4.5 star

Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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.

This was one of my anticipated reads since March, and I finally got around to it! I’m quite torn between giving it 5 Drink Me Potions or not, but in the end I decided that it wasn’t quite worthy of the last little half potion. But that gives it such a negative connotation, it’s better for you to all see it for the merits that I’m giving it 4.5 Drink Me Potions, and let me guide you through that below!

The Lost Apothecary is a historical fiction that revolves around two timelines, one in the late eighteenth century and the other in modern day. The historical time line revolves around a fallen apothecary that once dispensed healing remedies, now poisons. The modern day witnesses the perfect marriage falling from grace. We follow both timelines as they parallel each other in more ways than one would imagine two lives two centuries apart. How do they intersect? This will be the biggest mystery of them all in this thrilling historical narrative.

The characters in this book were all quite loveable or at least relatable. They were all built and explored well, with strong consistency in their character, which I appreciated. Each human in their own way, yet trying to make it through their lives as unscathed as one can. The characters were definitely one of the shining points of this story, as we really got a glimpse into two lives that were hard not to get wrapped up in, each pulling in their own way.

While not exactly meant to be a thriller, I found that there was a relatively good amount of suspense – as you might expect from any book that revolves around murders. Both storylines had a good amount of emotional tension which really drove the plot forward, which led me to finishing this book so quickly.

I overall loved the premise of the story: this long forgotten apothecary with a history of helping women – once with healing remedies, and then with poisons. Women with nowhere else to turn could suddenly find some refuge. There were some strong messages that were present in the themes in the book, which I don’t want to spoil here, but I definitely felt that they were one of the highlights of this book.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t be sad giving this book the full 5 Drink Me Potion rating either. But for me, it just lacked that final X factor that would make it esoteric. That being said, the plot was relatively complex, and not everything was that predictable. I think I almost wish that the book was a bit longer to explore more of the historical storyline, as it really felt so interesting and had to share the spotlight with the modern day story. I think that’d be the main criticism I have.

Nevertheless, I absolutely recommend this one. Let me know if you also enjoyed it!

Overall Recommendations

The Lost Apothecary revolves around two storylines: one set in 1791, and the other in modern day. It tells of an old apothecary that once dispensed healing remedies and then later, poisons. But both in the name of helping out women exclusively. How does the modern story of a failing marriage tie into all this? Find out in this thrilling historical fiction, full of poisons, life lessons and little glimpses into the lives of women in the late eighteenth century. Full of great characters and meaningful commentary, I highly recommend this one if you enjoy historical fictions!

13 thoughts on “Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner”

  1. The beautiful cover is what first got me to add this one to my tbr 🥰 I don’t read many books with dual timelines, but this unique premise caught my attention too. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the characters, I’m also intrigued by the more suspenseful moments. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d have to say the same! I loved the cover and the title—and my recent love of historical fiction. I thought it was a great story, hope you also enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

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