Book Review: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose
From one of America’s most imaginative storytellers comes a passionate tale of love and treachery, spanning the days of Catherine de Medici’s court to the twenty-first century and starring a woman drawn back, time and again, to the past. In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals. But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality. Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next. Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.
The Collector of Dying Breaths, the latest installment in M.J. Rose's Reincarnationist series, takes the reader on a journey back and forth in time between modern day and 16th century France. The historical narrative focuses on the life of René le Florentine, personal perfumer to Catherine de Medici. While René is happy in his role as royal perfumer, he secretly works to discover an elixir that will bring the dead back to life by using their dying breaths. Almost five hundred years later, sometime perfumer Jac L'Etoile is called upon by an unusual art collector named Melinoe to finish René's work. Devasted by a recent loss and driven by a desire to unlock the secret to eternal life, Jac throws herself into her work. When it becomes apparent to Jac that she can't solve René's mysteries alone, she enlists the aid of her former lover, Griffin North. But recreating René's elixir proves difficult, and as Jac attempts to obtain the right ingredients she discovers that Melinoe will stop at nothing to ensure that René's secrets are revealed.
One of the things I enjoy most about Rose's novels is that they convey a very strong sense of place. Rose's beautifully descriptive prose enables the reader to easily visualize each setting. Rose's descriptions are particularly strong when it comes to detailing scents, which are vivid enough that the reader can almost smell them. While I wasn't immediately drawn into René's story, once his narrative shifted from Florence to France I was riveted, especially when Catherine de Medici appeared. While I liked Jac's component of the storyline overall, I got tired of reading about her issues with Griffin and reincarnation, which are also explored in depth in the series' other novels. Both the historical and modern-day components of the book read quickly, and Rose seamlessly ties the two together. Another strength of this novel are its characters. While Jac and Griffin will likely already be familiar to M.J. Rose fans, the new characters she introduces in this book, including René, are engaging no matter if they are hero or villain.
While The Collector of Dying Breaths is part of a series, Rose incorporates pertinent details from the series' other novels so that it isn't necessary to have read any of the previous books. As a result, this book is not only recommended to fans of M.J. Rose's previous Reincarnationist books, but also to new readers who enjoy fast-moving, dual time suspense novels.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Collector of Dying Breaths is currently on tour! Click here to view the tour schedule.
About the Author
M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on
marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.
Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.