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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

Title:  The Collector of Dying Breaths (Reincarnationist #6)

Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher:  April 8 2014 Atria Books
ISBN: 1451621531 (ISBN13: 9781451621532)
Pages:  384 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Rating: 1 crown
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, suspense, fantasy, romance

A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.

Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means. This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind.


I have enjoyed and admired this author, reading some of her previous novels and even giving one five stars – but with this particular tale – where did it all go wrong? Working with so much rich historical data the potential was huge and I can only speculate that perhaps, with this being book six in the series, this tale had run its course. Using aromatherapy myself and fascinated by reincarnation

“You won’t ever find peace until you accept there’s more than just the here and now. Souls live on.” 

I eagerly embraced this sequel. But like her main character, I have to question, “what had happened, or was Jac’s (MJ Rose) imagination running wild”!

Unfortunately, this book failed to work for me in several aspects. There were many inconsistencies throughout the book which I found frustrating – from simple geographical errors (a character was said to live in Bath and yet they travelled to Wales); to disjointed time jumps within the story without any explanation of the intervening years; to whiplash quick changes of a character’s perspective and emotions, again without any supporting explanation within the story.

As Rose writes, “She didn’t have to understand in order to accept other realms and constructs.” Indeed, in order to engage in this book one must abandon all understanding, because several of the happenings within the story are simply too convenient and far-fetched to possibly be believed – spontaneous discoveries, invisible forces, easily justified murder, perfectly falling tree branches – to the point that even the author notes “the coincidence of it seemed impossible” – yes, it certainly did!

The genre of this work seems unclear. It lacks a cohesive overall story and feels more like a jumble of individual character tales as they each traverse their own independent journey. At times it reads like a textbook with the level of detail that is given, and at others it veers into a religious dissertation. It never seems to find one definitive and unifying voice that pulls the tale together.

Finally, Jac, the main character, and her constant focus on her own emotions became tiresome and annoying over time. She is weak and misguided, feeling “what choice did she have?” when in fact she did have choices she simply chose to ignore, and even went along with amoral acts such as thievery and suspected murder without any question or protest.

I wanted to love this book. I truly did. I approached it with great anticipation given my positive experiences from the author’s previous novels. I was sadly disappointed.

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