Lillian Haswell, brilliant daughter of the local apothecary, yearns for more adventure and experience than life in her father's shop and their small village provides. She also longs to know the truth behind her mother's disappearance, which villagers whisper about but her father refuses to discuss. Opportunity comes when a distant aunt offers to educate her as a lady in London. Exposed to fashionable society and romance—as well as clues about her mother—Lilly is torn when she is summoned back to her ailing father's bedside. Women are forbidden to work as apothecaries, so to save the family legacy, Lilly will have to make it appear as if her father is still making all the diagnoses and decisions. But the suspicious eyes of a scholarly physician and a competing apothecary are upon her. As they vie for village prominence, three men also vie for Lilly's heart.
This book brings a different take on the Regency era. Instead on focusing on the upper class with their balls and frolicking due to massive free time, this story turns instead to the working class. It's a very interesting approach as the reader gets to see first hand what life was like for the normal people of the time period who had to work in order to survive in the world. The details of the life of an apothecary were fascinating and incredibly in depth. A lot of research went into explaining the daily operations of an apothecary and the wonders that went behind creating the medicines. To me, the apothecary was like a potions master, creating different solutions to solve life's ailments. Also as women were not allowed to be a part of the medical field, this was really interesting to see Lilly be so knowledgeable of the subject. It is a shame that due to her sex, she would not be able to go beyond life in the store even though she would have been more qualified than most male doctors. The romance in this story is very Jane Austen-ish. I found myself rooting for both men as I liked them both and couldn't decide which one Lilly should end up with.
There are times when the plot seems a little slow and seems to be going around in circles. Also to be honest, I felt rather disappointed in the storyline of Lilly's mother. I felt like the plot built up so much throughout the course of the entire book, only to end rather abruptly and rather flat. It was almost as if it was an afterthought to suddenly bring that storyline to a close. It also was starting to get a little soap opera-ish by this point when you brought in her father's story as well. I would have liked a better ending with that actually. Other than this, I truly enjoyed this story. Klassen has written another wonderful historical novel that's rich in details and comes alive from the pages. I am looking forward to whenever her next novel comes out as I am sure I will not be disappointed.
The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen is published by Bethany House (2009)
one other note: if you look at the very first page of the book, at the bottom of the page there might be a name that you recognize...
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