“For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.” ― Edmund Spenser,
The story begins with Edinburgh surgeon James Sinclair and Captain Frank Greenwood of the Bengal Army on board the ill fated ship the Sherwell. They are on their way to India to make their fortunes. When the storm of the century blows in January 1786 James and Frank are two of few survivors from the wreck. With everything they own at the bottom of the sea, including Sinclair’s precious books James and Frank are forced back to London. They are both traumatised by the storm and financially they are at rock bottom.
While Sinclair and Greenwood are struggling with the fury of the ocean Charlotte Leadam is on her way back to London from Yorkshire. She had left her home in Tooley Street with her husband and son before Christmas to visit in-laws in Yorkshire. While they were away her husband became ill and died. Now she is a young widow with a teenage son. She inherited her husband’s apothecary shop and his debts and she can’t make the books balance. The problem is she cannot run the apothecary shop without a licensed surgeon or apothecary in residence and as a woman she the authorities will never grant her one no matter how good an apothecary she is.
Thus, Charlotte finds herself emotionally exhausted and struggling to survive. While she is considering what to do her ambitious mother engages Mrs Peacock, a banker’s wife from the City, to find her daughter a financially advantageous marriage.
When Charlotte meets Sinclair they take an instant dislike to each other. But later Charlotte sees that they might be able to help each other. The pair strike a bargain and Sinclair proves to be a caring and astute doctor. He trains his apprentices well and is good for business.
Living in the attic rooms over the apothecary shop the lives of Sinclair and Charlotte become enmeshed. Their feelings for one another grow. Sinclair is finally in her good books . All seems well until Iona McNeal, the woman Sinclair once loved, appears unexpectedly in London. Then their selfish behaviour threatens them all.
With his hopes of a relationship with Charlotte dashed Sinclair reaches his lowest ebb. He descends into melancholy and drink. He want’s to reclaim Charlotte’s love but he does not know how. The opportunity to redeem himself occurs when he help to save her family in Yorkshire from disaster but Charlotte is so angry with him she does not acknowledge what he has done.The moment of catharsis comes when Sinclair is injured and Charlotte comes to his aid.
The politics of class and poverty in 18th century London are vividly described in this story of ambition, love and betrayal. The period is beautifully bought to life through Julia’ detailed research and fast moving story telling. The history of medicine is told hand in hand with a story of love, sexual desire and emotional betrayal in London, Yorkshire and Edinburgh.
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Edinburgh surgeon, James Sinclair is prepared to give up his family and the woman he loves to make his fortune with East India Company but when things don’t go to plan he is forced to start his life anew. Returning to London Sinclair finds himself torn between the love of two women – the young and attractive widow Charlotte Leadam the owner of the Tooley Street apothecary shop and the vivacious and clever Iona McNeal.
Thus begins the Tales of Tooley Street, a heart-warming and gripping saga about a family of apothecary surgeons in 18th century London. Set against the corruption and greed of the East India Company and the development of the medical profession in Georgian London this story of love and friendship has a cast of characters that will imprint themselves onto your heart forever.