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.

 

 

 

NET FORCE ATTACK PROTOCOL by JEROME PREISLER ( Created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik)

Net Force: Attack Protocol

The Net Force Thriller Series is created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik and written by Jerome Preisler.

As the world experiences more and more terrorist attacks, the place to be is in cyber-security! With the President giving us an entire agency just for those terrorist acts that you can’t see and Net Force is more than up for the challenge.

This time we are at the edge of the Carpathian Mountains. Where an evil genius has built a seemingly impenetrable fortress from which to oversee his evil plans. Only this time he will be using cyber-space to destroy a lot of lives. Because he is also a next level hacker. With no morals at all.

Just as the team is getting close to the compound, back at base camp, the master of hacking has either hacked our weapons and turned them against us, or we have a traitor in our midst. Because all of a sudden our buildings are being blown up by our own equipment!

And as we all expected, Russia is involved. Hoping to cripple the United States by taking control of the entire internet and do more than steal our credit card numbers. They want to use the internet to pretty much nuke us. And make it look as if we did it ourselves.

If you haven’t read any of the series of books, you should. There is no gentle introduction to the story. No. It is a non-stop, heart -pounding, edge of your seat ride until the last page. I so did not want this to be over. I kept trying to turn another page, but no.

Excellent Read!

NetGalley/ Harlequin/ Hanover Square December 01, 2020





THE LITTLE BOOKSHOP ON THE SEINE by REBECCA RAISIN

The Little Bookshop on the Seine

Sarah Smith is a small-town girl. Opening her own bookshop at 19, she lives between the pages of romance books. She has great friends, and a hot journalist boyfriend as well.

One day out of the blue, her friend Sophie from Paris, calls to suggest they swap places for six months! Running each other’s shops and taking a break from their own lives to experience what the other is lacking. It doesn’t take long for Sarah to hop on a plane for Paris and dive into Sophie’s shop, Once Upon A Time.

Upon arrival, her bag, luggage, and passport are lifted. The shop is in disarray and one girl, in particular, is out to get her. The shop is doing awful financially and Beatrice is not helping the situation at all. No one has a schedule, books are taken at will, and her hot boyfriend is on assignment and nowhere near Paris!

So far she feels out of her comfort zone and hated by the entire staff. But with help from a couple of good guys and gals, she just may pull off making a go of the shop and a go of her relationship.

Paris, the city of lights, love, and possibilities! Are there struggles? Oh, yes. But in the end, I think it may work out just fine.

A pleasure to read.

NetGalley/ January 07, 2020 Harlequin

 

 

 

 

THE KILL CLUB by WENDY HEARD *BLOG TOUR*

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard

Jazz is a bad-ass. She’s had a hard life and now she is doing everything in her power to protect her little brother from their foster mother, Carol, a religious nutjob who decides the boy doesn’t need his diabetic medication as God is going to heal him.

As Jazz takes on beatings and sneaks the boys’ meds to his teacher or through the bars of his window, things are getting worse. Then she gets a call from an unknown number and learns that she isn’t alone and there could be an end to Carol’s reign of terror.

All she has to do is kill someone. Can she do that? Learning about an underground group calling themselves The Blackbirds, they kill a stranger and a stranger kills their problem. Sound familiar?  Strangers on a Train?

There is a lot at stake in this thriller and the author has made Jazz very real and vulnerable, but also very brave.

Heard is so great at the build-up that by the end of the book you hope you have a fingernail left!

Well Done!

NetGalley/ December 17th, 2019 by MIRA

Today is our stop on the Blog Tour for The Kill Club by Wendy Heard! Here is a little taste!

THE CEILING ABOVE the crowd sparkles with strings of golden lights. They twinkle just bright enough to
illuminate the faces. I adjust a microscopic issue with my toms and run my fingers through my bangs,
straightening them over my eyes. The guys are tuning up, creating a clatter of discordant notes in the
monitors. When they’re done, they approach my kit for our usual last-minute debate about the setlist.
Dao humps his bass in his ready-to-play dance, black hair swishing around his shoulders. “Dude, stop,”
Matt groans and readjusts the cable that connects his Telecaster to his pedalboard.
“Your mom loves my dancing,” Dao says.
“You dance like Napoleon Dynamite,” Matt retorts.
“Your mom dances like Napoleon Dynamite.”
Andre raises his hands. “Y’all both dance like Napoleon Dynamite, and so do both your moms, so
let’s just—”
I wave a stick at them. “Guys. Focus. The sound guy is watching. We’re three minutes behind.” I
have no patience for this shit tonight. This all feels extra and stupid. I should be doing something to help
Joaquin. His dwindling supply of insulin sits at the front of my brain like a ticking clock.
The guys get into their spots, the distance between them set by muscle memory. Andre leans
forward into the mic and drawls, “Arright DTLA, lez get a little dirty in here.” His New Orleans accent
trickles off his tongue like honey.
The room inhales, anticipates, a sphere of silence.
“Two three four,” I yell. I clack my sticks together and we let loose, four on the floor and loud as
hell. I’m hitting hard tonight. It feels great. I need to hit things. My heart beats in tempo. My arms fly
through the air, the impact of the drums sharp in my joints, in my muscles, the kick drum a pulse
keeping the audience alive. This is what I love about drumming, this forcing of myself into the crowd,
making their hearts pound in time to my beat.
Dao fucks up the bridge of “Down With Me” and Andre gives him some vicious side-eye. The
crowd is pressed tight up against the stage. A pair of hipsters in cowboy hats grabs a corresponding pair
of girls and starts dancing with them. I cast Dao an eye-rolling look referring to the cowboy hats and he
wiggles his eyebrows at me. I stomp my kick drum harder, pretending it’s Carol’s face.
The crowd surges back. Arms fly. A guy in the front staggers falls. A pair of hands grip the
stage and a girl tries to pull herself up onto it.
Matt and Dao stop playing. The music screeches to a halt.
“What’s going on?” I yell.
“Something in the pit,” Dao calls back.
Andre drops his mic and hops down into the crowd. Dao and Matt cast their instruments aside
and close the distance to the edge of the stage. I get up and join them. Together, we look down into the
pit.

