Scent of a Woman

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about the wonders and varieties of perfumes.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

True story: In 2007, China banned reincarnation. This weird law was passed to stop Tibetan Buddhists from finding the next Dalai Lama. If one wants to be reincarnated, they must get approval from the Chinese government. In 1995, a six-year-old boy was identified as the future Dalai Lama and “disappeared.”

Have I got your attention?

This fact begins The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. A young calligraphy artist travels to Paris as part of a museum event. He is the future Dalai Lama. There’s a plan in place to give him asylum so he can complete his destiny.

But I’m not here to talk Chinese politics. I want to explore perfume.

In the novel, Jac L’Etoile and her brother have inherited a French perfumery. She wants no part of it. After 15 years of living in America, Jac is brought home when her brother disappears after uncovering knowledge of a secret scent that enables one to view a past life. Jac, with her sensitive nose and ability to smell out ingredients of perfumes, is on a mission to identify the ingredients of the ancient scent and find her brother.

   

Every woman should have a favorite scent. Cleopatra had her own factory near the Dead Sea. She created a smell said to seduce Caesar and Marc Anthony. Queen Isabella of Spain is rumored to have taken only two baths in her lifetime. Perfume covered the BO.

I remember going to church at Christmas and being overwhelmed by Avon. Evening in Paris with its distinctive cobalt blue bottle was on dressing tables. Popular for 35 years, it was discontinued in the ‘60’s and made a comeback in the 90’s.

   

The most expensive perfumes? Each bottle of Joy contains 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses. It costs $1,800. Guerlain will concoct an original scent for $55,000. But the one that tops them all is Shumukh from Dubai. Maybe it’s pricey because it’s decorated with 3500 diamonds. There is only one bottle in the world and it costs $1.29 million.

Young women experiment with different perfumes. Mine was Prince Matchabelli’s Beloved. It was a light, floral scent and perfect for a 16 year-old. It wasn’t until I was more mature that I discovered the perfume I use now. Mitsouko by Guerlain is subtle, unlike its popular sister scent, Shalimar. Shalimar dominates a room and trails behind the wearer. Mitsouko is a whisper and requires getting closer. It’s also harder to find.

   

There’s a legend behind the perfume. Blond Bombshell actress Jean Harlow used it so much that the studio stocked up. Rumor has it that when she married Paul Bern, a studio executive, she left him after two months. Some say that he was found in a bathtub filled with Mitsouko. Others say he was shot in the head by a jealous woman.

In conclusion, I have a message for men: If you want to buy a woman perfume, learn her signature scent. Ask her what she’s wearing. Sneak a peek at her dresser. Buy cologne, not perfume. Preferably the spray kind. She will reward you accordingly.

   

Book Review: The Risks of Dead Reckoning by Felicia Watson—and a Giveaway! @FeliciaTes @DXVaros @TLCBookTours

The Risks of Dead Reckoning
The Lovelace Series, Book 3
Felicia Watson
D. X. Varos, March 2021
ISBN 978-1941072899
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Naiche Decker is engaged! And no one is more surprised by it than her. But first, she has one more mission. The Lovelace is ordered to respond to a distress call from unexplored space, and from a crew who all died 200 years ago. What they find is not only amazing, but potentially lethal. If Lt. Decker is going to make it down the aisle, she will have to survive the dangers of planet Tolu first.

The Risks of Dead Reckoning was my introduction to the Lovelace trilogy and I found much to like here. While it’s generally preferable to read books in order, this works as a standalone as long as you’re willing to forgo some of the backstory and I am.

Ms. Watson has two main strengths in my opinion, vivid characterizations being one of them. As you might expect, the primary players on the Lovelace stand out in a crowd but others, including “bad guys”, are also very distinctive and add much to a lively story. (I especially appreciate the flying dinosaur-thingies.)

The other strong point is worldbuilding and I think Ms. Watson is particularly good at this aided, I think, by her background in science not to mention an active imagination. Whether she intended it or not, I was reminded a lot of the original Star Trek and that is not a bad thing. As in that series, here we have a spaceship crew heading into the unknown to explore but also to respond to what seems to be an appeal for help. When Deck and the rest of the Lovelace crew are confronted by creepy critters, odd aliens and lots of questions, what more could I ask for?

It’s a wild, fun ride and I’m very glad to have had a seat—now I need to check out the first two books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Felicia Watson started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. When not writing, Felicia spends her time with her darling dogs, her beloved husband, being an amateur pastry chef, and still finds time for her day job as a scientist.

