ARC Review…The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

The Collector of Dying Breaths releases today



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 breaths 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.


My review:

The Collector of Dying Breaths is the sixth novel in author M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series and admittedly the first in the series I have read.  However, not having read the previous stories did not leave me loving this story any less.  It was a work of art.

This novel is essentially two stories happening centuries apart being told in tandem all leading up to an emotional and fascinating end.

The early tale being of René le Florentin, perfumer to Catherine de Medici, and his life from orphan to alchemy apprentice to de Medici’s personal perfumer, friend, and loyal subject and importantly, collector of dying breaths.  René had been fascinated and compelled to learn about the possibility of reincarnating souls using the dying breath captured on one’s deathbed.  Ever since his mentor and teacher, Brother Serapino, had died and René collected his last breath, he had been attempting to complete the proper mixture of ingredients to make reincarnation possible.  He was a renowned perfumer and cunning adversary to de Medici, using his knowledge of scents and poisons to help keep her reign intact.  René had no way of knowing then that eventually his loyalty to Catherine would tragically cost him the only love he’d ever known. Fortunately, a bond of true love had been formed and would end up spanning centuries, looking for a chance to grow and blossom without being cut short.

The later tale being of mythologist Jac L’Etoile and her journey of healing after the devastating loss of her brother.  It’s because of that loss that she finds herself in the middle of a project her brother had been working on before his death.  The project involved a wealthy heiress and her obsession with immortality.  The heiress had amassed an impressive collection of items needed to complete an elixir and finally harness the properties of the dying breaths that had been captured all those centuries ago.  But Jac would need help and calls on her former love, Griffin, to aid in her quest.  While working on the project, Jac has experiences that tell her that this is much more than an eccentric woman’s latest obsession.  This could be the chance for two lost souls to finally be reunited after hundreds of years of trying to get it right.  Could she and Griffin be fated to be together in this life?

The two stories weaved together to make one harmonious and entertaining read.  On top of the rich and beautiful storytelling with detail that made me believe I could smell the scents being so richly described, there was deceit, mystery, and murder.  I felt a connection to René from the very beginning and was so emotional reading the end to his part of the story.  Jac was smart and full of emotion being torn between not wanting to believe she had a connection to the past and opening up to the notion that it was possible.   The heiress, Melinoe, reminded me of an old porcelain doll.  The kind that looks beautiful at a glance but if you really look closely, and stare long enough, becomes unnerving and frightening.

My favorite parts of this experience were how gorgeously author Rose described everything from the perfumery workspaces to the décor in rooms to the scent in each moment.  And finally, how it all culminated into a heartbreaking yet beautiful ending.

This is quite different from the books I’ve been reading lately, and I’m grateful I had the chance to read The Collector of Dying Breaths….it was the coffee beans to my reading palate.  Thank you, Ms. Rose, for a stunning read.


5LovesRLBFive Loves


About the author:

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice…  Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.

Rose is a the Co-President and founding member ofInternational Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz. She runs the blog, Museum of Mysteries.

In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.

Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, ForbesThe New York TimesBusiness 2.0Working WomanNewsweek, andNew York Magazine.

She has appeared on The Today ShowFox NewsThe Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USATodaySternL’OfficialPoets 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.


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