THE LAST APOTHECARY by SARAH PENNER *BLOG TOUR* @sl_penner @parkrowbooks

It’s a cold night in February of 1791 and in an unmarked back alley in London, Nella sits awaiting her customer.

Nella is an apothecary, as her mother before her was. Women came from all around for her healing potions and salves. Taking care of women. Nella is carrying on the tradition in another way. Women come to her for poisons that will release them from the men who have done them wrong.

Of course, there are a few rules. The poison must never be used to harm another woman. And the names of the victim, poison, and the killer are to be recorded in a register.

When her next customer shows up Nella is shocked it is a twelve-year-old girl named Eliza, whose employer wishes to engage Nella’s services to relieve herself of her husband. Little does Nella know that this meeting will alter both of their lives as well as the life of present-day historian Caroline, who is spending her anniversary alone after her husband has an affair.

When she finds a mysterious vial with a bear on it, her research instincts kick in and she is determined to find out everything she can about the apothecary shop, Nella and Eliza.

Women had very few options in this London. One had to put up with whatever situation one found themselves as far as philandering spouses or abusive ones. This was a great look at the lengths women would go to seek revenge.

This was disturbing and yet honest. A very good debut!

NetGalley/  March 2nd, 2021 by Park Row

Here is a sneak peek:

Nella
February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I
did not yet know.
I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark
things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a
vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.
But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted
dead.
I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran
my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone
like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.
Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast.
Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her
mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most
suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.
The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet
unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the
parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears.
Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.
But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen
strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the
result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.
I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was
a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest
of apothecary shops.
In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and
resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s
maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.
On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the
words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the
yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s
head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her
remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were
meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren

wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no
suspicion.
On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also
remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register
hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.
Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding,
or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare:
these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines
and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.
Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had
documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name
defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.
I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the
letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though
something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my
fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded
frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not
come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too
cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base
of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.
I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean.
An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held
little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the
appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.
Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in
the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown
so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it
upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open
and expose what lay underneath.
Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and
something inside meant to tear me open.
At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden
room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy
warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I
would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed
inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner.
Published by Park Row Books.

 

 

 

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

Meet Me in Bombay

1913 in Bombay. Madeline Bright has come home from school to the sweltering heat in India. And desperately would like to go back!

It’s New Year’s Eve and she isn’t looking for someone to kiss,but when she meets Luke Devereaux, everything changes for both of them.

Lucy’s mother,who seems cold and detached is not for the match and has already lined up a husband for her daughter. A doctor named Guy, who Maddy has no interest in at all.

But war is on the way and will take Luke far away from Maddy. They are far away from each other and all she has to hold on to is the promise that he will meet her in Bombay.

Meanwhile Luke’s time in the war have left not even remembering who he is, much less Maddy.

But nothing is stronger than love. But can Maddy wait? Will she wait?

This was a tearjerker and not the usual ending which I enjoyed!

Well Done!

NetGalley/ January 19th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press


The Day Lincoln Lost by Charles Rosenberg

The Day Lincoln Lost

I love historical fiction. However, there also must be some attempt to follow history in some fashion. There should also be a reliable timeline.

I wanted to like this but it just felt flat and uninteresting. I didn’t feel anything for the characters.

 

NetGalley Review/August 11th, 2020 by Hanover Square Press

 

 

 

 

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by RACHEL HAWKINS

The Wife Upstairs

Jane is new to Alabama, running from a past she won’t discuss.

Sharing an apartment with a creepy guy and walking dogs in the ritzy neighborhood of Thornfield Estates. Your typical Macmansion homes with bored, gossipy, nosy housewives with way too much time on their hands to notice if a shiny thing or two goes missing.

Jane both looks down on them and wants to be them. The curse of the have nots.

There is a sadness in the little cul de sac, however. Two of the women have recently disappeared and are presumed drowned. Having been best friends for life they go out for a night boat ride and never return.

When Jane meets Eddie Rochester, whose wife Bea was one of the women who presumably drowned, she is in love. Here is a man who could give her everything she wants. And when he asks her to move in, odd things start happening. Thumps from upstairs. Feeling as if she is not alone and is being spied on she digs into Bea’s past and her friendship with her bestie.

What she finds will shock her and may just kill her!

A story with a wife in the attic?? You may think you know what and why, but I can assure you it is much worse!

Delightfully evil!


NetGalley/ January 5th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

December is getting off on the wrong foot!

It’s been a bit. Things are crazy here. It’s been summer until Monday and then we had rain and cold and now it’s settled on an even temperature with sunshine.

Oklahoma is no where near following CDC guidelines. Our governor called for a day of prayer and fasting in groups in churches instead of a mask mandate so now our numbers are through the roof.

My mother is in hospital in North Dakota and I am strongly questioning their abilities. Pretty much anyone can come in and they didn’t even test her for Covid. Now she weighs 60 pounds, has multiple blood clots in her legs, lungs, and a shaky brain bleed. Yesterday the doctor said she is in multiple organ failure and has fluid in her lungs and pneumonia. So this morning they took her to have a procedure to put something in her body to keep the clots from entering her heart.

