The Apothecary’s Widow

Written by Diane Scott Lewis
Review by Fiona Alison

The Apothecary’s Widow is set in Truro, Cornwall. It is 1781 and England is at war with the American colonies. With his fiscal affairs in turmoil, Squire Branek Pentreath is forced to take action: reduce his miners’ wages, increase rents, lay off the manor staff and sell the family Chippendale. Added to his woes is the sudden death of his overly pious and cold wife, from whom he is estranged, along with the doctor’s implication that Branek has poisoned her for his own ends. Jenna Rosedew, a widow who runs the apothecary’s shop, is also a suspect according to the belligerent investigating constable, who seems determined to see them both hang. Jenna was responsible for mixing the potions ordered by the physician during Lady Pentreath’s illness, but she swears they were never tampered with. Branek and Jenna fall quickly into an affair, but they are in danger from two sides. He is high-born; she a commoner… and their tryst will look to others as another reason to have wanted the wife out of the way.

This is a lighthearted, entertaining story, a bit short on action, which at times made it slow-going. A mystery with small pinches of history, it will certainly satisfy lovers of the genre who want a few hours of escape.