Thursday, May 23, 2013

SCENT OF DARKNESS by Margot Berwin

Pantheon Books, January 2013
Obtained via:  publisher
ISBN 978-0-307-90752-3


Evangeline has just inherited her grandmother’s house in upstate New York.  When she finally works up the courage to explore the one room her grandmother made her vow to never enter, she discovers a bottle of perfume that makes her irresistible to the opposite sex.  Even though she is warned not to open the bottle because it would change everything in her life, Evangeline can’t help but open the bottle.

Margot Berwin’s SCENT OF DARKNESS has elements of so many “lessons learned” story classics.  The perfume is something of a Pandora’s Box; the red apple of temptation.  Evangeline knows she shouldn’t open it, but tired of being just plain Evangeline, she can’t seem to stop herself and opens the perfume.  The perfume’s magic draws Gabriel, a young man who, up until now, was out of her league.  Suddenly, he drops his girlfriend and falls under Evangeline’s spell.  When he moves to New Orleans to attend med school, she follows him and eventually gets bored with his adoration.  Her eye turns to a friend of Gabriel’s, a painter named Michael with his own dark secrets.  Gabriel, then Michael – me thinks I see an angelic theme peeping in here.  Where Gabriel seems to have been taken advantage of by Evangeline, Michael appears to be using her.  He pretends not to notice the spell of the perfume, but in reality wants to use Evangeline’s skin cells and hair in his paints in order to make himself famous.  Can anyone say, “What goes around, comes around”?

Then the story takes a turn somewhat Shakespearian, with dire warnings being given and ignored when Evangeline meets Madame Susteen.  The love story, if there is one, between Evangeline and Gabriel (or Michael for that matter) fails to ignite as both men are attracted to the perfume, not Evangeline.  The character of Evangeline isn’t really very developed or likeable and falls short of reaching readers’ empathy.  Even with all the cryptic story parallels, Berwin’s SCENT OF DARKNESS left an unfulfilled and somewhat disappointing taste in this reader’s mouth.  This may very well be a case of very good writing, but not so much the story.

Reviewed by T. Barringer

"This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book."


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