Scent of Triumph:
A Novel of Perfume And Passion
Release date: March 31, 2015
at St. Martin’s Press
Perfume is the essence of beauty, the heart of illusion, the soul of desire. It is my past, my present, my future. —from the journal of Danielle Bretancourt
When French perfumer and aristocrat Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for the remains of her family, relying on the strength of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a British shipping heir and Royal Navy officer. Finally, in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.
Amidst the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Danielle works her way up from meager jobs to perfumer and fashion designer. Still, personal happiness eludes her. Can her sheer force of will attract the elusive love she desires, or will it only come at the ultimate cost? (provided by the author)
Thank you for having me here today on my Scent of Triumph! First, a little about me. For years I worked in the beauty industry; I cataloged thousands of new and classic perfumes for women and men, and created touch-screen programs (FragranceIQ, SKinIQ) for Sephora, DFS, Nordstrom and JCPenney stores, work for which I received a FiFi award from The Fragrance Foundation in New York.
When I began to write, it seemed natural to write about perfumery. Scent of Triumph follows a French perfumer during the 1940s. Perfume and aromas are her professional frame of reference, so vintage perfumes are laced throughout the book.
Today I’d like to feature the background history on two classic perfumes still popular around the world. Even if you’ve never worn them, chances are someone you remember someone who does. Our olfactory sense—our sense of smell—is the strongest memory trigger we have, with a direct path to the limbic center of the brain, the seat of memories and emotions.
In Scent of Triumph my protagonist, Danielle Bretancourt, has specific memories or encounters with each one of these perfumes. (Without giving the scenes away, I wanted to share the history on each perfume, so when you read Scent of Triumph, you’ll have extra insight as to why these were included.)
Mitsouko by Guerlain (1919) – Created on the eve of the Roaring Twenties, Mitsouko reflects the Far Eastern style that became the rage in the flamboyant years after World War I. Third generation perfumer Jacques Guerlain developed Mitsouko for women of passion, intensity, strength, and introspection.
Mitsouko opens with fruity top notes of tangy bergamot and smooth, mellow peach. A lilac blend follows, dissolving into a woody chypre drydown, redolent of vetiver, oakmoss, and amber. Mitsouko is a sensual, voluptuous fragrance, like a dark, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mitsouko means “mystery” in Japanese and was inspired by a character in the Claude Farrère novel, La Bataille, or The Battle. The story revolved around the ill-fated love of an English officer and the wife of the ship’s commander–a beautiful Japanese woman named Mitsouko. Farrère had mentioned another Guerlain fragrance, Jicky, in one of his novels, so Jacques Guerlain reciprocated the honor by naming his fragrance after a Farrère character. And so Mitsouko lives on, in print and in fragrance. It remains one of the great jewels of the House of Guerlain.
Chanel No. 5 (1921) – Chanel No. 5 was the first fragrance from Parisian couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who was one of the first designers to introduce a perfume. According to Chanel, the secret behind Chanel No. 5 is an extraordinary, powdery blend of aldehydes–ingredients that defy categorization–combined with rich floral and warm amber notes. Take a tip from Marilyn Monroe–when the press once asked what nightwear she wore to bed, she smiled and answered, “Chanel No. 5.” And that was all.
What inspired the numeric name? Chanel once reported that when she asked Ernest Beaux to create a fragrance for her, he presented her with several scents, and she selected the bottle numbered “5.” Coincidentally, her couture collection was scheduled for presentation on the fifth day of the fifth month–May 5. Interpreting this as a good omen, she bestowed upon the fragrance the name of Chanel No. 5. It was the popularity of the early Chanel fragrances that spawned the designer fragrance industry of today.
Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about this vintage duo, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Scent of Triumph.
PS: I’d love to see you with a selfie
of your favorite perfume
and a copy of Scent of Triumph
when you receive it!
Email that to ScentOfTriumph@gmail.com,
and I’ll email a free e-copy of my next book,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JAN MORAN is the author of Fabulous Fragrances I and II,
which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list,
and other contemporary novels,
including Flawless, Beauty Mark, and Runway.
A fragrance and beauty industry expert,
she has been featured on CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine,
and has spoken before prestigious organizations,
including The American Society of Perfumers.
She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School
and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers’ Program.
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