My Review | The Lost Apothecary

Photo shows the book cover of The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - Photo by Peri McKinnis - Peri Reads -

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 another Book of the Month find that I was not disappointed with! I was intrigued with the cover and the plot in general so I had to snag it and boy did it exceed my expectations. The story is told through three different point of views, the present day Caroline, the old apothecary owner Nella, and her young apprentice Eliza. Here we are met with different stories about how this apothecary came into fruition and how their stories are more intertwined than it seems. Nella and Caroline’s lives seem to mimic the others in a way, proving more that no matter how far in the past it seems, women have been with a man that does not deserve her.

“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 ... what you have learned is the same heart-wrenching journey of every woman to whom I have sold a poison. And it is, indeed, the same path for me.”

The story is set in both past and present England, as Nella lives out her days hiding in her apothecary and Caroline arriving on what was supposed to be her anniversary vacation. I enjoy different POVs when they make sense and Penner definitely uses this writing device to her advantage. We’re able to pick up on certain details in Nella and Eliza’s time that Caroline will notice later on and it’s exciting to look for the Easter eggs hidden within the chapters. There were moments of intensity that never felt out of place, the story paced very well, and Penner didn’t seem to miss any details between the three women’s lives which I want to commend her for. I can’t imagine keeping up with all these tribulations that each character faces without missing anything. The strong sense of love and protections between these women, even if one had never formally met the other, is potent within Penner’s words and it made me adore them even more. As a woman, I always feel the strong urge to protect other women behind me if the situation arose so I enjoyed that Caroline wanted to learn Nella’s story through this secret apothecary.

Pinterest Pin of the book cover of The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - Photo by Peri McKinnis - Peri Reads -

I was thoroughly entertained with each women’s life. Caroline was a nice string whose purpose is to tie everything together, an apothecary that was supposed to be hidden slowly being brought to life. The little bear vile that Caroline cherishes also brings back her love for history that she had to hide when she was with her husband. Which I thought was a nice touch. The detail being that men are problematic no matter how far in the past you go into. But we’re able to feel the passion that Caroline feels and the genuine care that Nella feels whenever she packages her herbs. I enjoy Eliza’s child like wonder, she’s almost like Nella’s shadow. The two are the same but different. Nella believes she should live out her days hiding away in her apothecary, Eliza breathes in new life for her, showing her a new side of life. The three women are more deeply connected than they know (obviously they don’t know but it’s fun to see as the reader) as they all have a deep love for what they are meant to do. But there’s someone around them that wants to stop them (mostly men but still). It’s whimsical and cute, Eliza and Nella making herbs together and Caroline stepping through the same place hundreds of years later.

“To me, the allure of history lay in the minutiae of life long ago, the untold secrets of ordinary people.”

All in all I liked this book a whole lot! There were only a couple of times that I felt like that there was a scene that took too long or felt that it was random but other than that I enjoyed the beautiful storyline and imagery. The Lost Apothecary is a wonderful tale showing the true power of women, but especially women in numbers. The ending truly pieced everything together and just made me feel so warm. Definitely recommend!






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Hey! I’m Peri McKinnis

Peri McKinnis of Peri Reads

I’m a creative, I’m a dreamer, and I’m an Aries. I’ll read any book with enough convincing, I enjoy weird movies, and I’m a caffeine fiend. From the day that I brought my first book catalog home from school I knew that books were going to have a special place in my heart. Now I want to spread that love here, to talk about the books that made us cry, fall in love, and scorn because we couldn’t finish them.