In my attempt to create the feeling of "being there" in my novels, I try to keep as many of the senses engaged as possible. Especially in really key scenes where I slow everything down, such as first sight, or first touch, I pull in sensory details other than sight or sound--touch, taste and scent.
Scent is usually easy, especially if the hero or heroine is in a room because they could smell food or a bouquet of flowers, but when they are in an embrace and all they smell is each other, what do they smell? Okay, the hero I generally have no problem with, but what about the heroine? What does she smell like to the hero?
It seems like historical heroines always smell of roses or lavender or so I wanted my heroine to wear a more original scent. So what did I choose?
I confess in the past I chose lavender, because that seemed to be a popular scent for women to put in their final hair rinse. Okay, I admit it; I needed to do some research first. I couldn’t write down "roses" because rose water reminds me of grandmas, not spunky beautiful young heroines.
So what other scents would a nineteenth-century woman have worn? Citrusy? I like citrus, but that didn’t seem very Regency. I mean, what Regency heroine smells like oranges? Original is one thing, but I don’t want to bump out the reader either. Musk reminds me of men. So I ventured out to the internet to find an alternative.
I found Lilac Vegetal, which sounds great except for the "Vegetal" part which sounds like one of those health food vegetable drinks that are green and difficult to swallow.
I stumbled on a site about the Grasse region in France, a place famous for its perfume. The early perfumes created here were scented with ambergris and wild myrtle. I have no idea what ambergris smells like, and I’m willing to bet my readers don’t either. Plus it said it's created from the fatty secretions of the sperm whale. Eew! And wild myrtle? I doubt my hero wouldn't recognize the scent of wild myrtle. I sure wouldn't.
Then I found the motherlode in the 13th Cenutry Perfumery. We can all use this! Tons of spices are listed, but I only went for the scents I both recognize and, more importantly, find appealing.
Apple, clover, Lily of the Valley, mint, apricot, cinnamon, jasmine, sandalwood, sweet orange. Okay, that last one, I’ll change to orange blossom lest she smell like an orange julius.
I also found the ingredients of Eau de Cologne, popular from the 18th century on: rosemary, neroli, bergamot and lemon. Mmm. Bergamot--except that makes me think of Earl Grey Tea--not exactly a feminine scent.
Then I found it. Violets!! Huzzah!!!! I recognize that smell and it’s got this magical quality that makes it come and go in waves, so each time it returns, it renews itself so it's a very provactive fragrance that would tempt the hero even before he has her in a clench! Woo hoo!
Okay, sweetie, you soooo smell like violets!
But what about the next heroine? Any suggestions?