A romantic or sexy scene often includes a sultry song, lingerie, candles, or other props to set the stage for a passionate encounter. Sight, sound, touch, and speech are used frequently in fiction to convey a sense of desire. But what about scent? Too often in romance that is neglected, and only mentioned when there is food or drink of some kind mentioned, or a character is wearing a specific perfume, usually a sultry one.
I hazard the guess that some of a writer’s reluctance to use this sense comes from the idea that people perceive scents markedly differently. While one person may love the scent of a specific fragrance, others will often dislike it if not hate it. I argue that is true for other senses as well. Scent can be an asset to a scene, if used sparingly, and in the right way.
One Promise Me fact is that vampires and shifters have an enhanced sense of smell. Those humans with vampire taint to them—like my heroine Sarelle—take on this vampiric sense as part of their turning. Shortly after she begins a relationship with the vampire Danial, she begins to allude to his scent of nutmeg and cedar, an alluringly spicy mix that she thinks he wears like perfume. Its only later that she discovers that this scent she perceives is the result of her being partly turned. Others also have a scent; Sarelle often alludes in the series about the werecougar Theo’s scent of prairie grass, wide-open skies, and pine trees. In fact, it is how she discovers him after a long separation of years, when she smells that familiar scent out of the blue.
Why did I use the scents above? They are personally my favorite scents, as is the Myrtlewood oil I allocate as the vampire Devlin’s specific fragrance, as seen in this excerpt below:
Devlin’s eyes had been filled with fire and lust, no matter how many times we’d coupled, their radiance undimmed. But they had been most beautiful at the night’s end, when he’d declared his love for me so passionately. I closed my eyes, remembering his kisses, the brush of his fangs over my skin, the whisper of his words as he quoted me poetry, the feel of his body in mine, caressing me so skillfully…
I let out a long wistful sigh. Then I got out of the tub and went to the bathroom mirror, and pulled out a small vial. Settling back in the tub, I inhaled deeply, shivering in pleasure.
I’d never attributed any particular scent to Devlin. In the time I’d spent with him, I’d either been too nervous, scared, pissed off, or in the case of our interlude, overwhelmed with the many other wonderful things I was experiencing to notice one. But when I’d been in the midst of a craft fair with Elle and my mother two days ago, I’d known the singular scent instantly.
It had taken the better part of a half hour to search though the table of scented candles and essential oils where the smell was coming from. Part of that was my instinct to first try scents I considered sexy, like musk, sandalwood, leather, and even Danial’s particular scent, which was like spicy nutmeg and cedar. It wasn’t until I’d given up on the candles and reached the more unlikely named oils that I found what I was looking for: Myrtlewood.
I’d held the vial in my hands, knowing it was a mistake to buy it. I wanted to so badly, desperately. So I had taken one last smell, then reluctantly put it back. Later that day, as we were leaving, my mother had surprised me with the vial as a present.
“I could see you liked it,” she said with a smile, handing me the package. “I know they’re overpriced, but it’s only money.”
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing the bag in my eagerness. “You shouldn’t have.”
The clock chimed in the other room. Reluctantly, I conceded it was past time for bed. I put the vial back, pulled the bathtub’s plug, and put on pajamas. Then I stoked the fire, loading on enough logs to last until morning. The nights were cold now, with winter almost here.
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In a desperate effort to halt her transformation to vampire, and stop her longing for the sultry Devlin, Sarelle willingly takes a drug to kill her desire, even as Danial prepares for the introduction of their son Theoron at a Vampire Gathering on New Year’s Eve. Faced with Theo’s betrayal at the eleventh hour, Sarelle must either trust in Danial to save her, or join forces with Devlin, revealing her secret desire for him.