Generally, the last thing I do before I leave for work is dab a bit of Rose Red 2007 and Alice from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab on my wrists and behind my ears but this morning I didn’t check the labels on my bottles too closely and accidentally anointed myself with Selkie, which is a limited edition Therianthrope from July 2007 and reserved pretty much exclusively for White-Harp to wear.
My first instinct was actually panic because I find Selkie the prettiest scent in my BPAL collection, not to mention it’s a limited edition which means I will never sniff it again if it runs out!, and White-Harp would get mad. I apologised to her before I left and dabbed the excess into her fur so she was mollified some. But more than that, while Selkie does work well with my skin chemistry, I’ve grown used to roses and honey being something that “smells like me.” As I was walking down Lexington Ave. on my morning walk to the office, every couple of seconds I would catch a whiff of something tantalisingly beautiful and feminine and wonder who it was until I realised that it was me.
The chill waters of the Orkney coast, tea-leaved willow, honey-touched Grass-of-Parnassus, sea aster, and Scottish Primrose.
In the bottle: Grassy and floral. I can almost taste the lemony, grassy stems in my mouth. There is a distinct “aquatic” note that smells like, well, water, sweet and clean and cool. It has almost a slight tang to its “afterscent” that isn’t a note I can smell right off, but it is reminiscent of the ocean.
Wet on White-Harp: The change from bottle to Harp isn’t great, but the added smell of cotton just makes this a lovely, comforting scent, like waking up to summer breezes by the sea.
Wet on me: On me, something sweeter comes forward immediately and the tangy “afterscent” is not at all noticeable. I think it’s the honey, although usually honey is warmer on my skin. This is cooler, almost honeydew melony. The aquatic note is definitely making itself known. The florals and grass are still swirling in the pool of sweet water.
Dry on White-Harp: I love Selkie when it’s dry on White-Harp because she smells of linens and Bear and me in addition to all the beautiful scent-notes in the perfume.
Dry on me: The aquatic/honey/melon notes are the most predominant now. Every once in a while I catch a whiff of lemony-grass and gentle white florals.
Throw and wearlength on me: Understated, but with a surprisingly strong throw. I haven’t worn this often enough to know how long the wearlength is, but I imagine short to medium.
Selkie very emphatically says SUMMER. It isn’t just that I associate her with July and the ocean, it’s also her combination of notes that make her a light scent, one that’s meant to float airily on top of oppressive heat, like a breath of cool sea air. As much as I’m yearning for summer, it’s not here yet and now I feel like I’m a constant disappointment to myself.
Last night at dinner Wicked Cool Riley and I discussed books, the craft of writing, what we secretly want to write one day, etc. It’s lovely knowing and living with book people. Riley talked of her secret children’s book and I spoke of my secret desire to write a romance novel.
I will fully admit that when I read a book, I primarily read for a romantic thread. Yes, primarily. Even though many of my favourite novels are not at all romantic. However, if a book doesn’t contain a romantic element, then it doesn’t necessarily deter from my enjoyment of the novel at all. Conversely, just because a book has a strong romance component, that doesn’t guarantee I’ll like it or that it will be my favourite part of the novel. Personally, very few emotional threads in a book are as satisfying to read as a romance well-executed. I’m not picky about my romantic characters: male/male, male/female, female/female, human/not-human-but-possibly-sexually-compatible, they all work for me. One of my favourite fairytales is Beauty and the Beast, in which a human maiden falls in love with a hideous monster. Personally, I find their story the most romantic of all, not because he becomes a rich, handsome prince by the end and marries her, but because she falls in love with him despite his appearance. A really good writer will make me believe in love between two characters despite physical aversion.
Therein lies my problem with many romance novels. I am an equal-opportunity reader: I will read anything at least once. Or try anyhow. I’ve read many a romance novel perusing Sofa’s bookshelf but I’ve liked nary a one. Sometimes I jest and say that I was scarred by the first romance novel I’ve ever read, which was Jude Devereaux’s The Raider on a college road trip up the East Coast with Karros and Darehead during the summer between our junior and senior years of high school. I stupidly didn’t bring anything to read, so Darehead lent me The Raider with the caveat, “It’s so bad, it’s funny.”
It was pretty bad. The plot was farcical and over the top and it was also horrifically historically inaccurate, but I can often overlook that. It was when I got to the obligatory sex scene that I had to decide whether or not I could actually read any further.
He entered her as gently as water lapping at the hull of a boat.
What? My mind broke as I tried to contemplate this. Water lapping at the hull of a boat is definitely not a sexy image, so when I tried to reconcile this, all I got was the image of the poor man limply slapping his mizzenmast about down there as he attempted to dock. Oh yes, that is really erotic right there.
I have many problems with romance novels, which I feel is unfair because I’m sure there are many good romance writers. (I have heard excellent things about Georgette Heyer.) And I have read a few since my scarring experience with The Raider that were decent books with decent stories and decent writing, but ultimately I didn’t enjoy them because they weren’t emotionally satisfying. Why? I’m not sure.
The first reason may be the sex. I’m by no means prudish or squeamish about sex, in real life or in books, but when initial attraction is purely physical, I get bored right away. This is the opposite trope from the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Often it’s not twenty pages before the hero and the heroine (I’ve never read a gay romance, so that might be different) are in bed, humping like weasels. Yes, and? Is that it? They’ve got undeniable sexual chemistry (which I am often told and not shown), there’s the obligatory large misunderstanding, and then resolution and happy ending. It is not emotionally satisfying because it wasn’t hard won or deserved.
The Kushiel’s Legacy is a series of books with lots of sex. Sex everywhere. Phédre is a courtesan and the ultimate masochist. But sex scenes in these books usually occur to further the plot instead of what I feel is masturbatory gratification. Not that romance novels are porn, but the reader is probably supposed to vicariously enjoy the hero through the heroine’s experience. Unfortunately, I’m usually not that reader. In the Kushiel’s Legacy books, Phédre is put THROUGH HELL and is quite literally broken (physically, emotionally, and mentally) before she finds healing. In many ways, Kushiel’s Avatar is the hardest of Jacqueline Carey’s books for me to read, but also the most rewarding. The protagonist not only goes through hell, but the people with whom she has relationship are put through hell, and the third is really about the creation of an unconventional family and the healing effect love has. Her happy ending was fucking deserved and that is what makes this book incredibly satisfying.
The second reason I don’t like romance novels is that the suspense is often taken out. I know who’s going to fall in love and I know there’s going to be a happy ending, regardless of what happens in the middle. Yes, I like to know that there are happy endings, but I also want to be scared on my journey there. Jane Eyre is probably my favourite romance novel ever because there are moments in that book that still make me nervous about the fate of Jane and Rochester’s relationship. There are many obstacles BEFORE they even fall in love: her orphaned background, the difference in class, his age, etc. This makes their romance suspenseful. After their declaration of love, there are STILL obstacles to overcome: HIS WIFE and all that follows. Jane runs away, she almost gets roped in marrying her cousin, before she can return to the arms of her (symbolically castrated) lover. Yes, I love this book to pieces.
So my secret desire is to write a gothic romance novel. I just need to finish my current one first. I’ve been sort of good about it. I’ve broken 20,000 words. And Indicolite is looking at it, which may just be the incentive I need to actually write some more.