The best apothecary books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about apothecary and why they recommend each book.

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The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner,

Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

As a historical fiction author, I am a picky historical fiction reader, which made Sarah Penner’s, The Lost Apothecary, an exciting find. Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? Set in the back alley of London in 1791, in an apothecary shop, we meet Nella, a woman selling poisonous potions to other women who are looking to kill off the men in their lives. Weaving in a modern-day component, Penner takes us into the life of Caroline Parcewell, a historian on a trip to London who accidentally discovers this series of unsolved murders from centuries earlier. A fantastic story of revenge, and the strength of women who band together.   

Who am I?

As a child, I devoured stories of the past. I wanted to live in a different century despite the fact that as a stubborn, loud, girl, I would not have been accepted because I understood these traits were not acceptable anyway. So, I learned to be quiet. It has taken me a long time to see myself as a powerful woman, to stop apologizing, to believe that when I speak up, people will listen. My goal in writing is to create characters worthy of our attention, characters who can empower us. We must imagine what we want before we can create it, and be vulnerable enough to believe in the power of that creation. 

I wrote...

The Girls with No Names

By Serena Burdick,

Book cover of The Girls with No Names

What is my book about?

Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.

Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to saving her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible - unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.

The Apothecary

By Maile Meloy,

Book cover of The Apothecary

How I wish I could read this one all over again for the first time. I can’t, but you can! In this semi-magical spy thriller, 14-year-old Janie is suddenly forced to move to London from Los Angeles with her family, where she fits in badly in her new school as the awkward American. She’s quickly drawn into a secret network of spies – mostly of the amateur variety who, thanks to an ancient book of potion recipes, can do all kinds of things, like turn into birds.

Who am I?

I’ve never belonged to a secret society, but I’ve always been drawn to the idea. When I wrote Stone Cove Island, I was thinking about secrets passed down between generations of the islanders, and I liked the idea that even within, but I liked the idea that even within this tiny community, there was an inner circle of people invisibly controlling things. I’d heard a story from a friend—and it might just be a story, but I’m not the only one who’s heard it—about a rich, private island where if you did something to displease the residents, they sent you a black sweater. No note. Just the sweater. The message was clear: time for you to go.

I wrote...

Stone Cove Island

By Suzanne Myers,

Book cover of Stone Cove Island

What is my book about?

When a catastrophic hurricane devastates Stone Cove Island, a serene New England resort community, everyone pulls together to rebuild. Seventeen-year-old Eliza Elliot volunteers to clean out the island’s iconic lighthouse and stumbles upon a secret in the wreckage: a handwritten, anonymous confession to a twenty-five-year-old crime.

Bess Linsky’s unsolved murder has long haunted the island, and the letter turns the town inside out. Everyone who knew Bess is suddenly a suspect. Soon Eliza finds herself in the throes of an investigation she never wanted. As Stone Cove Island fights to recover from disaster, Eliza plunges the locals back into a nightmare they believed was long buried.

Beloved Poison

By E.S. Thomson,

Book cover of Beloved Poison

Jem Flockhart is an apprentice apothecary at St. Saviour’s Infirmary in London. The building is falling down around the patients. The doctors hate each other. Jem finds six tiny coffins in the crumbling dank chapel – and a murder mystery begins. This book pulled me right into the dark rancid squalor of gaslit London and doesn’t shy in its horrific details. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, it’s an amazing read. So glad it’s the first in a series!

Who am I?

I’m addicted to Gothics. It started with reading Jane Eyre as a teenager. Gothics have it all – crime, mystery, secrets, lies, atmosphere, dread. I love history, particularly the stories of women’s lives. These are found not in textbooks but unearthed from more private and arcane places – diaries, mill worker records, letters, tintypes. I’m also drawn to writing dangerous women, those who live at the margins and need all their wits to survive. They don’t always stay within the law, and they aren’t always the heroine. I’m the author of The Companion, After Alice Fell, and The Deception (out in October 2022) - historical thrillers with a quite Gothicky edge. Naturally.

I wrote...

The Companion

By Kim Taylor Blakemore,

Book cover of The Companion

What is my book about?

