A bit ago, I read Collector of Dying Breaths, by M.J. Rose. A copy of this book was made available to me by the publisher at no charge to me through my partnership with the now defunct Red Letter Reads. The opinions are my own.
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 also 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, René 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—trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work—learns of the sixteenth-century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomesobsessed 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 . . . for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means.
This mesmerizing gothic tale zigzags 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.
Even though I’m not a lover of historical fiction or sci-fi generally speaking, I really enjoyed this book and spent several nights up very late because I couldn’t put it down. Some of it seemed a little far fetched even for sci-fi, but it was a great story, had an intriguing premise, and was quite engaging. I also loved that we got to see what happened next to Jac after Seduction, a new mystery for her, and a little bit of love throw in for good measure.
The historical parts were vividly written and I was able to clearly imagine them in my head even though I have little reference for that particular time period. The present parts were a little wordy, but I learned some interesting things from all the information that was packed in to the story, for instance that ambergris which is putrefied whale vomit is an ingredient in high end perfumes.
I give the book a solid B and look forward to more by M.J. Rose.
Is this something you’d like to read? Why or why not?