The Collector of Dying Breaths
A Novel of Suspense
New York Times bestselling author M. J. Rose’s “wondrously original” (Providence Journal) suspense novel featuring perfumer Jac L’Etoile “combines fascinating history, torrid romance, and a compelling mystery” (Associated Press).
An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become not only the greatest perfumer in the country, but also the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen, Catherine de Medici, to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, René can’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.
Paris, France—The Present:
Renowned mythologist Jac L’Etoile becomes obsessed with René le Florentin—who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. Together with her estranged lover, Griffin, they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection, a woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir…and believes the end will justify her deadly means.
Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, this gothic tale zigzags from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first-century France. Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants, raves about the book: “Mysterious, magical, and mythical. What a joy to read!”
MJ Rose’s talent for evocative word combinations
I’ve been trying now for three days to get this review just right;; there are so many elements to like presented in such an unusual way that I was completely engrossed in this story from beginning to end. As you can see, this is the sixth book in the Reincarnationist story, but it is not a story that cannot stand on its own.
Jac L’Etoile is the heiress to a perfume dynasty with her brother. Unfortunately, though she has the ‘nose’ for the job, and an uncanny near photographic scent memory, she avoids the family business and the perfumes they create as she has a secret: she will transport to different times and places with the smell of certain scents. So, she has focused her own attentions to mythology, and has gained great respect in her field. Unfortunately, her brother Robbie has taken ill, right in the middle of a special ‘perfumery’ project, and passes away before he can reveal the details to Jac.
Following her brother’s footsteps, she travels to an old estate and the even more curious woman who had commissioned her brother’s work. And here is where Jac’s unique visions spurred by scent enter into the story and start to reveal an age-old mystery. The estate was formerly owned by René le Florentin, a man who rose from the gutters as an orphan to become an understudy for a monk who was famed for his perfumes in 16th century Florence. René is skilled, perhaps more than his mentor, and he has gained the notice of Catherine de Medici, soon to marry and depart for life in the French court. Departing the monastery in a haze of suspicion after his mentor’s death, his reputation for unique creations and the reliance that Catherine places upon him in her steady rise throughout the court to Queen (and the most ruthless of the time) is entrancing.
What comes to light is the formula that Robbie was working on traces directly back to the French Court, and Robbie’s client is looking to find the formula for herself. Told in alternating chapters of past and present, the story brings a sense of the times, the scents and even the process of perfume crafting to the reader, utilizing storytelling, lush descriptive phrases and even adding layers of complex emotion into the characters, so real your heart will ache.
Two romances are detailed within this story, as well as the pain suffered from loss of love, loved ones and even potential lost: while there are passages that seem to put the romance ahead of the mystery, and the tension that is inherent in the alchemical experimentation’s purpose, there is also the question of the murderer of René’s mentor, and the machinations behind the power in the court of France.
Jac is a wonderful character: full of curiosity, emotion and empathy and grief stricken as she has to say goodbye to her brother, her lost love, and immerse herself in the emotions of René as he lives his life, and pines for his own love. It’s not quite like anything I have read before: while there are romantic moments made all the more stunning by MJ Rose’s talent for evocative word combinations, the scents that nearly waft off the pages, and the inclusion of court intrigue from one of the more interesting and controversial periods (for me) in French History; this is a story that will pull you in several directions before slowly uncapping the bottle that will bring all of the elements to a satisfactory conclusion. Far more than a romance, a time travel or even a suspense: this book shows the power of learning from loss with this hopeful sentence: “The secret, which is not so secret after all, is that people who we love live in our hearts, in the beat of our blood.”
I received an eBook copy from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review with France Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.