“Healing by way of vengeance … no such thing existed; it never had. Hurting others had only injured me further.”
A female Apothecary, Nella, dispenses poisons in secret, to women who have been wronged by men. She only has two rules – none of her poisons can ever be used to harm a woman and she must record the name of the procurer and the person they intend to kill in her book, for safekeeping and insurance. On a cold February evening, a young 12 year old, Eliza comes to Nella to procure a poison to kill her master courtesy of her beloved mistress. The relationship between Eliza and Nella sets them on a dangerous path. In present day London, Caroline finds a vial near the Thames river as she tries to forget the recent reveal of her husband’s infidelity. This ancient vial leads her down a path of discovery and investigation into the lives of these women that lived 200 years before her.
Sounds like an amazing and intriguing premise for a book right? So why was a book about an apothecary killer so freaking dull?! This book started out with such great promise. I was instantly grabbed by the blurb. This was my Book of the Month pick for March and because of the number of people who picked this particular book there was a delay in delivery as they tried to procure more. I chose this book on the first of March and it only just arrived this week which even made me more excited to crack it open. To say that this story is slow is an understatement. I kept waiting for something to happen but nothing really happens. This book is written in dual timelines. One in the 1700s and the other in present day London. None of these stories intrigued me and frankly, the connection between the women in different timelines was forced at best.
Caroline comes to London to escape, after finding out her husband had an affair. She stumbles across a group of people mud larking and decides to participate. She finds an apothecary bottle inscribed with a picture of a bear and decides to investigate the bottle and I just didn’t understand why she even had the urge to do it. It just seemed so ridiculous. All the ‘conflicts’ in this book were tenuous at best and were always those conflicts arising from misunderstandings and which could have been fixed with a single sentence and I just found that to be lazy writing. I found Caroline’s story entirely pointless and would have preferred if this book focused entirely on Eliza and Nella. Caroline was entirely a caricature of a one dimensional character who put all her dreams on hold in order to get married and cater to a cheating, manipulative husband.
I expected magical realism and a deep look into the lives of women in the 1700s but this book offers nothing of the sort. I also expected mystery and more of a plot and I am so tired of all women’s back stories being about men. The author never even explored the moral ambiguity of making a career out of murdering men just because a man betrayed you in the past. There wasn’t enough character development in this book for me to even justify the lack of a juicy plot by saying it was character driven. The women in this book were all bland and one dimensional. I found it hard to like anyone even when given their back story.
I did not enjoy this book. It was filled with implausible situations, unrealistic emotions and characters that were contrived. The author did a terrible job connecting the present to the past, probably because there was literally nothing connecting the women and her trying to create a connection was unsuccessful. Caroline was boring, one dimensional and frankly, I don’t see how she could have had even a prayer of getting into Cambridge. What kind of history major does not know how to search a library’s historical archives?
Anyways, I gave this 2 stars on Goodreads because I really do think the premise is fantastic. The cover art is gorgeous and it had so much potential. I’m off to apply to Cambridge since everyone can apparently get in!