They say she’s a murderess. She claims she’s innocent. But Lucy has been known to lie…1855, New Hampshire. Lucy Blunt is set to hang for a double murder. Murderess or victim? Only Lucy knows the truth. In the shadow of the gallows, Lucy reflects on the events that led to her bitter downfall—from the moment she arrived at the rambling Burton mansion looking for work and a better life to the grisly murders themselves. When Lucy’s rising status becomes a threat to the mistress’s current companion, the delicate balance of power and loyalty begins to shift, setting into motion a brewing storm of betrayal, suspicion, and rage.

Now, with her execution looming closer, the tale she’s spinning nears its conclusion. But how much of her story can we trust? 


By C. Vonzale Lewis,

Book cover of Lineage

Talk about intensive world-building, Lewis takes the cake with her impressive magic and gruesome villains in her novel, Lineage. Nicole Fontane, our protagonist, drew me in with her rage against corporate smoke and mirrors. Then came the incredible magical systems and magic users. And then on top of that, there are deities walking the very earth. Every time I thought it couldn’t get more intense, it did, and it’s a heck of a dangerous ride along the way.

Who am I?

I love reading about monsters as much as I love writing about them. Unfortunately, it also means I’m super picky about the dark fantasy I read. These authors don’t disappoint. Dark fantasy is a genre that I continue to return to, whether it’s aimed at teens or adults. I’ve had to deal with many monsters in my life and I understand that they can take many shapes and forms. These books are some of the very best I’ve read and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have. 

I wrote...

The Seeking

By Marlena Frank,

Book cover of The Seeking

What is my book about?

Each Seeking, the magic that protects the town of Carra must be renewed, which means the children of the Exalted Family must go into hiding. Whether through disguise or bribe, through trusted friends or perfect hiding places, every child of the Priest family must avoid capture for the full day of The Seeking.

When things go wrong with the renewal, it’s up to seventeen-year-old Dahlia, the middle child of the Priest family, and her girlfriend, Bisa, to escape Carra and find the magical beings responsible for the protection. They must learn who would require such a cruel game every year and if the protection of the Gray People is really worth such a price. What they will discover is far worse.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

By Penelope Lively,

Book cover of The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

What I love about the ghost story genre is how it can lend itself to comedy as well as spookiness. Here the plight of poor James, moving to a new house only to find himself seized on as Apprentice to ghostly 17th century apothecary Thomas Kempe, is irresistibly funny. No one will believe it’s not him scrawling advertisements for ‘Sorcerie, Astrologie, Geomancie, Alchemie, Recoverie of Goodes Loste and Physicke’ on notice boards outside his house and all over the village. Lively’s accurate use of 17th century English heightens both the humour and historical realism in this beautifully written book. 

Who am I?

I write adventure and mystery stories for children aged 9 - 13, involving battles with mythical creatures, dangerous pacts with demons, and other supernatural chills. My first book, Ante’s Inferno, won the People’s Book Prize and a Silver Wishing Shelf Award. For The Fall of a Sparrow, I drew on my love of ghost stories, not just for their scariness but also for their emotional complexity: ghosts don’t haunt just for the sake of it. They need something only the main character can give. Friendship, perhaps, a companion in their loneliness… or something much darker. Here’s my choice of classic stories in which ghosts pursue a wide – and sometimes terrifying – variety of agendas.

I wrote...

The Fall of a Sparrow

By Griselda Heppel,

Book cover of The Fall of a Sparrow

What is my book about?

Desperate to escape her past, 11-year-old Eleanor is sent away to a spooky school run by a mysterious great-aunt she has never met. There she finds herself followed around by a strange, awkward little boy who – to her horror – knows all about her. Who is he, and why won’t he leave her alone? Unravelling the mystery draws her into a dark web of family secrets, luring her into deadly danger. 

The Apothecary Rose

By Candace Robb,

Book cover of The Apothecary Rose: The Owen Archer Series - Book One

Set in Medieval York I loved the detail of life in this book. The passion of Lucie Wilton, the apothecary’s wife is apparent and very real. Her anguish at his death and her guilt over her love for Owen Archer, her assistant incite pity and hunger in the reader. It taught me to try and include small details in my own writing and to make my characters come alive as Candace Robb does. I was truly hungry for the next book...and the next...and the next!

Owen Archer became a real fictional hero of mine.

Who am I?

