The Love Remedy by Elizabeth Everett


CW/TW

Content warning: Off-page sexual assault (not the heroine), discussion of abortion and addiction

This book gave my emotions a workout in the best way. Aside from a slightly disappointing ending, it was a delight!

Lucy Peterson is an apothecary in London in 1843. She inherited the shop from her father when her parents died in a cholera outbreak. Lucy has two siblings, Juliet and David. Juliet is an apothecary at a women’s clinic in the East End while David seems to flit from investment to investment losing money.

The book opens with Lucy frustrated that her former lover has stolen her formula for cough lozenges and is making a fortune selling it at his father’s apothecary. The formula for her croup remedy is also missing, so she hires an investigator from Tierney and Co to get to the bottom of it. This investigator, Jonathan Thorne, has led a colourful life. He left behind his aristocratic roots to make his name as a prizefighter. His story unfolds in parts throughout the book, but suffice to say that after the debauchery he becomes a Methodist, a sober alcoholic and the father of a child born out of wedlock, Sadie.

Something this book has in absolute spades is interesting characters. Not a single one of the characters mentioned so far is flat. Jonathan is tortured by his past, but in such a visceral, nuanced way, that it quite wrenched my heart. He is so earnestly trying to do the right thing, but he’s not sure of what is right, so he clings closely to his faith. Lucy challenges his views and Jonathan isn’t sure what to do about it. He has drawn these self-described red lines that he never dared to cross. But perhaps he’s made a cage for himself?

Lucy herself is under a tremendous burden, trying to keep the apothecary afloat with precious little support from her siblings. The siblings are nuanced characters themselves, but I didn’t like how selfish their actions were. Another reader might not find their actions selfish though, so I think this is a mileage may vary situation. While Lucy is for the most part forthright and sure of herself, she is a bit undone by her need for affection and love. She finds this need in herself frustrating.

I usually detest romance novels that feature children, but Sadie was so well-written that she really added to the story rather than detracted from it. She’s earnest like her father, but so curious and truly child-like, which, if you’ve read other romance novels featuring children, you’ll know that’s not a given.

This is a new series but it features settings and characters from the previous series by the author. There was only one scene in this book that I was a bit confused by because of the sudden addition of a number of characters, but otherwise this book was easily read independent from the preceding series. That being said, I enjoyed this book so much that I will be reading the preceding series in full!

The other thing that I found a little confusing is the use of flashbacks. A scene will start with a character tidying a shelf, for example, but then immediately flash to the hours before that moment and tell the reader what happened to bring that character to that shelf-tidying moment. All it really needed was my full attention and it was easy to follow, but I confess that sometimes I was reading this book as I was falling asleep and then my mind slipped a little.

The science is very much of its time with discussion of balancing humours and bloodletting – not that Lucy does any of the latter on the page. The last third of the book is filled with spiky, difficult emotions that can best be described as the characters’ growing pains. For me, the resolution wasn’t as all-encompassing as I needed it to be to erase the hurt feelings of the third act. It happened much too fast, and I just needed a more detailed, slightly longer resolution. That is my only real gripe with the book.

If you are looking for a rich historical romance with life-like emotions, I think you’ll love this book. I know I did. Truly, the only thing that let me down was that rushed ending.



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