'Scent of Darkness' quite compelling story

As usual, once again I procrastinated on sleep with my nightly ritual of checking Pinterest.com. An hour (and many re-pins later) I was almost ready to go to bed when a quote in thick white letters against a brilliant red background caught my eye.

"Most of what makes a book 'good' is that we are reading it at the right moment for us."

According to the pin, this quote was from Alain de Botton. Now it has been my experience that many quotes circulating the Web are attributed to the wrong individual, so I did what any person would do late at night: I Googled it. It was a pleasant discovery to find a de Botton quote collection on Goodreads.com, which showed that the quote was, in fact, attributed to the correct person.

But during that discovery I came across another quote by him that was equally worth sharing: "One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy."

Parallel to this quote, the balance between loving the good traits — as well as the bad — is a theme that recurs throughout Margot Berwin's latest book, "Scent of Darkness." But rather than loving the good and the bad qualities of a single person, Berwin's main character Evangeline finds herself torn by her feelings toward two men with very contrasting characters.

When I first came across Berwin's book, I was intrigued by the premise. Reminiscent of the early 1990s film "Love Potion # 9," "Scent of Darkness" involves a special potion (this time being a perfume) that makes Evangeline the subject of everyone's desire after being exposed to the scent. Smelling of fire and leather, rose and jasmine, Eva's scent is intoxicating and powerful, dark yet serene, and capable of capturing the attention of everyone around.

The small vial contained only a few drops of scent, but the accompanying note from Eva's late grandmother, Louise, expressed the significance of its contents: "Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change."

As her grandmother warned, everything dramatically changes in Eva's life as soon as the bottle is opened. The scent not only settles on her skin, but becomes a part of her essence — physically altering her forever.

Eva, a former wallflower who previously avoided the attentions of others, suddenly finds herself living in the evocative, fragrant, atmospheric New Orleans, and in a passionate relationship with Gabriel, a man who lives up to his angelic namesake.

But New Orleans offers more temptations than Eva expected and soon she is struggling to resist the temptations of Michael Bon Chance, a dark and sensual man whose temperament matches the mood of the city.

As Gabriel and Michael fall deeper into their adorations of Eva, she finds herself questioning whether these two opposite men — both desperately in love with her — are in love with Eva, or with the fire and leather, rose and jasmine?

While Eva wrestles with her growing love for both men and tries to adjust to a life where everyone is deeply attracted to her scent — but not her personal self — she struggles to learn the meaning behind this seemingly cursed gift of scent from her grandmother.

In "Scent of Darkness," Berwin has created a compelling story surrounded by the mysterious and exotic world of New Orleans, where tarot cards foretell what's yet to be, and fragrance is viewed as an ethereal, mystical creation capable of changing one's life forever.

Back when it all started, the first time she experienced the fire and leather, rose and jasmine, Eva was struck by its duality.

"It was dark, like death by fire, and very light, like sunshine and freedom. I felt as if I could choose the side I wanted to be on. As if the perfume were asking me: Evangeline, are you darkness or are you light?"

Can a person truly be only of darkness, or of light? Or is it possible that we're all a little bit of both?

Amber Castens is an adult and teen services librarian at the Urbana Free Library, where she is also the technology volunteer program coordinator.

Topics (1):Books

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