Makes no sense to me to do this to an 85 year old woman who just wants to die with out all of this mess. The palliative care nurse came in and said she was clear in the head, which she is most definitely not as she has been taking Oxycontin, Fentanyl patches and more. Who in their right mind prescribes those to an woman of her age living alone??? And why? There was absolutely nothing wrong with her but a bruised rib from 5 years ago.

It’s a frustrating situation made worse by the fact that I can not go there. So that is where I am. Even talking on the phone to the nurse was frustrating. But hopefully today we will know something.

I am very conflicted about the entire thing. How is one supposed to feel when the person who has physically abused her daughters until we left home and then just used emotional and verbal abuse? As for me, when they told me she was dying, I couldn’t even cry. I just felt hope. That soon I’ll be free. Heck, my sister MJ, just got on a plane and went to Curacao. She is not conflicted. She is fed up.

I hope no one is thinking I want her dead. I don’t. I just want her to go away and let us be calm for a few years.

Anyone else have this conflict?

Let me know, I’m stuck at home still so give me your best advice.

xx P

So We’re Going Straight to Winter Now?

by Audrey T

If you live close to me you also heard what sounded like gunshots going off all night and all day so far. No, it wasn’t a gang of out of control cowboys, it was limbs cracking off of the trees due to the ice storm we are currently enduring.

Every few minutes you hear the first rumblings and see ice fall and them Boom!, there goes another limb. Now, I am not talking about branches. They are covering the ground and homes alike. These are huge limbs. One of which is sitting on top of the nursing home right now. The park looks like a war zone and a quick tour of the neighborhood shows the same. Cars parked outside last night are now nestled in the boughs of sycamore trees.

At work, it’s worse. As you can see. This used to be a huge oak tree. Now it is just a trunk and this one remaining limb. The squirrels have been running for their lives and power is out everywhere. Best to stay in town this week!

Stay safe out there. My Gulf Coast people, be safe from the hurricane. The rest of us are just frozen. But Amazon is delivering so all is not lost!

xx P

Cold Conviction (Aspen Adams #3) by Daryl Wood Gerber

Cold Conviction (Aspen Adams, #3)

We’re back with PI Aspen Adams. This time the case she takes on is personal. The case that has never been solved. Her parent’s murder.

Fourteen years ago, her parents were murdered in their own home. Aspen was away at college but her sister Rosie found the bodies and was looked at as a suspect for a while. Rosie is an addict. She’s stolen from them before, but why kill them?

Rosie is not my favorite person. Aspen is also raising Rosie’s daughter. So when Rosie calls and begs her to find out who did this, she does. She goes home and starts asking questions. People begin to act strangely and she has quite a few possible suspects.

But in the end will she live to prove who was really guilty?

I loved this one. It was a twisty, confusing, and action packed all the way to the end. And no, the one person responsible wasn’t even on my radar! So, good job!

NetGalley/ October 27th, 2020 by Beyond the Page

Spilling The Tea On Oklahoma

Good Morning! Having a nice cuppa with my new cup a friend sent.

I am still in a mood about this Covid thing and all the lies being told. Here is a new one. Remember all that ‘family’ we went on vacation with last year? The Trump people? Well the 7 year old caught Covid at school and now the mom and baby twins are all sick as well. So here is how Oklahoma counts. The 7 year old has Covid. Positive test. The rest weren’t even tested because they are ‘presumed positive’ and these numbers don’t go in the count.

Hell is going to be quite packed in the coming years. But since these same people thought it was a hoax, I’m not feeling any sympathy for them at all.

I have very little patience left for stupid people. We have an election around the corner and if you vote for this administration, well, here’s your sign. STUPID. I’d like a president who has actually served some time in government, the military, school. Seriously, who hires people with no experience?

Enough for today, I need more tea!

Be Safe, and Be Smart.

xxP

the book of two ways by Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

Dawn Edelstein is on a plane when her life changes. With an announcement to prepare for a crash landing.

A lot of things flash through her mind. Her husband is not one.

She survives the crash but is left wondering about her life. What would have happened if she took a different path? Gone left instead of right?

And that what the book is about. Choices and how they affect us.

I was not invested in this one at all. It could just be me. See what you think!

NetGalley/ Ballentine September 22nd, 2020 by Ballantine Books

 

 

 

ONE BY ONE by RUTH WARE

One by One by [Ruth Ware]

Everyone is this book has secrets. Except maybe Danny. But the rest of them are pretty despicable people, not counting Erin, who takes care of the chalet and the guests with Danny as the chef.

Work retreats are nothing new for them. They host many at a luxurious ski chalet in the French Alps. Most are great and things run smoothly.

Not so when a start-up called Snoop and it’s co-founders come to stay. Right from the start, they are obnoxious and sketchy.  And as the days go by they began to dwindle in numbers. After an avalanche leaves them cut off from the rest of the world, they are all aware they are sharing quarters with a killer. But which one is it?

I could have told you who in Chapter one. The only person’s story I was interested in was Erin’s.

Not my cup of tea.

NetGalley/Gallery Scout Press September 8th, 2020