Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Apothecary's Curse Blog Tour

THE APOTHECARY'S CURSE by Barbara Barnett, Historical Fantasy/Gaslamp Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, 345 pp., $9.99
(Kindle edition) $11.55 (paperback)


Author: Barbara Barnett

Publisher: Pyr Books

Pages: 345

Genre: Historical Fiction/Gaslamp Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Between magic and science, medicine and alchemy, history and mythology lies the Apothecary’s Curse…

A 2017 finalist for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award and winner of
the Reader’s Choice award at this year’s Killer Nashville, The
Apothecary’s Curse is a complex tale of love and survival set in a very
different Victorian era where science and the supernatural co-exist. The
Apothecary’s Curse transports readers between Victorian London and
contemporary Chicago, where two men conceal their immortality….

In early Victorian London, the fates of gentleman physician Simon
Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune become irrevocably bound when
Simon gives his dying wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient
manuscript. Meant to cure her of cancer, instead, it kills her. Now
suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder – to no apparent effect. Five
years of suicide attempts later, Simon realizes he cannot die. When he
hears rumors of a Bedlam inmate—star attraction of a grisly freak show
with astounding regenerative powers like his own—Simon is shocked to
discover it is Gaelan.

When Machiavellian pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths 19th
Century diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, Gaelan and
Simon’s lives are upended, especially when the company’s scientists
begin to see a link between Gaelan and one of the unnamed inmates. But
Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe find themselves powerfully,
almost irresistibly, drawn to each other, and her family connection to
his remarkable manuscript leads to a stunning revelation.

Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Meticulous historical detail infuses the narrative with authenticity,
providing a rich, complex canvas. And playing off Simon’s connection to
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Apothecary’s Curse draws on both the
Sherlock Holmes canon and Sir Arthur’s spirituality, as well as Celtic
mythology, the art of alchemy, and the latest advances in genetics

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My dear
friend, hold fast
the doctrine: when
all impossibilities are
eliminated, what remains, however improbable,
must be the truth. Nothing could be so improbable that I must now and forever
address you as Sir Arthur!”

Dr. Joseph
Bell stood at the head of the dining table
before twenty assembled
guests, offering a robust toast to the guest of honor, his student and friend,
the newly knighted Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, in London for the first time since the honor had been bestowed
on him. His confidante Jean Elizabeth Leckie
was at his side.

“Do tell,
Sir Arthur,” Wilder said with a giggle, “is it not true
that our dear Joseph is in actuality your Sherlock Holmes?”

“Indeed not, Wilder!” The author twisted
his mustache a bit
more at each mention of Holmes’s

Miss Leckie patted Conan Doyle’s arm tenderly. “My dear, your mustache shall soon be as fine as a strand of silk. Besides,
you well know he
is! They even smoke the same sort of pipe!” The entire table joined
her in laughter, despite Conan
Doyle’s protestations.

“Ah,” interrupted Joseph, coming to Conan Doyle’s rescue.
“Alas, I do not share
Holmes’s preference for cocaine, nor
does my mind
crave the constant stimulation of work. I am quite at peace come Sunday
afternoons with nothing
to do but read the Times.”

“I wish my consulting detective could rest
in peace.”
Conan Doyle scowled at Wilder, as she inquired when a new Holmes
story would be published. “Did you not read ‘The Final Problem,’
my dear Wilder? Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls! However,
since no one will allow him to be at his rest”—he sighed
dramatically—“I can tonight announce
a new adventure for the Strand come
next year. ‘The Empty House,’ it is called!”
Conan Doyle laughed,
yet it was darkened with an unmistakable note of vexation.

“But how
should you have
him come back,
Sir Arthur?” Cranford inquired. “If he is indeed, as you say, dead?”

“Do let us change the subject,
Cranford.” Conan Doyle lifted his glass, taking a long draught
of his wine, his eyes closed.

Miss Leckie smiled.
“Oh! I’ve something! Have you heard of that
apothecary? Lentine is his name.
In Covent Garden. The line to enter his
shop goes on and on. Can you imagine?”

“And why might
that be, Leckie?” Conan Doyle asked. “Why, his amazing
Reanimating ftercuric Tonic, of course! To hear
his patter, the medicine ‘shall restore
life, even in the event of sudden death!’ Can you imagine?
An apothecary, of all ludicrous things!”

Mr. Cranford laughed. “They should hang them
all, the thieving rogues. I’ve never
met one I can trust,
always trying to hawk the latest patent medicines.”

Gaelan Erceldoune glared at ftiss Leckie, his dark, mirthless
eyes hard as basalt.
Beside him, his companion, Joseph’s cousin Dr. Simon
Bell, laid a calming hand on his sleeve, an urgent plea to forbear;
Gaelan snapped his arm away.

