"The Collector of Dying Breaths" picks up where "The Book of Lost Fragrances" had left off, returning back to the world of Jac L'Etoile and Griffin and Robbie. Yet where "The Book of Lost Fragrances" won me over with its rich tapestry of details and characters that painted a unique and intoxicating narrative, this book fell short and felt like it could've been a much more congested version as its message was very simple, yet sugar coated on so many levels that when it was brought up in the end it caused more of an eye-roll reaction. Now perhaps this may be because I didn't read "Seduction", which comes between the two books, yet even then I feel like I didn't miss much that would prevent me from judging the quality of this book.
The reader is introduced back into Jac's life just as Robbie is near death. What was disappointing to note right away was that Jac hadn't grown from "The Book of Lost Fragrances". She's still that very timid, rather weak character that constantly has debacles over Griffin and this gets tiring very quickly. She also feels too indecisive with her debates over whether to believe in her past-life visions and Malachai's advice or to continue with the path she's on right now. She loses some of her credibility in this book, I find, and sinks more into the background as a figurehead while characters like Rene and Melinoe drag the blanket over onto themselves. When she ends up with Griffin in the end it's also as much a pleasant ending as it is ridiculously cheesy - hard to believe that a woman who was constantly digging her heels in and refusing to be with the one she loved would so suddenly just dump all those doubts away and decide to live the life she should've lived from the beginning.
As for the plot, it was very predictable. o some degree even standard. Melinoe's character was your typical obsessive, vixen-like woman who earns the title of Antique Dominatrix. Malachai's "there's no such things as coincidences" is repeated so often that it may as well be the tagline on the dustcover for the book. It's repetitive, cliche, and sadly gives away even more of an already predictable plot. The rest of the plot is fairly messy, the beginning of the book trying to set the reader up on a false thought process about what happened to Robbie, then suddenly throws you into Rene's life and then throws you back into current time where Jac is going through her own incoherent adventures. Standard romance under the mask of historical fiction, going through a checklist of typical plot devices and character traits and earning a check mark for each category.
One thing that stood out for me most was the fact that this turned out to be much more sexual that I originally thought. I know M.J. Rose is known for her sensual writing and how she constantly alludes back to the pleasures of the body and soul, but in comparisons to "The Book of Lost Fragrances" this was more like an erotica. Personally that didn't bother me at all, yet I do think it's worth noting for people who plan to read this book as they should expect an above-average number of sexual scenes over the latter half of the novel in particular.
I still liked the book, despite all the issues I noted. It wasn't a bad book either. It didn't live up to the previous one, which was the greatest downfall for me. I still loved all the historical details and the constant use of perfume terminology and all the ingredients and lavish collections of antiques and art. Yet I know there are many readers out there who, unlike me, won't be happy with just the pretty, sugary details, and with this book I can definitely see this as being an issue. With a standard plot and characters that are easy to get bored of quickly, "The Collector of Dying Breaths" ends up being a predictable, sugary romance as opposed to the suspenseful, historical thriller it was promised to be.