecary when the unthinkable happens and her greatest secret is exposed.

I invite you now to leave your own lockdown, if only in your imagination, and join me on the banks of the River Thames. Together, we can begin to unbury the secrets belonging to the lost apothecary. I only ask that you tread carefully—for the apothecary is a clever woman and a master of disguise.

Sarah Penner
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
March 4, 2021
i always admit that im not a fan of history. but then i pick up a brilliant work of historical fiction and i daydream about life as a historian. and right now, im imagining the atmosphere of 1790s london.

this story immediate transports the reader into bustling streets, shadow covered back alleys, and dusty apothecary shelves. ive always found old, natural remedies of the past fascinating, so i enjoyed reading about that aspect of the book. it was also rewarding seeing how nelly uses her knowledge to help other woman. i was completely drawn into her world.

and this easily would have been a 5 star read for me if carolines present day POV chapters had been removed entirely. i honestly dont feel like her or her storyline added anything to the book. yeah, i guess its somewhat touching that she felt connected to history, but i think nelly and elizas story deserved those pages more.

regardless, this is an captivating portrayal of womens history and some of the secrets london keeps.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
401 reviews3,472 followers
January 15, 2023
Here is my video for the 8 Reasons The Lost Apothecary Disappointed: https://youtu.be/Y31NwKJcfA4

That video is also good for a few laughs - I was in a silly mood.

There are two rules. One: Poison cannot be used against another woman. Two: The name of the victim and the poisoner must be recorded in a book. The apothecary is used to helping out women when she is surprised to see a young woman entering her shop one day. As the apothecary gets to know the young woman, another threatens her very existence.

When I picked up this book, I thought it would be something similar to Dexter-style justice; however, there wasn't enough of that and too much Caroline. Sweet Caroline who was constantly whining about her husband James. Every single problem in her life was somehow the fault of James. I didn't care for any of the sections coming from Caroline.

But seriously....watch the video! It's hilarious!

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,113 followers
April 7, 2021
I am aware that my feedback on this novel will take me to the minority club, unfortunately, I expected much, much more ... Having waited for several months, I was eager to start the audiobook, however, despite good narrators, the book did not deliver. Why? Some moments I found implausible, and I do not mean the dual timeline, not at all. In fact, if you asked me when the book is set, I would be able to define the time only because the dates are given in the book. I did not find anything unique about the historical background, it well could be one hundred years earlier or later. I did find the past much more interesting than the present since the problems Caroline has to tackle do not make me care for her. Sounds like I am heartless, that may be, but it is the superficial way in which they are depicted that did not evoke emotions in me.
The best part is mudlarking of which I have read a book or two and which sounds fascinating to me.
Still, I am glad to have read a book which is so popular with readers at present and I do hope it brings them more joy than it was in my case.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,017 reviews2,515 followers
January 28, 2021
Once again, we have an historical fiction using the split time period device. And once again, I was not taken by the present day story. The historic story grabbed me. It’s 1791 and Nella is a woman’s apothecary, providing formulas for all sorts of women’s problems, especially problem men. When 12 year old Eliza is sent to her shop for a “remedy”, they form a friendship. Unfortunately, it’s not long before a client seeks to violate one of Nella’s rules (harm no women) and everything is put at risk.
Caroline is the character from the present day. She’s come to London on what should have been her tenth anniversary trip. But she just caught her husband cheating, so instead she’s on her own. While mudlarking, she finds an antique apothecary’s bottle and her interest is piqued. Caroline seems nothing more than a means to advance Nella’s story. Caroline herself is the typical story of a woman growing into her own independence.
I had one other problem with this historical fiction. I want my historical fiction to be as much a lesson where I learn about a time or place, as a good story. I didn’t feel I really learned anything here. It’s a decent story and if that’s all you want, it does the trick. It’s a quick bit of entertainment. I would have preferred a story that delved deeper into the characters, especially Nella. The endings for both stories seem contrived and the pieces of the story fall too easily in place. Oh, if only my historic research was as easy as Caroline’s!
I both read and listened to this book. The writing lacked a meaningful difference in the voices, despite a 200+ year difference in time. The narrators made up for this a little, and I give them credit for bringing the characters to life.
My thanks to netgalley, Harper Audio and Harlequin Books for advance copies of this story.

Profile Image for Elle.
586 reviews1,312 followers
November 30, 2022

A 2021 Goodreads Choice finalist in Historical Fiction and Debut Novel! 🤔

Well I think this is another case of my expectations being far different than what the book ended up being. Maybe I can’t really fault the author for that, but honestly after reading the description I just thought this was going to be something else entirely.

I mean based off of these quotes:

“female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them”

“unsolved ‘apothecary murders’ that haunted London“

“not everyone will survive”

I thought that The Lost Apothecary would be a kind of dark, twisted tale of morally-grey women who are acting on some of their most sinister impulses. I wanted to see more of a tug of war between their feelings of self-preservation and self-interest. Instead, this felt sanitized. I wasn’t conflicted at all while reading, mostly because there was very little conflict. The three main characters, an old apothecary named Nella & a young girl Eliza from the 18th century, as well as Caroline, a young woman in modern day, spent most of their time hemming and hawing over the possible implications of things that don’t ever come to pass.

