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Sarah Penner Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Lost Apothecary (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Sarah Penner

Sarah Penner is a historical fiction author best known for her debut novel, The Lost Apothecary. Published in 2021, this engaging novel that touches on the role of women now and in the past has gained quite a following. In slightly over 300 pages, the author discusses women’s relationships and shows what happens when they take matters into their own hands through the characters’ live. Penner holds a full-time job in finance and only writes in her free time. However, she is a Women’s Fiction Writers Association member who enjoys sharing with fellow writers. Penner lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and their dachshund, Zoe.

The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary tells the story of three women and the events that changed their life. Feb 10, 1791, Nella and Eliza’s paths cross, and a lot goes on. Nelly is an apothecary. After the death of her mother twenty years ago, Nella took over running her apothecary shop. Just like her mother, Nella was determined to help women with their illnesses. However, while Nelly’s mother only focused on women’s health afflictions, her daughter secretly gave poisons to women who needed to get rid of their lovers, husbands, brothers, and fathers. If a man crossed a woman’s path, Nelly did not hesitate to give them the poison they needed to end his life.

However, Nelly had two rules. First, the poison could never be used on another woman. The second rule was that the name of the murderer and the victim were recorded in the apothecary register. This made it easier for her to follow up on her clients and ensure that the first rule was followed. Eliza is a twelve-year-old working as a maidservant. When her mistress, Mrs. Amwell, sends her to pick poison from Nelly, they become friends. It is this little girl that innocently starts the events that change Nelly and Caroline’s life.

In the present timeline, Caroline Parcewell, an American woman in her prime, is going through difficulties. Her marriage of ten years is in trouble, and she has not recovered from the shock of discovering that her husband James was cheating on her. This explains why she is on a trip to London alone on what was supposed to be an anniversary treat. Heartbroken and on a whim, Caroline decides to go mudlarking in the Thames only to make a startling discovery. By the riverbanks, Caroline discovers a blue vial that brings the past to life while linking her life with Eliza and Nella’s. She cannot stop herself from digging further, which explains how she uncovers the link between the blue vial and the unresolved apothecary murders recorded in London more than two centuries ago.
Caroline is a history buff, and this case provides a perfect chance for her to indulge in her love for past events. Everything about her failing marriage is forgotten as Caroline finally gets to do what she really loves. She teams up with a local librarian who is invested in the case as she is. In this entertaining story, we will be following Caroline as she pours through history to solve a case that had remained a mystery for years. Her actions will not go unnoticed, and once the murderers start feeling threatened, sparks are likely to fly. Could Nella be the same person who issued those deadly poisons so long ago? How was that even possible? Follow Caroline on her search for the truth for answers to these questions and more.

This is a character-driven story of vengeance, secrets, betrayal, and self-discovery. The story also covers women’s roles, both in the past and present, and their relationships with men and fellow women. It is hard to believe that this atmospheric piece is Sarah Penner’s debut novel, given how well it flows. The apothecary angle is also unique, and you will keep wondering what triggered Nella to take such a dark turn in her career. You will also enjoy the close- to-mother-daughter relationship between Nella and Eliza. The young girl starts working with Nella at her shop, and it is amazing how protective she is of her. The friendship between Gaynor, the librarian, and Caroline is also admirable. When the women’s lives collide in an unexpected twist of fate, a lot goes on, and a few lives are lost.

The role of women takes a central point in this story. This novel reflects the social norms, attitudes, and cultural limitations placed on women during this era. The story unfolds in two timelines, the past and the present, and it is notable how well the author merges these two. While the theme focuses on the abuse meted on women by the men in their lives, the intention is not to paint them in a bad light. Neither is the book glorifying the killing of men by their partners. Rather, through the characters, the author paints a perfect picture of women’s past and present choices and their consequences.

This is a detailed historical fiction story highlighting various issues women faced in the past and continues to deal with in the modern world. In 1791, women had close to no power to deal with a society hellbent to oppress them. Many wrongs are done to these women, and it is sad how they are forced to abandon their goals for the sake of peace in their home. There is also some exciting mystery that one of the leading characters will be trying to unravel, and this will keep you on your toes to the last page.

Overall, The Lost Apothecary is a well-written, captivating story with a tense and dark atmosphere that you are sure to love if you are a gothic fan. The characterization is impeccable, and it is clear the author took her time to build believable characters. Though relatively short, this novel does a good job of evoking London at the close of the 18th century. The author included intricate historical details that bring London to life and make this read like a true story.

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