The Apothecary's Daughter / Julie Klassen. 2008

We interrupt the incessant IT HAPPENED ONE SEASON blogging to talk about an unusual Regency that I finished yesterday that is worth mentioning to those of you who, like me, really enjoy that time period. The Apothecary's Daughter was offered as a free Kindle read back in January. I really didn't remember much about the synopsis of this other than the fact that it was Regency-set. From Julie Klassen's website:


As Lilly toils in her father's apothecary, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refuses to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond—of travel and adventure and romance.
When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for—the truth of the past and a love for the future?
Blending romance, family drama, and fascinating historical detail, The Apothecary's Daughter is a novel to savor and share.

TAD is published by Bethany House, a publisher of Christian inspirational fiction. If you don't like Inspys, then this book isn't for you, although I will say that the religious aspects are extremely subtle and don't even appear until the latter half of the book. 

As the blurb says, Lilly is a young woman who assists her father in his apothecary shop in a small Wiltshire village. She pines for her mother as well as for a life beyond the village where she was raised. Lilly's mother came from the upper reaches of society and she married beneath herself when she married Lilly's father. One day Lilly's uncle, the brother of her mother, and her uncle's wife come to visit Lilly and her family. The aunt and uncle have had no children of their own and they end up offering to take Lilly to London where she can broaden her horizons and perhaps meet an eligible gentleman to marry. Lilly must take care, though, to avoid mentioning her father's profession as well as the scandal of her mother's disappearance.

After a lengthy stay with her aunt and uncle (about 18 months IIRC), Lilly is called home because her father is ill and his business is falling apart. Lilly returns home to find many distressing changes. She takes the shop in hand and helps to see to her father's recovery. The first half of the book is about Lilly's stay in London; the second half is when she returns home. Throughout the course of the book, there are 4 men who express an interest in Lilly.

This is really a book about Lilly. The romance, what there is of it, is subtle; I really wasn't sure who the hero would turn out to be until I was well over half way through the book. The book covers about a 2-year time span and over that time Lilly grows from a confused, hurting young girl into a strong, confident young woman. I guess this makes it more of a coming-of-age book rather than a conventional romance.

The book is rich (rich! I tell you) in period detail. It was fascinating--especially as it was depicted through the conflict between the medical profession (the doctors) and the apothecaries. The latter dispensed medicine upon the order of doctors, but they were also frequently called upon to treat minor illnesses and injuries. Apparently there was a clear conflict between the two professions at the time which is well-described through this story. In addition, women were forbidden from practicing either profession. Yet Lilly, while lacking formal schooling, has all the knowledge and ability to be an apothecary. She is torn between her desire and ability to help others and the laws which would prevent her from doing so. Ultimately, Lilly and her family must deal with the ramifications of her choices when the local doctor complains to the magistrate.

There are clear divisions between the social classes here and for awhile, Lilly has a foot in two camps. She needs to make a decision about where she will ultimately stand. The author seems to have done a great deal of research, not only about apothecaries and herbal remedies, but about class expectations.

Because this is Lilly's book, the story is told almost exclusively from Lilly's point of view. I noticed only a couple of shifts in POV when we briefly get into the heads of two of the men who have a romantic interest in Lilly. It seemed almost strange to make that shift after so long in Lilly's head. I'm a reader who likes some degree of head-hopping, so I would have preferred more from the other POVs. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly entertained by this unusual tale and Klassen's engaging characters. I'm eager to read more by her. BTW, her book after this one, The Silent Governess, was a 2010 RITA finalist in the Inspirational Romance category.

Comments

  1. I'm heading over to Amazon to download this one and will look for the new one too. Thanks for blogging about it--not something I'd normally pick up, but sounds worth trying.

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  2. I sure hope you like it, Tara Marie. I really appreciated how different her story was and how she used historical detail. I doubt I would have tried it either if it hadn't been a Kindle freebie. See how that paid off?! :-)

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