My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
ebook, 384 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Atria Books
Available on: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
I’d been having bad luck with my reading choices, in the sense that I had been reading books that were just OK for me. But then I read The Collector of Dying Breaths. It was worth the wait.
The Collector of Dying Breaths is a fantastic novel written by MJ Rose. I was attracted to this novel by its title and by its cover. They both seemed so mystic and somehow ethereally dark, if that makes sense. When I saw the cover and read the title I knew I had to read this. And if that wasn’t enough, the author’s name: MJ Rose. My name is also MJ. No brainer (bashful grin), I had to read it.
The Collector of Dying Breaths is a suspenseful journey that takes you back to Florence, Italy in the 1500s and to Paris, France in the present time. It is very well written in the sense that the going back and forth is very well achieved. Even though there are two different stories in a different time and place, they are cleverly intertwined. The transitions were done at the precise time in the story and I never got the feeling of being lost in time.
I absolutely enjoy novels with the alchemy/chemistry/perfumery theme. The research for this one felt well done in my humble opinion. The way MJ Rose describes everything is so vivid that you almost feel like you could smell the scents, visualize the procedures and places in the story.
I also like to learn perfume related facts in these types of novels. Things like:
The first “Eau de Cologne” has been attributed to the pharmacy’s 1500s citrus and bergamot scented water created for Catherine de Medici.
Jac knew that the olfactory center in the brain was next to the memory center. There was a scientific reason for scent and memory to be connected.
She knew you never smell a scent directly from the bottle. You must put it on and let it interact with your skin, let the oils from the scent soak into your flesh and only then, after a few moments of letting the air modify it, can you sniff.
I had created a special perfume from essence of lily of the valley and roses from Turkey. It was a lovely, heady and fresh scent. The lily symbolized her past, the rose her future.
Or Jac’s grandfather’s quote on Guerlain:
Let them put vanilla in everything Jac’s grandfather always said of his rival. “I won’t turn my perfumery into candy in order to increase sales.”
to quote a few, are the facts that make me feel like I’m not only entertained by the story but learning something about a fascinating theme. I have to say one of my favorite things to learn was the process with which René made that powerful essence for Catherine de Medici’s husband. It’s wickedly genius! I won’t say more. You must read this one and be surprised.
Being this a historical fiction novel, there were historical facts, especially those about Catherine de Medici, that be it fact or fiction, they definitely open up your mind and give you a background to historical figures. It made me research and learn more on the Medici’s.
The plot is fascinating. Without giving much away, Jac’s journey to recreate a magical elixir to bring someone back to life, formulated by Catherine de Medici’s perfumer, is captivating and highly enjoyable. The way the subject of reincarnation is dealt with, made this one a page turner for me. As far as René le Florentin, he is more to the story than this but I must say that for someone who grew up with monks, he did get to have lots of action with the opposite sex! He was a great alchemist/perfumer. You can say that the phrase “the student beats the master” applies perfectly to him.
There are “bad guys” of course, Melinoe and Serge, and even though they seemed sort of predictable untrustworthy characters from the get got, their story, as sickly twisted as it was, keeps you interested and wondering how Jac will ever get the job done without Melinoe and Serge’s evil plans getting in the way.
Jac is a likeable character. I didn’t know until the end that The Collector of Dying Breaths is part of a series of books by MJ Rose. But it is written in a way that you don’t need to have read the past novels in order for you to get who Jac is and to go through all the emotions she goes through in this story. You grieve her loss and you fall in love with her love story. And let me tell you, her love story is one that can stand the test of time. If you like those stories, that are full of romance, passion, sexual tension, chemistry and alchemy, you will for sure enjoy Jac’s love story.
Jac’s whole body vibrated like a violin string, reverberating from just this one brief embrace. Griffin let her go. She didn’t want him to. She wanted to stay within the familiar world created by his arms. Wanted to keep smelling his skin. No matter how much time passed, no matter how long it had been since she’d seen him last, as soon as they were together, she felt connected to him. No man had ever affected her on such a deep visceral level. Never had she met anyone who just glancing at across a room made blood rush to her face and heat her skin
It was chemical. No, alchemical. Their connection was a combustion. Separate elements, when combined, caused a unique reaction. Just looking at his cheekbones, at the fine skin. His full lower lip. The thick hair shot through with gray. The hooded eyes. She always wanted to laugh at her first response to seeing him after any time had gone by—she actually felt weak. The word “swoon” had been created for this response, she thought, not for the first time. This man’s unintentional physical power over her scared her.
See what I mean?
The Collector of Dying Breaths is a novel of suspense, mystery, friendship, love, passion, betrayal, murder, ambition, seduction. It is definitely an adult read, as it deals with serious subjects like reincarnation, euthanasia, incest, bondage to name a few.
I gave The Collector of Dying Breaths 4.5 stars for the sole reason that the sexual encounters portrayed in the book were not quite my cup of Joe. *SPOILER* The incestuous encounter, yuck. And that sex scene in the confessional at the church was unnecessary in my humble opinion. I’m no prude but somehow it made me feel uncomfortable reading that. The setting, where it takes place wasn’t necessary. It would’ve been the same or even better and more time appropriate for the story if those two had escaped to some secret garden or hidden alcove to have sex. They would’ve been safe there too. *END SPOILER* Other than that I would read this book again.
I recommend The Collector of Dying Breaths to others. I enjoyed reading this book. Producers out there, this would make a good movie. I’d watch it. 😀 It is a great book for book clubs too. I can see numerous discussions on the reincarnation theory, coming from reading this fascinating novel. As unbelievable as it sounds it is a subject from which many opinions can be shared and discussed.
- Non sequitur: noun A statement that is not connected in a logical or clear way to anything said before it.
- Mellifluous: adjective 1. having a smooth, flowing sound. 2. filled with something (as honey) that sweetens.
Definitions taken from the Merriam Webster Dictionary Online.
Never put treasures away in a cabinet,” he’d said. “You need to surround yourself with beauty, be aware of it and enjoy it—allow your soul to feed on it—gorge on it.
Always buy the very best, Jac, even if it means buying far less. Trust me, you’ll treasure each piece if it is a classic and well made,” Grand-mère had told her.
Nothing can bring someone back to life. Nothing can reanimate a breath. The secret, which is not so secret after all, is that the people who we love live on in our hearts, in the beat of our blood.
The dead do not have to be reanimated; they live as long as someone who loved them is alive.