Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Lost Apothecary blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. It was cover love at first sight and the blurb sealed the deal for me. And it turned out to be such a fascinating read! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.
“Like a dog with a mouthful of sharp teeth who never once attacks, my mother’s knowledge was a weapon she never once used.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
There was just something about this story that made me want to read it instantly, and then I’m not just talking about that gorgeous cover. I think it was the promise of a historical setting as well as the whole concept of an apothecary as an accessory in murders that convinced me as soon as I read the blurb… And I most definitely wasn’t disappointed by what I found. The Lost Apothecary turned out to be such a captivating and intriguing read!
This story uses a dual timeline structure, where part is set in 1791 London and part in present London. A dual timeline can go both ways for me, as I tend to prefer the historical timeline 9 out of the 10 times I read historical fcition with this structure… And unfortunately it was exactly what happened in The Lost Apothecary as well. I found the part set in 1791 to be considerably stronger and way more interesting compared to the present events, and especially in the first half of the story. That said, the present timeline did improve in the second half. The story itself uses a multiple POV structure, where the past provides us with two different POVs (Nella and Eliza) and the present with one POV (Caroline).
Talking about these characters… I found it to be considerably easy to connect to both Nella and Eliza. Especially Nella is a fascinating character, with her using the apothecary shop that was once owned by her mother and her knowledge of potions and poison a for darker purpose. I really enjoyed learning more about her character as well as the way she worked, and she was definitely part of the reason the 1791 timeline worked so well for me. It also had to do with young Eliza, which turned out to be a very interesting character as well. She is not a natural ally of Nella, but I liked how the two interacted and those final reveals definitely made me wonder about her character. That said, I was less of a fan of Caroline. It took me quite some time to warm up to her, while I felt a connection to the other two almost immediately. This was probably part of the reason the present timeline wasn’t as big of a success for me.
The plot itself is fascinating, and especially the part set in 1791. The idea of an apothecary using her knowledge for other purposes than healing, and her helping other women kill men with poison is not only intriguing, but also added a level of suspense to the story. This wasn’t the dark crime thriller you might suspect after reading the blurb though; the focus in The Lost Apothecary isn’t really on the murders, but rather on the apothecary itself, how Nella works and her budding relationship with the young Eliza. The pace is a lot slower and there is less tension than I thought there would be, but it was still intriguing to see the events develop and escalate. Like I said before, I wasn’t really a fan of the present timeline during most of the story though. This probably had to do with the whole cheating angle as well; a personal pet peeve I never enjoy in a story. I did like the mudlarking detail and Caroline’s resulting investigation though.
Last but not least, I really liked the development of the historical setting. The many descriptions really made the 1791 London setting come alive for me and it was fascinating to learn more about the apothecary and ingredients used in that time. The characters and their behavior felt natural for the historical setting as well, and it really seemed like you were transported back in time to that era. I also liked how details of the past were incorporated in the present timeline through Caroline’s investigation.
All in all, The Lost Apothecary turned out to be a very interesting read! If you enjoy slower paced historical fiction with a dual timeline and a hint of murder and mystery, this book is a great choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.