A clearing has formed around a brown-haired guy lying on the floor. Andre and the bouncer
squat by him as he squirms and thrashes, his arms and legs a tangle of movement. Andre’s got his phone
pressed to his ear and is talking into it urgently. The bouncer is trying to hold the flailing man still, but
the man’s body is rigid, shuddering out of the bouncer’s grip. He flops onto his back, and I get a good
look at his face.
Oh, shit, I know this guy. He’s a regular at our shows. He whines and pants muffled words
gargling from his throat. Some of the bystanders have their phones out and are recording this. Assholes.
The man shrieks like a bird of prey. The crowd sucks its whispers back into itself, and the air
hangs heavy and hushed under the ceiling twinkle lights.
Andre is still talking into his phone. The bouncer lifts helpless hands over the seizing man,
obviously not sure what to do.
I should see if Andre wants help. I hop down off the stage and push through the crowd. “Excuse
me. Can you let me through? Can you stop recording this and let me through?”
I’m suddenly face-to-face with a man who is trying to get out of the crowd as hard as I’m trying
to get into it. His face is red and sweaty, his eyes wild. “Move,” he orders me.
Dick. “You fucking move.”
“Bitch, move.” He slams me with his shoulder, knocking me into a pair of girls who cry out in
protest. I spin, full of rage, and reverse direction to follow him.
“Hey, fucker,” I scream. He casts a glance over his shoulder. “Yeah, you! Get the fuck back
here!”
He escalates his mission to get out of the crowd, elbowing people out of his way twice as fast.
I’m smaller and faster, and I slip through the opening he leaves in his wake. Just before he makes it to
the side exit, I grab his flannel shirt and give him a hard yank backward. “Get the fuck back here!” I’m
loose, all the rage and pain from earlier channeling into my hatred for this entitled, pompous asshole.
I know I should rein it in, but he spins to face me and says, “What is your problem, bitch?” And
that’s it. I haul back and punch him full in the jaw.
He stumbles, trips over someone’s foot and lands on his ass on the cement floor. His phone goes
clattering out of his hand, skidding to a stop by someone’s foot. “The hell!”
“Oh, shit,” cries a nearby guy in a delighted voice.
“Fucking bitch,” the guy says, and this is the last time he’s calling me a bitch. I go down on top of
him, a knee in his chest. I swing wild, hit him in the jaw, the forehead, the neck. He throws an elbow; it
catches me in the boob and I flop back off him with a grunt of pain. He sits up, a hand on his face, and
opens his mouth to say something, but I launch myself off the ground again, half-conscious of a chorus
of whoops and howls around us. I throw a solid punch. His nose cracks. Satisfaction. I almost smile.
Blood streams down his face.
“That’s what you get,” I pant. He crab-shuffles back, pushes off the ground and sprints for the
exit. I let him go.

My chest is heaving, and I have the guy’s blood on my hand, which is already starting to ache
and swell. I wipe my knuckles on my jeans.
His phone lights up and starts buzzing on the floor. I pick it up and turn it over in my hand. It’s an
old flip phone, the kind I haven’t seen in years. The bright green display says Blocked.
Back in the pit, the man having a seizure shrieks again, and then his screams gurgle to a stop. I
put the phone in my pocket and push through the onlookers. I watch as his back convulses like he’s
going to throw up, and then he goes limp. A thin river of blood snakes out of his open mouth and trails
along the cement floor.
The room echoes with silence where the screams had been. A trio of girls stands motionless,
eyes huge, hands pressed to mouths.
The flip phone in my pocket buzzes. I pull it out, snap it open and press it to my ear. “Hello?”
A pause.
“Hello?” I repeat.
A click. The line goes dead.
A set of paramedics slams the stage door open, stretcher between them. “Coming through!”
They kneel down and start prodding at the man curled up on the concrete. His head flops back. His eyes
are stretched wide and unseeing, focused on some point far beyond the twinkling ceiling lights.
Next to him on the concrete lies something… What is it? It’s rectangular and has red and—
It’s a playing card.

Excerpted from The Kill Club by Wendy Heard, Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Heard. Published by MIRA
Books.

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