Author: Sarah Penner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Trigger Warning - Adultery, Child Endangerment, Poisoning, Sexual Assault
Disclaimer – This book was read in the ARC* form. There may be some differences in this version than from what appears in other copies of this book.
Publication: March 2021
Nella wants to give a way out to the women that have been hurt by men as she was.
Eliza wants the magic she dreams of to come true.
Caroline just wants more than the life that she settled for.
One little vial and Caroline's curiosity leads to the uncovering of the lives of Nella and Eliza that were oh so many years ago. Three females, all striving for something more, help each other across time to discover more bravery in themselves than they ever knew possible. Fantastic storytelling assists with their journey, interweaving history with imagined characters that gives light to those lost stories.
And it all begins with an apothecary.
In-Depth Review (contains spoilers)
There was so much good to this piece. From the vial that came back to play a part at the end. The ledger of names and the shop itself. The twists and turns. I have to admit that I was fairly bored in the beginning. Not displeased, but bored throughout the first half of the book. It took quite a bit of time for it to really set up. But after doing so, the ending was phenomenal.
There was too much of an information dump in the beginning. Caroline is only one third of this story and she gets so much focus on her background compared to the other two who's histories were just breezed over. Her backstory could have been wrapped up quicker to provide more time for Nella and Eliza's stories to be uncovered. It made sense to present that information because it really gave you more of an understanding with Caroline, but it didn't need to take so long.
I did not expect Eliza to be the one who jumped off the bridge. I did not expect her to have survived. I did not expect Nella to possibly have survived so much longer. I did not expect Caroline to finally stand up for herself and figure it all out. This book was full of surprises that made me quite happy. The ending was somewhat open ended while still wrapping up some factors, but overall, I was content. I thought it gave just enough to be curious but not be left desperately wanting answers. The reader can make their own assumptions as to how everything truly ended with these three characters.
Granted it seemed like a fairly simple mystery that wasn't too difficult to solve. But there has been so much lost history over time that it makes sense that nobody would have even thought to look for the apothecary until Caroline felt compelled. This story was more about the women themselves than the mystery. The mystery was going to reveal itself in the end no matter what, but the women had to learn how to uncover the mysteries surrounding themselves. That was the actual intended story for this book.
My favorite part of this was the idea of a place where women could go to take care of themselves. Yes, these women were committing crimes and Nella was assisting them. But not without reason. They were either cheating or being abusive or doing some other unspeakable act. Nella herself wasn't cruel. She still had morals, one of which she struggled with enforcing during the time of this story. Refusing to kill women. The apothecary wasn't there to needlessly kill but to help and remember women who's names would never be recorded in history. They would live through their suffering and no one would ever think of them again. Through this apothecary, Nella gave these women a way to make sure that they made their mark on history and were not forgotten for it.
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*ARC, or Advance Reading Copy, is a pre-published, nearly complete version of a new book that is given out before the official release date. The aim is to gain reviews that can coincide with the launching and to get booksellers interested in selling the book. It is normal for there to be changes from the ARC to the actual published copy since this form is an uncorrected proof.