In a word, I was bored. I wanted more from this book. It was as if the author wrote a feel-good version of what could have been a really interesting story. All the components promised in the synopsis were there: poisons, secrets, infidelity, etc. But I just did not feel like the stakes were raised to that level. And the instinct to tie everything up with a bow at the end missed the mark for me.

I don’t know. I know a lot of people have liked it so far. I think the impulse to create a certain kind of Strong Female Character has removed any ambiguity from their actions. It’s okay for there to be complicated female characters who are sometimes in the wrong. The men depicted in this book are so flat and inconsequential that it’s hard to even believe they have the capacity to oppress anybody. The author really pulled out all the stops to try and get the main characters to seem like they had no choice and every justification, but I just couldn’t get on board. If you’re going to be an apothecary who dispenses poisons to scorned women, then own it, don’t pretend it’s some kind of noble cause.

I thought the writing outside of that was good, though. I also did like the narrators, although one of their voices started to sound really robotic if I cranked up the speed. That seems more likely to be a production issue, and I think the three women who voiced the different points of view, Nella (Lorna Bennet), Caroline (Lauren Anthony) and Eliza (Lauren Irwin), did an excellent job.

I’m interested to potentially read more from Sarah Penner, but this just wasn’t my type of book. There’s a lot of stories coming out along these lines lately that better represent the complexity of women from history. Still, I’m sure plenty of readers will enjoy The Lost Apothecary as is.

*Thanks to Harper/Harlequin Audio & Netgalley for an advance copy!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Kat (on hiatus).
226 reviews536 followers
February 14, 2021
It’s fitting that I write this review today, because 230 years ago today on Feb. 10, 1791, the events that changed the lives of our three main characters: Nella, Eliza and Caroline took place.

Who are these three?

First, there’s Nella, the apothecary. Her timeline takes place in 1791. After the death of her mother 20 years prior, she’s been running her mother’s apothecary shop which has had a long history of helping women with whatever ails them. The only difference is that where her mother only sought to help women with their health afflictions, Nella, for reasons her own, also secretly dispenses poisons to women who request it to “remedy” the husbands, lovers, fathers, brothers, or whichever other male has crossed them.

Eliza, the maidservant of one of Nella’s clients, is a 12-year old girl who befriends Nella when sent to get poison at the bidding of her mistress, Mrs. Amwell. It’s lovely little Eliza who innocently sets in motion the events that change the lives of these three ladies.

Jump to the present day timeline, where we meet Caroline, a history buff, who’s gone on a trip to London that was meant as a ten-year anniversary gift for she and her husband, James, but through circumstance, now finds herself there solo. On a whim one day, she goes mudlarking (discovering buried treasures hidden in the river’s mud) at the River Thames where she discovers a mysterious blue vial that, unbeknownst to her, ties back to Nella and Eliza. In her efforts to find out more about this vial, the story of the past comes to life.

I won’t go into all the details of the story, because it’s better to let it tell itself, but this fascinating womens’/historical fiction shines a light on issues experienced by women, both past and present, as they deal with the implications of their place in society. In 1791, that means Nella, Eliza, and the other women of their day having almost no power to right the wrongs they’re experiencing - at least legally, and in the present day, it’s more about how women, like Caroline, often suppress or abandon their own goals in pursuit of keeping harmony in their homes.

Despite the themes, I don’t think the intention of the book is to hate on men or paint them in the light that they’re only capable of harming women in some way, nor is it to glorify women harming them in return. Rather, this story illuminates the path that these womens’ choices put them on and the overall effects those choices have on them.

I enjoyed both the past and present storylines. Nella and Eliza’s almost mother-daughter-like friendship is sweet, as is the friendship that develops between Caroline and Gaynor, a librarian at the British Library who helps her research the vial. It’s a journey of intrigue, mystery and discovery as the dual storylines unfold. Nella and Eliza’s story has palpable tension as the repercussions of their choices made on and around February 10 come to light, and in the present, it’s one of self-discovery for Caroline, as she uncovers, not only the past, but a clear path for her future. It’s a quieter, slower story. It didn’t grab me and scream in my face for attention - thank goodness - but it beckoned me into these ladies’ lives, nonetheless, and it was a lovely little journey that I recommend you take as well. Sarah Penner has offered a wonderful debut!


