Author: Sarah Penner
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, 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. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.
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 waits for 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 customer 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 discovers an old apothecary vial in the River Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London 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.
With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters, and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating exploration of women rebelling against a man’s world, the destructive force of revenge, and the remarkable ways that women can save each other despite the barrier of time.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner is a unique book about a story from the past and the present.
Nella has a secret apothecary shop in London during the eighteenth century. Nella disguises poisons for women to administer to the men they want to get away from without any suspicion of cause of death. Nella develops a friendship with Eliza, a twelve year old customer, and Eliza starts helping out at the apothecary shop. Nella has a rule that her poisons cannot be used to harm other women and records the victim and murderer. When a woman wants to harm another woman, one mistake could ruin everything.
Present day, Caroline is visiting London alone for her tenth wedding anniversary after discovering her husband’s infidelity. Caroline finds an old apothecary vial and starts to research where it came from. Caroline makes some concerning discoveries that can have unexpected consequences for Caroline.
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.
Watch My Author Chat
I will be discussing The Lost Apothecary with Sarah Penner Sunday, March 7 at 2PM ET/ 1PM CT on Instagram. Let me know if you have any questions you want me to ask her and feel free to watch.
About the Author
Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in fifteen 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. To learn more, visit SLPenner.com.
11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lost Apothecary”
I have been on the fence about reading this but I think you just sold me! Thanks for the review 🙂
I love finding multi-reader audiobooks! Also intrigued with the fantasy-sounding premise of the female poison maker (I’ve literally just found 3 fantasy poison maker stories this week) but set as realistic historical/contemporary fiction. And that cover!
Brilliant review! Reading it has just reminded me that my pre-order from Blackwell’s has still not arrived! I am so excited to get it. It’s a beautiful book and I’ve seen so many great reviews!
Awesome book review, Jess! Plus the cover is so pretty!!!
I’m so excited to get my copy! Great review!
This sounds so fascinating and the concept kind of reminds me of Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Great review!
I downloaded the audiobook for this! So happy that you enjoyed it so much.