The Apothecary Rose: Owen Archer #1

by Dee
Dee

Dee

THE APOTHECARY ROSE

The Apothecary Rose has a beautiful new cover in this edition. It looks a bit Harlequin-y but not really. I read this book a while ago but hadn’t had the chance to write a review. This review is long overdue. I have read this book as a part of my Goodreads’ Reading Challenge 2020 and completely neglected that I have got to write some sort of review. 

As 2021 started, a new reading challenge in Goodreads commence. My desire in devouring all of these medieval mystery books is insane! I will have to try to stick to one author to focus on each location and settings. But with all these exciting books to read, I don’t think I can. But this time, I set myself ready to march towards York (as a setting—not that I’d travel to York right now though I’d love to) and gave myself away to the writings of Candace Robb. 

 

It’s really hard for me to consistently write something after I read a book. I have three other books that I want to review. Not that any publication needs my review, I just want to discipline myself by making a review a habit. Well, right now I have my reading notes ready. I hope I still can remember the storyline in The Apothecary Rose to write a proper review.

The Apothecary Rose is set in York, somewhere around York Minster and St Mary’s Abbey. It was mentioned in the book that the construction of the Minster is yet to finish. So, I assume this would be around the 1360s(?). I’m not sure as there are several segments of constructions going on in the Minster. However, the first recorded church on the site originated in 627. In this story, the monks were still housed at St Mary’s Abbey, about two hundred years before that Tudor one goes rampage on all monasteries and churches in 1539. 

Poultices, Salves, and Powder

The profession of apothecary dates back to the BC era of the Babylonians. I often imagined the root of this expertise derived from wise women and men who concoct potions, tonic, tincture, and other types of mixture with “medicinal” effects. Dude, you can interpret the medicinal part of those as you like. Humans tried to figure out the best way to treat their sickly fellows all over the world cultures. One of them that’s stuck in my brain: the Ancient Egyptians used assortments of dungs from various animals as part of their medical treatment.

Making the apothecary, both the profession and establishment, I think is a great idea. I was instantly hooked with the story at the mention of aconite, a.k.a. monkshood. That’s my favourite poison. Okay, I am not a good killer as I just revealed my weapon. (Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’m kidding! I’m too lazy to kill someone!) 

I probably also watched too many crime documentaries to immediately accuse someone as I finished the Prologue. True to its genre, this book involves murder, mayhem, and a handsome archer. By Chapter 3, there were two victims and what appears to be “no suspect”. I have a suspect, but I won’t tell you.

There are several principal characters and other questionable people in this series. But I am drawn to the bunch of Lucie Wilton, Owen Archer, Bess Merchet, and her husband, Tom. Me being me, I don’t usually support the heroine of the story (it’s clearly Lucie). I liked Bess instantly when she was introduced in the first chapters.

Lucie is an apprentice in an apothecary and a wife of the owner. Owen was a captain of archers supporting the team of Henry de Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster (1310-1361). Bess & Tom Merchet are the owners and operators of The York Tavern. I am deeply interested in seeing how their characters evolve throughout the series. I mean, Candace Robb has written twelve other books lined up for me to read.

Verdict

I quite like the way Candace Robb storytelling style. Writing in a definitely different vibe from Kate Mosse—which is good; variations are always welcomed—Candace is more delicate and careful.  I feel as if Candace Robb wrote this story by choosing her words wisely but it didn’t diminish the degree of seriousness of the problem displayed.

The Apothecary Rose: Verdict

I quite like the way Candace Robb storytelling style. Writing in a definitely different vibe from Kate Mosse—which is good; variations are always welcomed—Candace is more delicate and careful. I totally get the Yorkshire-ness of the characters portrayed (I mean, Bess). I feel as if Candace Robb wrote this story by choosing her words wisely but it didn’t diminish the degree of seriousness of the problem displayed.

Say the theme is rather mundane because my reading list revolves around Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Medieval mystery, specifically in that order. But as the first book to a series, I think The Apothecary Rose promised not to be boring. Of course, romance and pelvic ostentation (borrowing Brandon Boyd’s phrase from You Will Be A Hot Dancer) appeared here and there throughout the book. I imagine this will continue in the following books as well.

The circumstances in which Lucie and Owen met seemed to rely so much on arranged serendipity. That doesn’t sound correct—arranged serendipity… I need to find another word. I meant to say that going into the first chapters, readers can obviously guess that somehow, sooner or later, Lucie and Owen will get together. It can happen in this book or somewhere in the other twelve books. There’s no mystery about these two.

The ending? Case solved, some past questions answered, and the closing paragraph is a perfect set-up for the second book. I don’t think that treating this book as something that has an ending is the correct way. I mean, it’s a series. Obviously, there’d be a continuation to the story. Characters will develop, hearts will be broken, murders will continue, and scandals will be made.

I also don’t have historical notes on this one. York is York since it was Eboracum. The history is known as every inch of the city has a piece of history. Why do you think I picked it as the topic for my thesis? Rich history, the abundance of reading materials, and again: York is York.

For the time being, I think I’m going to educate myself on the history of medical treatment in Medieval Europe and England. I know this will involve some influence of the Arabic doctors and the development of the medical profession in Italy, including those of mulieres Saleritanae, the one I discussed in Mistress of the Art of Death

Yes, this book is interesting, and I am willing to read more of Candace Robb.

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