For me, the hardest decision to make about a heroine is not the color of her eyes or her hair, but her fragrance. Scent invokes so many strong emotions in a reader. Who can forget Ellen O'Hara, and her scent of lemon verbena? Long after Ellen dies in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett can bring her mother to mind with just a whiff of her scent. To me, a character or person's scent is stronger than eye or hair color, which can be shared. Scent reacts differently and can take on a life of its own depending on each person's body chemistry; it is, in a way, as singular as a fingerprint.
When I was in high school, I found one perfume that I had to buy. Annick Goutal's Gardenia Passion. I sniffed a sample in Vogue and was hooked--no matter what the cost, I had to have a bottle. I saved up my money from cleaning kennels in a vet clinic and, with one Christmas' worth of gift money, had enough for one small bottle. I remember walking in to Neiman-Marcus and my knees trembled. I was shockingly out of place in such a fine store, but the floor walker graciously assisted me anyway--as though I were a princess in disguise. He even made sure that my purchase was wrapped in layers of tissue paper before being tucked in a scarlet bag.
When the bottle was empty, I saved it. I saved every scrap of wrapping from that purchase for years. And then as I grew older, I was able to afford Gardenia Passion and wore it for decades--it became my personal scent. But something happened over the past year or so--my body chemistry changed, or something altered in the formula and I no longer smelled like me. I took the opportunity to change scents, but I still wanted to smell like a gardenia.
I found Goest Perfumes through an Etsy listing for a scent called "Silent Films"--any perfume made to smell like an old movie has my vote. I tried a sample of Silent Films and it was amazing--but too strong for me to carry off. So I asked Jackie, the owner, if we could create a scent that smelled like a blend of Silent Films and Gardenia. Bespoke perfumes are her specialty, so she agreed to the challenege with zest.
Every aspect of the bespoke perfume process was fun, frivolous, and intensly personal. I answered a lengthy questionnaire that helped Jackie understand my likes and dislikes. She sent samples my way--not merely to wear but to try on paper so I could catch the different notes as the scent aged. And finally, just yesterday, I received my personal, custom scent in the mail.
The heroine has her scent! And it's uniquely mine.
My Handley sisters smelled like violets--as soon as I discovered their scents, I understood their characters even though Harriet and Sophie are very different women. My newest heroine, Susannah Siddons, is more open and passionate and so orange blossom is her signature fragrance. Now that I have developed my own signature scent, I feel like a heroine of my own making.
What is your favorite scent? One lucky commentor today will win a fragrance sample trio pack from Goest Perfumes. Please include your email address. Contest open to US residents only. Thank you!