The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

This was in three points of view – in 1791 Nella and Eliza and present day Caroline.
Nella, an apothecary who dispenses poisons to help women free themselves from abusive, lascivious men. Eliza is a twelve year old who needs to buy some poison for her mistress .

Caroline married to a successful man, she discovers his infidelity and goes on a holiday to London they had planned, alone, for their tenth wedding anniversary (I felt her heartbreak all the way over here). She finds a small bottle while mudlarking (I used to do this in a Lake in the summers but I looked more like I was a mess. I found an old coke bottle but always searched for something like this) and started researching what the bear engraving on it is and the mystery of a letter she had found on the internet that seemed to connect to it.

This research project unlocks a long held drive to discover the history of where and who and what the people of the past were. She discovers so much about herself while alone even though her husband shows up unannounced and acts like a fool to win her back and in the end makes the decision easier for her. Her long held dreams that she discarded for him, she is putting first. I liked that in her research she made a friend at the library that supported her in her decisions to follow her original career plans that would bring her back to England.

There were a lot of bad men in this book which is true there are a lot of bad men mixed in with the good but there are bad women or mislead women. Like Nella she didn’t realize that she was the other woman but the other women mentioned knew they were the mistresses and therefore causing another woman misery. 

My question that I have with all infidelity in relationships in and out of wedlock: Why can’t you just let the first party go before you start a new relationship or if you see that you are wanting to start a new relationship? If the answer is you don’t want to hurt them the hurt is a million fold if it is from cheating than if it’s from being dumped.

The betrayal causes women to go into poison making, that’s one scenario. (I know this is historical and divorces were not common or would cause more trouble than a mistress but it’s just a thought I always have)

I like to think that in the last article that the person Eliza is referring to is Nella and she acted as a mother to her and Nella got the daughter she dreamed of. But I like to make happy endings out of cryptic, vagueness, it’s the optimist in me.

This story moved from Caroline finding a clue then the clue being played out in the 1791 present in all its detail. I really like this kind of storytelling format. This book is also set in February.

Thank you #netgalley and #harperaudio for the e-ARC for the honest and voluntary review.


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.


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