Thank you to NetGalley, Harlequin - Trade Publishing and Sarah Penner for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. It will be published March 2, 2021.
Profile Image for Tina (Trying to Catch Up).
2,450 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2023
This is a Historical Fiction, but I would not call this a Historical Fantasy Fiction. I did not find any fantasy in this book, but there is a little bit of Magical Realism in this book. This book jumps from the 1700's told by Nella and Eliza point of view and current day in the point of view of Caroline. Caroline's life in coming apart, and her life runs into the story of Nella and Eliza. I have to say I loved Nella and Eliza's character and storyline. I liked Caroline storyline, but I could have done without it. I think that this book could have been so much better without jumping the time periods. I wanted to get to know Nella and Eliza character a lot more. I could not put this book down because I had to know how this story ended. The ending was so good. This book is well written, and the plot keeps you reading. I have to say I really love the cover of this book, and the cover really fits the story in every way. I just have to say I am starting to hate when they say a book is something like (Historical Fantasy), but it as no Fantasy. I also did not pick this book up because it says it is Historical Fantasy, and I do not really do Fantasy. Lucky one of my goodreads friends posted a review that said it did not have much Fantasy, so I decided to get it a chance.

I picked this book as my March 2021 book for Book of the Month
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,153 followers
January 8, 2023

(Throwback Review) Sarah Penner tells us the story of Nella, a female apothecary in London in the late 18th century who gives poisons to women to save them from the clutches of arrogant betraying men. She is very adamant that the poison should not be used on another woman. She also writes about her customers vividly in her register. The author also tells us the story of Caroline, who is a historian living in the present day. The narration jumps between the 18th century and the present. What happened to Nella? Was she able to escape without getting caught after all that she did? Are the lives of Nella and Caroline interconnected? Sarah Penner will give you the answer to all these questions through this novel.

What I learned from this book
1) Mudlarking
Mudlarking On the Thames has got a crucial role in this novel. It is during one Mudlarking episode that Caroline finds something unique that will change her life forever.
(Author's opinion about Mudlarking -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLTxd...)
"Finding something during the Mudlarking tour is surely fate."

2) History and women
History shows that it was more male-centric, and many famous historians have given women less importance. We can see that even when many Queens ruled a developed country like England, the women had almost no legal power in the past. Women's main job was to marry and look after their children. They were supposed to be seen and not heard. Nella and Eliza, the main characters, live in one such period while Caroline is a modern-day woman. We can see how even a new-age woman like Caroline took ten long years to understand the lies in her marriage. We can see that the attitude of men has changed a lot since the 18th century. The author says that men still have a long way to go through the marital relationship between Caroline and James.
“History doesn’t record the intricacies of women’s relationships with one another; they’re not to be uncovered.”

3) Marriage and importance of chasing your dreams
Marriage is not something that ties you down to a spot. It should be something that complements each other to catalyze your path towards your dreams. It is better to stay single than staying in a toxic relationship. Even in normal marital life, women are unfortunately forced to compromise in their dreams to look after the children and keep up the family dynamics right. Women are not tools for looking after the children or keeping the right family dynamics. Men have equal responsibility to do that. We can see how Caroline had to suffer and compromise her dreams after marrying James. Sarah Penner is giving us a strong message in an amazing way through this book.
"But I was tired of doing what I was supposed to be doing, tired of taking the practical, low-risk, responsible route. Instead, it was time for me to do what I wanted to do."

My favourite three lines from this book
“How had I only just learned that happiness and fulfillment were entirely distinct things?”

"Maybe I would have my head stuck in fairy tales, as James liked to joke, but wouldn't that still be better than the nightmare in which I now found myself?"

“The best apothecary was one who knows intimately the despair felt by her patient, whether in body or heart.”

What could have been better?
I am a person who believes in the principle of Primum non nocere . First, do no harm is one of the crucial principles that a doctor should try to follow in their life. The doctors shouldn't try to take this idea in the literal sense, though. (Try to read this excellent article from Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, Harvard health Publishing, if you want to know more about this topic-https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/f...)

The idea of an apothecary trying to kill people who should be actually using her knowledge in saving lives by dispensing medicine to physicians and patients was not at all acceptable for me. The actions done by the apothecary in this novel are ethically wrong. I was sure that I wouldn't finish reading this book when I picked it up for reading due to my severe dislike of the plot.

Within 30 pages, the author told about three controversial things via her characters:
1) About history degree by criticizing about the value of it.

2) About literature by asking what good had the literature done in Caroline's life.

3) About medicine by criticizing doctors by saying that all the gentlemen's doctors in London are unprincipled and corrupt.

These three generalizations were too much for me, and I was planning to DNF this book at that time. But I still carried on reading. Contrary to my initial belief, the remaining book was a treat to read. I quickly finished reading it, and I simply loved it. It is only because of the excellent writing skills of the author. We will never feel that this is the debut writing venture of her. If the initial 30 pages were written a little more carefully, this book would have been a definite five-star one for me.