With a peevish edge to his voice, Gaelan
steered the topic
from the dubiousness of the apothecary trade. “What if your consulting detective cannot die?”

Conan Doyle
stared him down.
“Whatever do you mean—cannot

worried a loose thread in his linen napkin, his hands knotted with tension.

“Yes,” Gaelan continued, ignoring Simon’s disquiet. “Well, after Reichenbach, Holmes is, of course,
presumed dead, his body not found.
Unsurprising, given the terrain, but I assume
your new story
finds him quite well. ftight
you not suggest, therefore, that Holmes’s invulner-
ability extends beyond the intellectual—that he, in fact, cannot die by any
natural means, improbable though it may
seem? Already, you
have toyed with the notion—your Sorsa
in ‘The Ring of Thoth.’ You needn’t
ever be explicit of course; allow your readers to speculate and draw
their own conclusions. Holmes’s
devotees will be so elated that none shall even question how it is possible.”

He mimed a vaudeville marquee with his hands
high above his head, commanding the attention of the entire table. “The immortal Sherlock Holmes lives on in a new series.” At
once self-conscious, Gaelan thrust his deformed left hand into his
trouser pocket. “He’ll live forever, by Jove, your creation shall.
Perhaps long after you, sir, have
gone to your grave.”

Conan Doyle’s enthusiasm seemed tepid at best. But Gaelan pressed further. “As well,
do you not
imagine, sir, whilst giving
new life to your most popular
creation, you might also draw upon your truest
passion—the supernatural world?
Would that not, as it were,
be killing two birds
with one stone?”

“Ha!” Conan
Doyle pointed an accusatory finger
at Gaelan. “You,
sir, sound too much like my publisher.”

Joseph broke
in. “Please, ladies
and gentlemen, let us go through to the
drawing room. We might
continue our conversations there in more comfort—”

But Conan
Doyle was not to be stopped. “In a moment, Dr. Bell,”
he said, holding
up his hand to forestall the company.
“I’ve a question for ftr. Erceldoune. Our dear Joseph made mention that you are an

Simon backed farther into his chair, cursing himself that he had
disclosed even this small fact to his ever-curious cousin.
He twisted his napkin, eyes pleading with Gaelan to be still.

leaned toward Conan Doyle, a vague threat in the set of his jaw. “That
I am, but why is that of concern
to you or anyone here this evening? Do you mean to put me in my place as amongst the same
company as Lentine, whom Miss Leckie has just now vilified—and with ample
cause, I might

“I mean no disrespect, nor to dishonor
you amongst the fine physicians at this table.
. . . I am curious, and that is all.” Conan Doyle
paused a moment, as if to consider something. “I understand, sir, that many
apothecaries in eras past were adept in alchemy,
even magic.”

Gaelan settled back into his
chair by a degree, coiled as a snake. “That,
sir, may have been more the case, say centuries ago—a blurring of the lines. However, Sir Arthur,
I possess no personal knowledge, for example, of any apothecary or druggist nowadays
claiming to hold in
his hands the secrets of life through
alchemical abracadabra, if that is what
you are suggesting. As for myself,
I am quite well tutored
in chem- istry and toxicology, and a disciple
of Paracelsus. ftany of his dicta still
ring true for me. Sola
dosis facit venenum
. . . the dose makes the poison.
Paracelsus coined that in the sixteenth century—today it is an axiom
of modern pharmacy. He was both an apothecary and an alchemist— and a physician. I would consider myself in esteemed company to asso- ciate myself with his understanding of alchemy.
He had neither desire to make gold from lead, nor to find the elusive
lapis philosophorum, but only to reveal the medicinal
science it concealed
by its art.”

Conan Doyle leaned forward
confidentially, as if the rest of the company
had vanished. “I have no desire, sir, to offend you.
Forgive me if my questions seem more interrogation than polite dinner
conversa- tion. I am first and foremost a journalist, but my ardent
interest is per- sonal and much to do with my curiosity
about the occult,
as you may have guessed. I am quite sad to think about how much of the ancient
arts were lost or have gone into hiding, along with their knowledge. Our ideas
must be as broad as nature
if they are to interpret nature, and if ideas—no
matter how unusual
they seem to our modern
sensibili- ties—are destroyed and visionaries burnt
either literally or metaphori-
cally at the stake, we stand not a chance.
And by the way, sir. I must aver
that you are only one of a very few to have read ‘Thoth.’”

“But to
your point regarding our natural fear of the . . . unusual

. . . On that, sir, at least,”
Gaelan said, “we might agree.”