Connect with Felicia:

Twitter // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Risks of Dead Reckoning, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Wednesday, September 22nd.
US entrants only.

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Book Review: No Substitute for Matrimony by Carolyn J. Rose @CarolynJRose

No Substitute for Matrimony
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #13
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, October 2020
ISBN 978-1-7342412-3-5
Trade Paperback

The author has written a score or more of what can be characterized as cozy mysteries. However, this novel is more of a deep dive into the subtle and not-so subtle characteristics of a lengthy cast of participants and their attitudes on life. They range from husband-to-be-Dave the detective to Barbara’s wealthy and intrusive friend, Mrs. B., to other faculty and staff at the school where Barbara substitute teaches.

Most of those who people the story are friendly, inquisitive, opinionated and talented. The narrative is well-done and the book is the kind that can fill several pleasant and warm afternoons. Yes, there’s a murder and Barbara’s husband-to-be is the detective charged with solving the puzzle. But that isn’t the most interesting element of the book.

The author has a penchant for giving readers access to her opinions about almost anything in sometimes calm, more often snarky terms. Her humor at times I found misplaced, but that’s a minor criticism. The writing is clean, the story proceeds at a reasonable pace and reaches its logical and satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Sins of Edom, Red Sky.

Yes, But How Did It Smell? @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, released in July 2021.  Jeanne has a yen for travel and a passion for mythology, which she works into her novels whenever she can.  Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her books, including the Dinah Pelerin international series, can be found on her website. http://www.jeannematthews.com  

Writing about smell is hard.  Most of us are better at describing what we see than what we smell.  Sounds are easier to put into words – the snap, crackle, and pop of a thing.  Touch presents no problem.  Is it hot, cold, soft, bristly?  But smell is the fallen angel of the senses, said Helen Keller, who possessed neither sight nor hearing and relied on her nose more than the average person.  Neuroscientists say that humans have 400 different types of receptors for detecting odor molecules – not so many as dogs or cats, but enough to permit us to identify a trillion distinct smells.  But recognizing a smell and capturing its essence in language can be challenging.

The Claret Drinker credit Ralph Steadman

Wine critics have the best olfactory vocabularies.  They tend to associate aroma with its source – flowers, herbs, minerals.  Saying that a wine tastes like a Tuscan sunset is an imaginative stretch and a perfect example of synaesthesia, i.e., the use of one sense to describe another.  Cool colors, loud wallpaper, a gravelly voice.  It’s a common rhetorical device that allows writers to deliver an extra level of description.  P.G. Wodehouse combined the sense of sound with the sense of sight.  “The girl had a quiet, but speaking eye.”  Robert Frost gave us the line, “From what I’ve tasted of desire.”  Raymond Chandler, that master of the figurative phrase, created one of the rare instances in which a smell is described in terms of another sense.  “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”

Advertisers use synaesthesia by mixing expressions that refer to other senses.  Market research shows that products become fixed in our memory if they appeal to multiple senses at once.  Potato chips “like sweet banjo music to your tongue” and chocolate “like music to your mouth.”  Skittles taste like the rainbow.  “Hear the big picture,” is the tagline for Canadian national radio.  Rimmel coined the slogan, “Lips that scream with color.”  Small wonder mystery writers have jumped on the sensory bandwagon with titles such as The Sound of Murder, The Taste of Murder, and The Sweet Smell of Murder.

Perfume designers often liken scents to abstract qualities – joy, passion, truth.  While we’re all eager to “sniff out the truth,” it doesn’t give off an actual odor.  Likening a sense to an abstract quality is another kind of synaesthesia.  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” enthuses Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now.  “One time we had a hill bombed for twelve hours…you know, that gasoline smell, the whole hill.  Smelled like…victory.”

Of course synaesthesia is also a neurological condition in which information meant to stimulate one sense intertwines and melds with others.  Billie Eilish is a synaesthete.  She perceives colors and shapes when she hears certain music; days and numbers and people trigger idiosyncratic sensory impressions.  Jimmy Fallon strikes Billie as a vertical brown rectangle.  Being associated with so drab a color was enough to discomfit Fallon.  He didn’t pursue the subject of smell.