4/5 This book is dealing with a controversial plot. It will be challenging for a reader to connect with a murderer who is working in a profession where she should be saving lives. Making this character the protagonist in a novel could have easily backfired. Sarah Penner showed the courage to do that, and her amazing writing skills helped her create a wonderful book on her debut. The beauty of this book is that we can read it from two angles. The first one is that of historical fiction enmeshed with thriller elements. The second one is like a book written about female empowerment. This book will satisfy both types of readers. I am sure that we will see more amazing books from the author in the future.
March 24, 2021
The Lost Apothecary is a beautiful tapestry of mystery, murder, suspense, guilt, discovery, and historical adventure as it unfolds in the dark alleyways of late eighteenth-century London. With the second period in modern times, Caroline Parcewell is an American, visiting London on what was planned as her tenth wedding anniversary celebration, until she discovered her husband had an affair. Now she is using the trip to gain space to think about where her life is going and why she never followed her dreams as an aspiring historian. In a mudlarking gathering on the banks of the Thames, Caroline discovers a small bluish vial with a strange image of a bear carved into the side.

Over two hundred years earlier, Nella Clavinger, followed on with her mother’s apothecary shop and held tight to the principle “the importance of providing a safe haven – a place of healing – for women.” There is however one major difference, Nella also makes poisons to kill men if they have betrayed a woman. All her commissions are recorded in her register, a process started by her mother. While Nella is developed as a wonderfully empathetic character, suffering physical and psychological pain, she is a serial killer known only to women. Because Nella is hard-working, caring, and vulnerable it is easy to forget that she has a very dark side without obvious remorse.
“My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.”
One day a twelve-year-old girl, Eliza Fanning, visits the apothecary on an errand from her mistress Mrs Amwell to request a potion to kill her husband Thompson Amwell. After the deed is complete Eliza comes back to the shop while her widowed mistress embarks on travels and Eliza feels the ghosts of Mr Amwell haunt her. Eliza and Nella develop a friendship, both finding comfort in each other’s company and a way to work together. The relationship between the two is wonderful and their dialogue is engaging with a feel of historical authenticity.

Each chapter is well staged as we flip between the three POV narratives of each woman. The little blue vial becomes the seductive link between the two time periods. Caroline develops a friendship with Gaynor from the British Library, and their research opens fascinating threads that Caroline explores in the hidden and forgotten corners of London. Of surprise, Bear Alley still exists, if all but forgotten, and the web of intrigue stretches between the three women. The storytelling in Sarah Penner’s novel is clever and entertaining, engrossing with a sinister undertone, and draws that amazing atmospheric blend between modern and historical London.

I had an issue accepting the deep friendships developed after a few meetings and the thought processes with Caroline as she was caught in compromising situations. There is a tainted matter of betrayal throughout the story, mainly coming from men who pay the ultimate price. I found the following quote very telling and thoughtful, although a sad position to accept.
“First, there was trust. Then, there was betrayal. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot be betrayed by someone you do not trust.”

The Lost Apothecary is a highly enjoyable novel that flows at a great pace through two eras of London as a long-held mystery of the apothecary murders is gradually solved. I would recommend this book, and I would like to thank Legend Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,598 reviews24.7k followers
February 6, 2021
Sarah Penner's debut is an intriguing and atmospheric piece of historical fiction revolving around women, set in the tail end of the 18th century in London, a story that shifts from the past and the present. In the 1790s, a once reputable apothecary, Nella, has ventured into darker and more dangerous territory, that of dispensing poisons to desperate women in dire situations due to the men who have damaged or wronged them. She intends that no woman is harmed, and she records her transactions in a register, the names, including that of the poisoner and the victim. The young child Eliza Fanning is a sparky and bright personality who is sent to get poison, and a friendship develops between Nella and Eliza. Unsurprisingly, Nella's intentions run into difficulties when it comes to implementing them.

In the present, the American Caroline Parcewell's marriage has run into difficulties, she has made the unpalatable discovery that her husband of ten years has been unfaithful to her. She finds herself alone as she travels to London on her wedding anniversary. She decides to join a mudlarkers group in search of finds from the past in the muds of the banks of the River Thames, unearthing an old vial. This allows her to indulge her love of history as she engages in historical research and the mystery that is two centuries old, and a string of unsolved murders in her search for the truth. In this entertaining and engaging character driven read, of secrets, vengeance, betrayal, being a women, relationships between women, friendship, self discovery, poisons and murder, the past and present connect in the most unexpected of ways.

This is a relatively short and suspenseful novel from Penner, well written, which beautifully evokes the London of the time, and includes intricate historical details of the period. The position of women is a central theme, and the narrative reflects the culture and the social norms and attitudes of the time. My favourite timeline was definitely the more compelling historical one rather than the present one, there is an unevenness in how the connections unfold and in storytelling, but I liked how Caroline ends up working her way through the challenges that she faces. Many thanks to Legend Press for an ARC.
Profile Image for Tina.
509 reviews780 followers
May 12, 2021
Hurray to a fantastic debut novel to Sarah Penner

This dual timezone Historical Fiction novel was a nice change of pace and theme for me! I listened to the audiobook and the narrators definitely itched it up a notch for me!

In 1791 in London, England Nella has continued running her mother's old Apothecary. Nella has had a difficult life and now sees it as her business to help women who are treated very badly by the men in their lives - she concocts potions that helps to be rid of them forever. One day a young girl named Eliza comes calling and this is the beginning of troubled times.

