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Scent: the powerful, and lasting, ingredient in attraction

Scent: the powerful, and lasting, ingredient in attraction

Scent: the powerful, and lasting, ingredient in attraction

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‘Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume’. — French writer Jean de Boufflers

In my new book, Concerto, when the hero and heroine first meet they are in the flush of youth, Umberto in his mid-twenties and Catriona eighteen. At once, a powerful attraction springs up between them, and this stirs all sorts of sensory experiences. I write:

He leaned forward, his breath fanning her hair. The scent of him attacked her senses, pulsed through her veins and drowned out everything, especially common sense.

He took the jacket from her. ‘Umm,’ he murmured as he slipped it on, ‘nice and warm for me … and now it has your fragrance on it. Like orange blossom.’

‘It’s called Mandarine et Basilic,’ she said, her breath coming out in a half laugh. ‘Not a very romantic name, I’m afraid.’

He took a step closer and ran a finger along her hairline, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. ‘It’s the woman that makes the fragrance romantic, carissima, not the other way round, and you make it sexy and alluring.’

Recent research carried out by Dr Mehmet Mahmut at Macquarie University reveals that we should trust our sense of smell when it comes to relationships, as it is often right. In the study, female participants ranked scent higher than looks and personality for attractiveness in a man.

So scent is very importance in romance. But what happens when you lose another of the senses? The story in Concerto picks up ten years later, and Umberto has lost his eyesight in an accident. Life now is very different for him. He lives on beautiful Lake Como in Italy, but can only experience its beauty by the scent and feel of it. I write:

Inside the house he had to move tentatively, feeling his way around obstacles, which only served to underline his disability. As he walked, Umberto inhaled the delicious air with its scents of jasmine, rose and lemon blossom. Since his blindness, his other senses had become sharper and the fragrances that wafted towards him were sweeter than he remembered. Bees buzzed, birds sang – the sounds of Mother Nature were louder, the emotions they stirred in him more acute.

Catriona has come to Umberto’s villa in the capacity of music therapist. She wants to help Umberto, but she does not want to tell him that she is the woman he knew ten years ago as Katérina. They shared one night of passion then and that was it – door closed.

But can she really fool Umberto? He may not be able to see her, but he can inhale her scent:

Catriona moved to his side, letting his hand go to her elbow to guide her forwards. She saw him pause and lean in a fraction as though catching her scent. A tremor passed through her body as he touched her and she watched his brow furrow in concentration. For a moment she thought she saw a flash of recognition on his face, but then he guided her ahead of him.

Will Umberto remember Catriona by her scent? Will he trust his own senses? If so, Catriona will have to be honest with him about who she is and why she has concealed her identity from him. And when Umberto realises that she is capable of being so secretive, he may wonder just what else of importance she is hiding from him…

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