Writers are urged to incorporate smells into their writing to immerse the reader more completely in their fictional worlds.  Smell can create a mood, signal danger, establish setting, and evoke memories – both pleasant and unpleasant.  I’ve been thinking a lot about smell lately, and not just because of the fear of catching COVID and losing that faculty altogether.  Smell plays a significant role in Devil by The Tail.  A friend told me she was reading Proust this summer and when she finished, she planned to read my book.  I was obliged to warn her that the transition from the taste and scent of a madeleine dipped in tea to the reek of the stockyards in 19th Century Chicago would be jarring.  Meatpackers dumped entrails, grease, and manure into the Chicago River.  One stretch of the river received so much blood and offal that it bubbled from methane, hydrogen sulfide gas, and the products of decomposition.  It was an olfactory nightmare, but not unattractive.  “’Twas the prettiest river to look at you’ll ever see,” wrote one journalist, “green at th’ sausage fact’ry, blue at th’ soap fact’ry, yellow at th’ tannery.”

You may ask how I was able to imagine the odoriferous miasma that hovered over Chicago in 1867.  As a matter of fact, I am uniquely qualified.  In the 1970s I worked as a paralegal for a law firm that represented a rendering plant that processed animal by-products for use as tallow and bone meal.  I visited the slaughterhouse and the plant on several occasions and spent so much time reading and writing about the operation that I became known in-house as the “queen of offal.”  The fragrance wafting from a rendering plant isn’t much like the whiff of a madeleine, but it is equally memorable.  Even so, it was hard to describe.

Waiting On Wednesday (165) @AndreaPenrose @KensingtonBooks

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens
A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery #5
Andrea Penrose
Kensington, September 2021
Mystery, Historical

From the publisher—

One advantage of being caught up in a whirl of dress fittings and decisions about flower arrangements and breakfast menus is that Charlotte Sloane has little time for any pre-wedding qualms. Her love for Wrexford isn’t in question. But will being a wife—and a Countess—make it difficult for her to maintain her independence—not to mention, her secret identity as famed satirical artist A.J. Quill?

Despite those concerns, there are soon even more urgent matters to attend to during Charlotte and Wrexford’s first public outing as an engaged couple. At a symposium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, a visiting botanist suffers a fatal collapse. The traces of white powder near his mouth reveal the dark truth—he was murdered. Drawn into the investigation, Charlotte and the Earl learn of the victim’s involvement in a momentous medical discovery. With fame and immense fortune at stake, there’s no shortage of suspects, including some whose ruthlessness is already known. But neither Charlotte nor her husband-to-be can realize how close the danger is about to get—or to what lengths this villain is prepared to go . . .

Why am I waiting so eagerly? I’ve been intending to start this series ever since the first one came out and, now, here we are with the fifth book—I think it’s high time I got off the pot, don’t you? It has many of the elements I love including a Regency setting, a peek at society’s doings, what seems like a compelling mystery to solve and, oh yes, Charlotte has a big secret of her own that I want to know more about. Oh, and that cover? Gorgeous!

Book Review: The Pronghorn Conspiracy by Boyd Taylor @GreenleafBookGr

The Pronghorn Conspiracy
The Donnie Ray Cuinn Series #5
Boyd Taylor
River Grove Books, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-63299-329-8
Trade Paperback

This is the fifth and last in Boyd Taylor’s series featuring protagonist Donnie Ray Cuinn (pronounced like Quinn).  I did not read the previous four books, but I didn’t feel like that made it difficult to understand the character.  Donnie is a lawyer with a tragic past and a troubled present.  Contemplating what life still holds for him and finding there isn’t much, he is unexpectedly summoned to a meeting with some high-level government officials, FBI agents, and Secret Service agents who inform him of a plot by a terrorist group which has kidnapped the President and is about to steal a weapon from a weapons manufacturing plant.  They also inform Donnie that the terrorists will only negotiate with Donnie who finds this to be an extraordinary demand since he has no knowledge of the terrorist group and doesn’t know its leader.

Nonetheless, Donnie agrees to meet with the leader and see how he can help safeguard the President and prevent the loss of the weapon.  But when he finally does meet with him, he still has no idea who the leader is or why he wanted to meet with Donnie.  When the leader finally does reveal what the purpose of their theft of the weapon is, the plan is chilling and the leader’s connection to Donnie is surprising to say the least.

As you might expect, there is an attempt to escape with the President and stop the group from taking the weapon.  I found that parts of this story stretched credulity so far that it nearly pulled me out of the story.  I also found the President’s behavior in the rescue helicopter beyond absurd but since the similarities between this President and our latest former President cannot be missed, perhaps the behavior is not so unbelievable after all.  The only other thing I found hard to understand is the relationship between Donnie and his wife, Rita.  Maybe earlier novels in this series would make it clearer.

In any case, The Pronghorn Conspiracy is a fast read – just the thing for a lazy weekend.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2021.

It’s National Hug Your Hound Day!!

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