Two hundred years later in present time a woman named Caroline is visiting London on what should have been a 10th wedding anniversary holiday. Instead she is alone and pondering her thoughts. While "mudlarking" along the River Thames she comes across a blue vial. She goes on a quest to find out its meaning and who it belonged to.

I was engrossed throughout the whole book. It's slower paced but meaningful and I think Sarah Penner is a promising author. I really enjoyed this unique story with strong female characters that comes to a neatly packed ending.

Profile Image for Fran.
639 reviews583 followers
February 8, 2021
"Fancy joining us for mudlarking?" These words would soon jump start Caroline Percewell's unfulfilled dreams of pursuing a graduate degree and researching obscure documents, rare books and perhaps propel her to further exploration of past centuries. Caroline had expected to celebrate her tenth anniversary with her husband James in London. While James had been climbing the corporate ladder with the goal to become a partner in his firm, Caroline's happiness had played second fiddle. First love, then marriage, now betrayal! James's affair had Caroline reeling. Why not go mudlarking?

"The Thames runs straight through the city of London...Little remnants of history...can be found right here in the mud...countless souls scrounging about in the river for something old, something valuable...". Caroline spotted a translucent sky blue glass, "very much like an apothecary's vial...the glass...quite uneven in places...this glass object-delicate and yet still intact-somewhat like myself...the discontent within me seizing the possibility of adventure, an excursion into my long-lost enthusiasm for era's past". First stop: The British Library!

1791. Netta's story. "I was wonderfully in love. The first betrayal. The first victim. The beginning of a stained legacy. I was not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise...". In an outer room, only an old grain barrel, a hiding place for letters with requests from women. "My shop was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London...This was my mother's shop long before it was mine. The tinctures she dispersed were meant only for good: benign herbal remedies...but beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish...and dark secrets...My precious calfskin register- a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops." "Betrayal was why I began to dispense poisons...to carry the secrets of these women, to record them in my register, to protect and aid them."

In present day London, Caroline searched the British Library databases for information on the vial, hand etched with a tiny bear, the vial unearthed from the muddy Thames. She hoped to time date this item which perhaps was centuries old.

Unfolding in a dual timeline, present day and the years between 1791-1816, the narrators Nella, Eliza, and Caroline tell their stories. Caroline tries to piece together the life of Nella, the apothecary who operated a shop in a back alley two hundred years ago. At the shop, Nella conversed with twelve year old Eliza, who expressed an interest in becoming an apothecary apprentice. Nella explained that she never rested. "Something is always steaming, brewing, stewing, soaking at all hours of the night" and that this has taken a toll on her life. Eliza, a curious, observant, wide-eyed child proved to be a challenge to Nella as apothecary, a brewer of secrets, and a friend to all women.

"The Lost Apothecary" by Sarah Penner was a fascinating melding of the secrets of a hidden apothecary shop and the reemergence of a talented researcher's quest and pursuit of higher education and her search to rediscover herself as well as hidden treasures from the past. I highly recommend this historical fiction read.

Thank you HARLEQUIN/Park Row for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,966 reviews1,499 followers
February 11, 2021
Nella Clavinger in the late eighteenth century is a ‘friend’ to women and a ‘brewer of secrets’ and twelve year old maid Eliza Fanning is sent to consult her on behalf of her mistress. In the twenty first century American Caroline Parcewell is on vacation and takes up Bachelor Alf’s offer to join a mudlarking search. Her discovery on the banks of the Thames takes her in a journey of investigation, self discovery and realisation. The story is told by these three women.

This is fabulous storytelling which is so immersive, compelling and very hard to put down. The narrative is visual and so you feel the squelch of the Thames sticky mud, the soot blackened apothecary comes to life before your eyes and so you see what the characters see. There’s a magical atmosphere permeating the narrative and blending with ghostly, gothic overtones. You feel the chills, the goosebumps, the hairs standing up on the back of your neck and sense the impending danger. The use of language for Nella and Eliza is authentic as is the historical context. I like the contrast between then and now but which also demonstrates clearly that some things never change. The characterisation is very good with them all being well developed. The plot unfolds at a good pace with twists and turns, keeping you wanting to find out the outcome and fate of the key characters. There’s suspicion and tension, threat and manipulation in both time periods, fear and betrayal of trust with a desire for revenge which leads to the alteration of life’s course, demonstrating too that lives can change on a dime. For Caroline, the trip to London gives her the time to think but which also awakens something dormant or suppressed in her. In some ways all the women wear disguises of some sort which are revealed to us as the storyline progresses especially as truths are dredged up and brought to the surface.

Overall, this is a captivating and clever story which is very well written. It’s dark, a bit sinister, intense, magical, ghostly with the two parallel timelines blending seamlessly. This is good escapist reading which I recommend.

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Legend Press for the much appreciated arc for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
March 2, 2021
Quick thoughts:

How about this beautiful cover?

Listen to this premise: “A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.”