“Let us, then, if we may, Sir Arthur,”
Joseph repeated, clearing
his throat, “go through to the drawing
room. ftiss Leckie,
would you do us
the honor of leading the way?”

“But of course,”
she agreed, patting
Conan Doyle’s
hand affectionately.
“Shall we, my dear?” She rose, and the rest of the company followed
her from the room.

Gaelan and Conan Doyle found themselves in a secluded
corner of the large drawing room as the other guests mingled.
Simon stood nearby,
gesturing with growing disquietude that they should leave, and quite soon.
Gaelan turned his back on him as Conan Doyle leaned in again.

“By the
by, sir, I do recognize your unusual name—Erceldoune—I have come across it on occasion in my research into the Otherworld—”


“Indeed. Where
the fae folk
rule. I’ve heard
of an Erceldoune associated with
legends of old,
a certain Thomas
Learmont de Erceldoune, a relationship with Tuatha de Danann, the—”

“Fairy folk, Sir Arthur?”
Gaelan managed a laugh. “You, sir, hold me
in exalted company, and I am sorry to disappoint you, however—”
is said that this man Erceldoune had a book possessing great power, given
him by Airmid
herself, Celtic goddess
of healing, a gift for

his act of
kindness. Have you not heard the tale?”

“My family, old though it may be, Sir Arthur, boasts neither connection with the goddess
Airmid nor any of her folk—the Tuatha de Danann, if indeed they ever existed.
Besides, was not Airmid an Irish fairy? And I am, as are you, sir, of Scottish blood.”

Gaelan glanced around the room
again, finding Simon’s anxious eyes beseeching him to end the
exchange. “We’d
best join the
rest of the company. I see my dear friend Simon is quite unsettled, and we ought soon set off for—”

“It is a book of great healing,” Conan Doyle continued. “All the diseases of the world—and their
cures—held in a singular volume,
said to be written
by her very hand.”

Gaelan paused, a petulant
sigh escaping his lips. “I cannot say I can recall its mention, even amongst family lore.” His lips tightened into a
tense line as he stood.
“Now if you will excuse me, sir, I grow tired and fear
it is time Dr. Simon Bell
and I return to his flat.”

Barbara Barnett is author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel The Apothecary’s Curse  (Pyr Books), an imprint of Prometheus Books. She is also Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine (, an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, for which she has also contributed nearly 1,000 essays,
reviews, and interviews over the past decade. She published in-depth
interviews with writers, actors and producers, including Jane Espenson,
Katie Jacobs, Doris Egan, David Goodman, Jesse Spencer, Jennifer
Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parilla, David Strathairn, Russel Friend,
Garrett Lerner, Elie Atie, Wesley Snipes, and many, many more.

Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show.
Always a pop-culture and sci-fi geek, Barbara was raised on a steady
diet of TV (and TV dinners), but she always found her way to the tragic
antiheroes and misunderstood champions, whether on TV, in the movies or
in literature. (In other words, Spock, not Kirk; Han Solo, not Luke
Skywalker!) It was inevitable that she would have to someday create one
of her own.
Barbara is available for signings and other author appearances as
well as radio, print and television interviews. She also loves to speak
at writers and other conferences! Feel free to contact her directly!
She is represented by Katharine Sands at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency in New York City. You can reach Katharine at



Interview questions:with Barbara Barnett
How did you come up with name of this book?
When I came up with the idea, it was the first thing that popped into my head. It’s a story about an apothecary who is cursed with immortality. It was always the title, and I was delighted when my publisher agreed that The Apothecary’s Curse was perfect for the novel.

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I am a voracious reader. I wish I had more time for it. I love reading British mystery series, historical thrillers, medical thrillers and political thrillers. I read a lot of non-fiction as well, mainly history and politics.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I like to have some ambient noise around. The news is always background for me. I love writing at Starbucks. The noise is there, but I can tune it out enough. When I’m revising anything but a very simple chapter, I need total silence.

What do you feel you can accomplish with this book?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel about the consequences of playing with science we don’t quite understand. Immortality gave me a fertile playing field for it. Even today, there are lots and lots of people playing with the idea of immortality (it’s been humanity’s quest for millennia), but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Not so much for my hero. Not so much for humanity, either.

I also love to play in the nexus of science and magic. Where does one end and the other begin? It’s much to do with context. What would have been considered sorcery five centuries ago, punishable by death, is now common science and medicine. We must always broaden our horizons—explore the unknown, but tempered by wisdom.

I also think I’ve created a (hopefully) thought-provoking fantasy, grounded in history, in science and underpinned with a good, timeless romance.

What is your next project?
 I am putting the finishing touches on a new book—a sequel to The Apothecary’s Curse. The working title is The Alchemy of Glass.

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