Rose is an enviable fountain of talent and energy. She composes one
of the most popular author blogs on the planet, and does so with
great regularity; is a tireless source of marketing ideas; and
writes strong, memorable novels. Rose has published eight works of
fiction to date, ranging from thrillers to erotica to all points in
between. In her latest effort, she combines genre elements with
historical research and a good old-fashioned mystery.
Josh Ryder, the main protagonist of THE REINCARNATIONIST, is a
press photographer whose world is turned upside down when he is
caught on the edge of a terrorist’s bomb blast. Almost
immediately he begins to experience vivid memories of Rome circa
386 A.D. and an existence as someone named Julius who is living a
life very different from the one he has always known. Ryder starts
working with The Phoenix Foundation, a research facility devoted to
documenting cases of past life experiences in children, even as he
hopes to achieve some answer to explain his own memories. When
Ryder, at the behest of the foundation, meets with an
archaeological team working in Rome at a dig that uncovers what
appears to be the tomb of a priestess, Ryder’s flashbacks
become even more intense.
It seems that Julius is a pagan priest who is involved in a
passionate, forbidden affair with Sabina, a Vestal Virgin, one of
the six high priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. Their
affair, secretive by necessity --- sexual intercourse is, by
definition, forbidden to the vestal virgins --- is played out
against a background where they risk discovery by their own high
priests, even as the Roman emperor Theodosius I embarks on an
increasingly aggressive campaign to disband the religion.
The tomb is robbed by a murderous stranger who makes off with a
pouch that’s in a box buried with the priestess. The pouch,
it appears, contains jewels that have become known as the Memory
Stones, which have the power to recall past lives and past secrets.
The stones themselves have secrets of their own, however. And even
as Ryder is drawn, almost against his will, to Gabriella Chase ---
an archaeologist who may or may not be his beloved Sabina --- he
finds himself sucked into an increasingly dangerous circumstance
with people who will do whatever it takes to recover the stones and
use them for their own mysterious purposes.
This is by far Rose’s most ambitious work, incorporating
archaeology, mythology, eros and mystery into a plotline that is
built layer by subtle layer and reveals its secrets only bit by
bit. The conclusion, perhaps, is the most intriguing part of the
book, by itself a fitting ending yet keeping open the possibility
of further explorations into the lives --- past and present --- of
all involved. THE REINCARNATIONIST should cause Rose’s
already impressive and loyal readership to grow one-hundredfold,
and deservedly so.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011