Told in two timelines, present day and London in the 1700s, The Lost Apothecary is atmospheric hist fic gold! Full of secrets, lies, suspense, drama, and betrayal, I loved this engrossing and juicy story from start to finish.

Genre-wise, I would say The Lost Apothecary is historical fiction with a big dash of suspense/thriller.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
395 reviews588 followers
September 23, 2022
"The Lost Apothecary" by Sarah Penner is Historical Fiction mixed with Mystery-Suspense and a touch of Magical Realism!

In 1792 London, there's a clandestine apothecary shop that's frequented by a certain patronage. Nella Clavinger, the apothecary within, sells creatively concealed poisons concocted per each woman's request concerning the burdensome man in her life. She fastidiously records every transaction, patron and victim, in a special book she secures in a hidden room behind the walls of her shop.

Tragically, Nella's secrecy is threatened when twelve-year-old Eliza Fanning, wanting to assist and learn from Nella, makes a grievous mistake setting a chain of events in motion that's felt for years to come.

In modern day London, an American wife is spending her 10th wedding anniversary alone. It's planned as a second honeymoon, but discovering her husband's unfaithfulness days before departure, Caroline Parcewell opts to travel alone. Being a history buff and deciding a respite from her marriage to discover the history of London, at her own pace, is just what she needs.

During a day of 'mudlarking' in the River Thames, Caroline discovers a small blue vial etched with the image of a bear. Intrigued by her find, it sparks curiosity about its origin which leads her to the trail of serial murders that plagued London over two centuries ago...

I love how two separate stories in two different timelines play off each other and magically come together in the end. With great characters you either love or love to hate it always makes the story more interesting and fun to read.

If I could change one thing about this story, it would be to expand more on the historical timeline and less on the present-day timeline. I wanted more of Nella and her apothecary adventures! What an interesting and fabulous character!

The audiobook narration is fantastic with three narrator's, Lorna Bennett, Lauren Anthony, and Lauren Irwin, who give a unique voice to each of the main female characters of Nella, Caroline, and Eliza. The voicing of all three narrators is spot on!

It's hard to believe this is a debut novel with its depth and creativity that brings a connection of female theme's between the past and the present. The author's choice of Historical Fiction mixed with Mystery-Suspense and a touch of Magical Realism makes this an unusual and entertaining story that I highly recommend.

4.25 stars!

I can't wait to read this author's second book The London Séance Society due to publish 4/11/23. Early reviews are positive on Goodreads!
Profile Image for Kerry.
1,445 reviews59 followers
March 6, 2021
This is a disappointing read with implausible situations, melodramatic characters, and obvious contrivances. It often raises more questions than it answers. The emotions of the characters are unrealistic, so the characters themselves also seem unrealistic. Contradictions only add to the lack of believability. The drama in the story is heightened too artificially.

First we have Nella, one of the historic protagonists. She's chronically depressed as well as chronically ill. On one hand, she's portrayed as a strong woman, an early feminist, fighting for memory and power in a world that allows women neither. But she's aggressively hobbled by her past, which doesn't fit with the woman she's become. Furthermore, while she's against believing in ghosts (which feels strange in the 18th century), she's not above believing that she's being punished by some sort of karma for her deeds. It doesn't add up. Through the whole thing you want her to really just pull herself together.

Then we have Eliza, who is actually the best character of the bunch. However, she starts her period, and NOBODY TELLS HER WHAT IT IS even though she bleeds on a cushion after having left her home and own mother only a short while in the past. She'd either know because she grew up on a farm or her first employer would have told her. She also, in the 18th century DOESN'T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS DIED. Literally incredible.

Nella's wealthy client starts off by threatening her then risks her life to protect her, then acts worried that she'll be found out. These two sides of her personality do not jibe.

Then we have the present-day protagonist, whatever her name is. She is too Pollyanna ("I came to London because I was hurt by someone else's secrets, now I was the one hiding things" *gasp*). She's so overwrought about trespassing into a door that nobody's opened for 200 years without clear reason ("I walked out of Bear Alley aware that I'd just committed a crime for the very first time in my life" *gasp*). She continues talking to her husband after he severely deceives her twice. She thinks Gaynor is her friend too soon, when actually she's only just used her services.

Finally, the husband shows up after a trans-Atlantic flight smelling like "pine and lemon." No way. Nobody smells like that after being through airports and on planes. He tries to call 911 in the UK and pretends he doesn't know not to drink essential oils, even though he's described as "intelligent."
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,813 reviews474 followers
March 5, 2021
Two timelines. Two different centuries. Women impacted by deceit.

In 1791, we meet Nella. She is a woman in her forties. She owns an apothecary just like her mother did before her. The difference is that while her mother used it for healing purposes, Nella after a terrible event in her life has decided to use it for murder. Nella supplies poisons to women who want to eliminate a man in their lives. It can be a brother, a father, a husband. Nella's only rules are not to harm women and to keep a log with the names of the women who requested her help.

