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The Collector of Dying Breaths is the 6th book in M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist Series and her 14th book overall. This is the first book I’ve read in the series, but I didn’t feel that my enjoyment of the book was impeded by not having read the first five. If anything, it made me want to go and read the previous books. It’s obvious there’s some juicy back-story here.
The action alternates between current day and 16th century France. The contemporary hero is a woman named Jac, a successful mythologist who is a member of a very old and prestigious perfuming family. She’s also a “memory tool, able to tap into other people’s past lives.” After her brother dies while trying to recreate a formula to reanimate people’s dying breaths, she grudgingly takes on the project.
The hero in the historic portion of the story is a man named René le Florentin. Rene was an orphan raised in an Italian monastery. He becomes Catherine DeMedici’s perfumer and sometime poisoner. Rene also carries on his mentor’s work of trying to create a formula that will reanimate dying breaths.
Both stories revolve around the heroes as they try to figure out the formula that will reanimate the souls of dead loved ones and deal with pushy (slightly psychotic) bosses and unscrupulous rivals. It’s an old desire, this desperation to bring loved ones back. The tension mounts in both stories as the characters race against time to make the formula work.
There’s also some intriguing history woven in, such as the character of Isabeau, René le Florentin’s love interest. Isabeau is a fictional character, but she’s based on the “flying squadron” of women who were trained spies for Catherine de Medici. These women romanced men in power to get their plans and secrets so that Catherine could use them to her benefit. When Isabeau and Rene first meet she says, “I can’t put on armor and go fight for my husband’s honor the way his brother did, but I can fight this way.”
The writing can be a bit purple at times, but overall this is an entertaining, fast-paced historical thriller/romance.
The Reincarnationist Series in chronological order:
- The Reincarnationist (1999)
- The Memorist (2008)
- The Hypnotist (2010)
- The Book of Lost Fragrances (2012)
- Seduction (2013)
- The Collector of Dying Breaths (2014)
From the publisher:
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.
About M.J. Rose:
M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of 13 novels: Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix,The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, The Hypnotist, The Book of Lost Fragrances, and Seduction.
Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online and with Randy Susan Meyers of What to Do Before Your Book Lauch.
She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She runs the popular blog; Buzz, Balls & Hype.
Getting published has been an adventure for Rose who self-published Lip Service late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors had loved it, but didn’t know how to position it or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre.
Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.
After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek and New York Magazine.
Rose has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.
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The Collector of Dying Breaths
Atria Books (April 8, 2014)
Genre: historical fiction/thriller/romance
Rating: 3/5 stars
Source: review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley. Although the publisher also provided the book summary copy and bio copy for this book tour, I only recommend books that I have read and believe may be of interest to my readers.