In her best-selling debut, Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire, Margot Berwin brought us to the rain forests of Mexico—to a land of shamans, spirit animals, and snake charmers—in the search for nine rare and valuable plants. Now, with her hotly anticipated second novel, Berwin takes us somewhere darker: deep into the bayous of Louisiana, to a world of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and potent elixirs. Scent of Darkness is a magical, seductive story about the power of scent, and about what happens when a perfume renders a young woman irresistible.
Evangeline grows up understanding the extraordinary effects of fragrance. Her grandmother Louise is a gifted aromata, a master of scent-making and perfume. When Eva was a girl, Louise carefully explained that lavender under her pillow would make her dream of the man she would marry; eucalyptus would make her taller; almandine, fatter; and jasmine, Louise promised, would wrap her life in a mystery. When Eva is eighteen, Louise leaves her the ultimate gift—a scent created just for her. The small perfume vial is accompanied by a note in Louise’s slanted script: “Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change.”
From the moment Eva places a drop—the essence of fire, leather, rose, and jasmine—on her neck, men dance closer to her, women bury their noses deep into her hair, even the cats outside her bedroom cry to be near her. After a lifetime spent blending into the background, Eva is suddenly the object of intense desire to everyone around her. Strangers follow her down the street; a young boy appears at her door asking for a favor; and two men, one kind and good, the other dark and seductive, fall deeply, madly in love with her. As her greatest gift becomes an unbearable curse, Eva must uncover the secret of her scent and the message her grandmother, the woman who loved her most, wanted to tell her.
A bewitching tale of love, blood, power, and magic, Scent of Darkness is a wildly inventive novel that will seduce the reader’s every sense.
Praise for Scent of Darkness
“Anyone with a nose can tell you that pheromones are dangerous. But in this Louisiana-based novel, Scent of Darkness, Evangeline learns that lesson the hard way. When her grandmother dies, she leaves behind a perfume, created from Evangeline's own scent, that makes this plain girl so irresistible that strangers bury their faces in her hair. Soon she's torn between Gabriel, a quiet student, and Michael, a fiery artist. Berwin captures New Orleans’ mystical juju perfectly.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Elegant, introspective . . . [A] sumptuous faux memoir—a story of first love, obsession, youthful sexuality and coming of age. . . . Buy this pungent romance for your niece’s graduation, then try to look innocent when she elopes with the postman.” —Carolyn See, The Washington Post
“Profound thoughts are deeply explored by the protagonist Evangeline (aka Eva) in Scent of Darkness. . . . Fascinating . . . Which path will Eva choose and with what outcome? Will the powerful scent be used for evil or good? To answer this question would be to give away the twists and turns in Scent of Darkness—and that would certainly be unfair, for Scent of Darkness is thoroughly engrossing.” —Laura Schultz, New York Journal of Books
“Berwin follows Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire with a tale about the mysterious and luscious world of the aromata, professional perfume makers. . . . Berwin’s prose is poetic and measured, and her enchanting novel will leave readers searching for a scent of their own.” —Amber Peckham, Booklist
“Berwin’s Creole-flavored romance . . . will provide plenty of pleasure to readers who enjoy a touch of magical realism in their fiction. Fans of such atmospheric writers as Alice Hoffman will find much to enjoy here.” —Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
“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. . . . 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, The News-Gazette
Praise for Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire
“The great escapist novel . . . [A] shameless guilty pleasure of a romp that involves black panthers, poisonous snakes, scorpions, and the Adonis-like son of a Huichol Indian shaman . . . [A] sultry, psychedelic summer soufflé of a read.”—Elle
“Sensual, voluptuous . . . Berwin vividly evokes the mosquito-loud, velvety blackness of a rain forest night.” —National Geographic Traveler
“Berwin makes a clever imaginative leap in her first novel, creating her own horticultural myth and then fashioning a lively novel around it.” —The Boston Globe
“Take two parts Carlos Castañeda, one part Sunset garden book, and top with a splash of Indiana Jones . . . Shameless, sweet, and deceptively potent.” —Santa Fe New Mexican
“Seductive interludes and exotic adventures define Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire . . . A guide on plant mythology, spirit animals, curanderos (healers) and the mystery that can guide us to spiritual discovery, if only we open up to it.” —Austin American-Statesman
“A psychedelic adventure.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[A] grown-up fairy tale full of mysticism, shamans, and animal spirits. Light and breezy, it’s also full of romance.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Mesmerizing . . . transports the reader to the dark, hot bayous of Louisiana, where Tarot card readers, fortune tellers and healers populate the story . . the setting of New Orleans exudes the smells, sounds and sights that only Louisiana can conjure up. Engulfed in the heady mix of scents and lust, Evangeline learns that sometimes what looks like a gift can turn out to be a curse . . . sensual.”
—Shelley Civkin, Richmond Review