Eliza Fanning is a twelve-year-old who has been sent to work as an employee for her mistress, Mrs. Amwell. Just like so many other women, Mrs. Amwell is in need on Nella's help and this serves as a conduit for Eliza to meet Nella. Eliza is immediately taken with Nella and her shop. She wants to learn more about the poison and wants to help her around the store.

In the present, we meet Caroline Parcewell who is in London celebrating her ten-year marriage anniversary alone. Just before her planned trip with her husband, she learns about his infidelity. She needs time to process what she has learned and to take some decisions about where she wants her life to go.

A finding during a mudlarking event will make Caroline go digging with the help of Gaynor, a librarian at the British Library, about the apothecary and the murders which occurred in the 18th century.

An original debut by Sarah Penner. It was a slow burn that had good characterization and ambiance.

I had some issues with the part of the story that involved Caroline. At some point, she is in trouble but the resolution felt rushed and simplified.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by HARLEQUIN/ Park Row via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Carin.
37 reviews
January 17, 2023
This book is written in a way I find grating (a lot of telling and not a lot of showing), and the story is extremely contrived and under researched.

Are we just supposed to gloss over the fact that her husband’s final little performance is abusive? And does the author know how grad school works? Or academia?

Bonus points I guess for inventing the police a few decades early. Also, Caroline is in her early thirties and has never committed a crime?! *cough* narc! *cough*

Anyways, fully lost my mind at “sharing the truth ...[spoiler]... could very well catapult my dissertation work to the front page of academic journals.” Girl, what?! That’s not how journals work. That’s not how any of this works!

Applying and being accepted to a masters program at Cambridge overnight is what finally sent this into a one star/‘I’ll see you in hell’ rating for me. But hey, I did finish it in two days. Time passed while I looked at it so congrats.
Profile Image for Jessica.
325 reviews365 followers
March 5, 2021
I LOVED The Lost Apothecary. From the very beginning I was drawn into Nella and Caroline’s stories. The past and present intertwine in this great novel. The chapters alternate between Nella and Caroline’s stories. These characters are complex and trying to do the best they can. Nella is trying to help women especially her new friend Eliza. Caroline is trying to decide what makes her happy. The Lost Apothecary shows how far some women would go to rebel against a man’s world. I loved how unique this story was and highly recommend The Lost Apothecary.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lorna Bennett, Lauren Anthony, and Lauren Irwin. All narrators did a great job and provided the perfect voices for the characters. I thought the narration added to the story and I’m so glad I listened to The Lost Apothecary.

Thank you Harlequin Trade Publishing, Harper Audio, Harlequin Audio, Park Row, NetGalley, and Edelweiss for The Lost Apothecary.

Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...
September 28, 2021
4.5 stars
Take a step into the time when life was difficult for women, where men ruled the day, where choices were limited for those who were trapped in situations that they couldn't escape. This was London in the 1790's, a place that often seem dark and dismal for its many inhabitants, a place of intrigue, a place of secrets. Find a small shop hidden away in Back Alley that tried to aid these women in finding solutions and a tinge of magic in their journey. Follow a present day woman, newly arrived in London with her own feeling of despair "mudlarking" her way to a discovery that would change her life and you will also find your way into this wonderful debut story by Sarah Penner.

The world of the present goes head to head with the world of the past in the new book The Lost Apothecary.

The book begins with a dejected Caroline Pacewell who has just had her world blown apart upon learning of her husband’s unfaithfulness. Deciding to get away on which would have been their tenth anniversary, Caroline decides to go to London, their second honeymoon destination, by herself. Looking for something to fill her time trying to forget her sorrow, she receives an invite to go mudlarking. Little does Caroline realize that through this mudlarking in discovering a vial, her life will take a most unexpected turn.

Following the vial with its bear etching, Caroline enlists the aid of a British librarian, well educated in the world of maps of the old London. They form a team and what Caroline learns is enough to make her become the person she always wanted to be.

Go back to 1792, where we find Nella, a women well versed in the art of healing, but after a devastating journey with a man named Frederick, Nella has turned her attention to a darker side, assisting women being burdened with despicable husbands and being able to rid themselves of these men. Yes, poisons are what she secretly deals in and with a book in which she inscribes the poisoner and their victim. Into her shop, one day comes a young girl, Eliza Fanning, and they strike up an eventual friendship. However, Eliza is young and foolish and she sets in motion a series of events that threaten not only Nella and herself, but also the people who are named in the book.

This clever story was definitely intriguing, a walk back into another time and place, a way towards healing for women who made a connection through time and distance. I recommend this story for its ability to skillfully connect the past and the present and make the times and situations come alive and real.

Thank you to Sarah Penner, Park Row Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this book that has just recently published. If you enjoy a story mixed with magic and discovery, this is the one for you.
February 12, 2022
3.5 Stars ⭐

With lotions and potions and notions of death, the Lost Apothecary blends its own tincture of deeply drawn characters with a very good story and a connection of the past to the present curtesy of a small blue vial that passed between two women two hundred years apart. A small blue vial that represented a turning point in the lives of two women and a vengeance that offered its own kind of medicine.