As a great reader from birth, I love books. I am a retired teacher of English literature and love history, particularly the medieval period, inspired by my love of Chaucer. I found my chosen authors entertaining, informative, and able to lead me into my happy place, unaware of my surroundings whilst reading. I read very fast, however, and none of them write fast enough for me so I started to write my own books. Words have the power to move, to excite, to console, to entertain. I hope anyone reading my chosen list will enjoy and may feel like exploring my own books.

I wrote...

A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

By Rosie Lear,

Book cover of A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

What is my book about?

This is the second book in the Matthias Barton Medieval mysteries series, set in Sherborne, Dorset. The young schoolmaster, Matthias Barton, finds himself involved with a seriously injured man and the fire which consumed part of Sherborne Abbey in 1437.

An injured soldier arrives on the scene bringing bad news to his friend, the Coroner, Sir Tobias Delaware. Matthias travels to France to discover the truth behind his message, meanwhile, the frustrated townspeople of Sherborne agitate against the haughty Abbot. Matthias encounters danger in Paris where the death of a young prostitute causes him both pain and shame. His return coincides with the uprising in Sherborne and the terrible wounding of the injured soldier to whom Matthias has offered shelter.

The Poison Keeper

By Deborah Swift,

Book cover of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

Another woman steps out of the shadows of history in this novel about seventeenth-century Italy. Gulia Tofana was a notorious poisoner of terrible men and Deborah Swift explores in a tale full of excitement and drama the imagined early career of Gulia whose mother was executed for murder. Gulia just wants to be an apothecary, but her friendship with the abused wife of an aristocratic, power greedy husband draws her into murder. It is full of rich detail – you can feel the heat, smell the perfume, hear the rustle of silk and taffeta, and you can’t help being on the side of the women trapped in a corrupt and violent world.

Who am I?

I love the novels of Charles Dickens and when I found out that he did go out with the London Police to research the criminal underworld for his magazine, I thought what a good detective he would make. He has all the talents a detective needs: remarkable powers of observation, a shrewd understanding of human nature and of motive, and the ability to mix with all ranks of Victorian society from the street urchin to the lord and lady. I love Victorian London, too, and creating the foggy, gas-lit alleys we all know from Dickens the novelist.

I wrote...

Summons to Murder

By J.C. Briggs,

Book cover of Summons to Murder

What is my book about?

This is the ninth novel in the Charles Dickens Investigation series. A journalist friend of Dickens, Pierce Mallory, is found shot dead in his lodgings. The inquest verdict is suicide, but closer examination of the gun causes Dickens and Superintendent Jones to have doubts. Mallory left behind debts, a discarded wife, more than one discarded mistress, and two illegitimate children. There are plenty of suspects. The investigation takes Dickens and Jones into a dangerous world in which powerful people have dangerous secrets they want to keep so badly that even Dickens’s life is in danger.

Dragon Soul

By LJ Swallow,

Book cover of Dragon Soul: A Reverse Harem Fantasy Romance

This is a box set containing the complete Daughter of Shadow series. Four full-length books filled with spellbinding fantasy romance. The Daughter of Shadow series is a slow-burn and slow-build romantic fantasy that will have you on the edge of your seat sometimes. This is absolutely perfect for those who love reading about unique worlds combined with supernatural creatures such as elves and dragons. This series will draw you into a fantastic world of pure fantasy featuring strong, fiercely protective men who will do anything for the story's heroine, who just so happens to be the centre of their world. The story's heroine is a strong, mighty, magical woman who is a well-written and relatable character. 

Who am I?

I especially love reading fantasy stories and stories based on actual historical events. I've been an avid reader since I was a little girl; while my siblings were playing outside or inside with toys I was the one sat curled up in the corner reading. I've also worked hard and gained qualifications in creative writing. I've also had a passion for writing and have written my own fantasy novels; being an author is simply amazing because you can create characters that are unique and special as well as true to life, plus you get to create worlds that are entirely different to our own. 

I wrote...

The Realm of Witches

By Laurie Bowler,

Book cover of The Realm of Witches

What is my book about?

Seraphina is a low-level worker for The Agency, an organisation of witches that controls the world of the supernatural. Growing up an orphan with normal human parents, she knows she is different and is drawn to the Realm of Witches Agency. As the dangers deepen and the truth behind Seraphina's past is revealed, it becomes clear that the world's fate is at stake and that Seraphina may be the only one to prevent the world's destruction. But at what cost?

An epic novel by Laurie Bowler of betrayal, romance and worlds that will make you forget reality.

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