“This glass object—delicate and yet still intact, somewhat like myself—was proof that I could be brave, adventurous, and do hard things on my own.”

In the year 1791, Nella offers a very unique service to help protect women and to right the wrongs these women are subjected to mainly by the men in their lives. She mixes poisons, tinctures and remedies that treat a range of everyday ailments and to help alleviate men from the tediousness of having to spend another moment in this world beating or cheating on their wives. The remedies are safe - well for the person administering the said drugs and offer an uncomplicated way of solving our age-old abuse problems. Death by poison that was difficult to detect in the late 18th century, until something goes wrong and the Apothecarist and her companion stand accused.

In the present day, we meet Caroline, who has planned a trip to London to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary marked by the gift of tin symbolising “strength and the ability to withstand a fair amount of damage”. However, after discovering her husband’s infidelity, Caroline decides to spend the planned London city break on her own where she is introduced to “mudlarking”, finding hidden treasures, artefacts and trinkets from another period. And now her gift of tin is to symbolise “strength on our own”, as she decides to part ways with her cheating husband.

“I now stood at a crossroads, and I didn't dare look back at the road behind me—the road littered with monotony, complacency and other people's expectations.”

This was a lovely story, offering a completely different subject matter, poison and apothecary combined with an age-old problem of marital infidelity, betrayal, and murder, as vengeance offered its own medicine.

3.5 stars rounded up for an interesting story that I really liked but did not love. It had all the right ingredients but just fell short compared to what it could have been. However, the book was well written with a great pace. The setting of the Georgian period offered the perfect ambiance with its darkened alleys, river life and use of the apothecary as a means of dispensing medicine that was uncontrolled and difficult to prove in that period. So the book was well researched for the period.

Very good option for an easy read with a decent storyline linking the past with the present.
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
539 reviews619 followers
March 22, 2021
An Apothecary shop that caters to your every need...whether it be helping with an ailment or kill your husband? Ummm yes please! Sign me up for a read that promises to be dark and twisted.

This storyline alternates between 1791 and present day. I was gripped instantly as the story started to build. Flash back to the 1790's and a mere 13 year old girl pondering murder? Will the apothecary owner assist her with this? Nella has assisted many of women in her time, but a child this young? As this plan fell into place and Nella and Eliza formed a friendship...the story burned very, very slowly and I eventually started to lose interest.

Forward to modern day and we have Caroline who is dealing with her own "man" problems. After researching the apothecary of the past, her husband ends up having issues of his own...is Caroline to blame? As past and present clash together, it does tie in well...however it did not deliver the depth or suspense that I had anticipated. Perhaps I am the wrong audience for this book. I do read mainly thrillers and I was expecting more...

I wanted more excitement- I mean we have a shop that fully supports assisting in "offing" men that have behaved very badly...there was so much potential here for ALOT of scandal. I expected more gothic vibes...more..witchy wonderfulness...but no...so this is probably a case of "it is me not you." So many have absolutely loved this book, so I suggest giving it a try!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
724 reviews483 followers
October 27, 2021
This book initially piqued my interest because two of my daughters are pharmacists (no, they do NOT dispense poisons to their patients!)

1. this story's plot and characters kept my interest throughout, eagerly wondering what would happen next;
2. young Eliza's character was the most fascinating in regards to her inquisitive nature. Obviously, she kept this plot rolling, both during the historical and the present-day storylines; and,
3. the narrators for the historical portion were quite enthralling!

1. the present-day narrator sounded lackluster at times; and,
2. some of the pathetic decisions made by a couple of the characters were so baffling to me! For example, Nella's reasoning for recording women's names when dispensing poison for them was stupid! Also, Caroline's silence during a nerve-wracking situation was so perplexing! Did she honestly think Please!

Overall, 3 stars means I liked this story, but I'm afraid it won't be very memorable to me several months down the road.
Profile Image for Danielle.
805 reviews401 followers
June 21, 2021
This was an interesting read. Told on dual timelines- past and present. 🙂 I enjoyed the past timeline and characters/story more than the present. The women helping women story for that time period was cool. 😉❤️📚
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452 reviews659 followers
March 28, 2021
One that I was so excited to read. I'm sure I'm the outlier on this one. But I'll just say I don't get it. When I read the synopsis, it sounded so interesting. A female apothecary in 1791 who dispenses poisons. Very interesting. Dual timelines, do tell. But in the end, it was so boring. It had the dumbest, boring characters. This was a buddy read with Dana and I'm sorry to say that neither of us liked it. We both probably only finished it due to it being a buddy read. We went with the audio and the one narrator had this desperate, throaty sounding narration. Perhaps to add mystery. It did not. It was not dark or mysterious. Had the story focused on the apothecary and more why she was dispensing poisons and the story of each of these women I think it would have been more engaging.

Now many people love this book and I see it climbing reading charts in popularity. But I'll just say it was not for me. Not all books work for everyone.
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