On The Scent
Grade : A-

On the Scent is a thoroughly original and wonderfully different romantic mystery. It features M.J. Rodgers's trademark intelligent characters and creative touches. Most of all, it's just a lot of fun.

Diann Torrey is the head chemist for the American perfume company Man to Woman. While in Paris for the International Fragrance Fraternity's annual symposium, she goes sightseeing, only to find her purse snatched by an unseen assailant who shoves her to the ground. The mugging doesn't turn out to be such a bad thing when an incredibly handsome man comes to her rescue. At first, Robert Mize seems like a romantic fantasy come to life, a charming Frenchman to show her the city. Then she learns that he's actually American, and none other than the spokesmodel for Man to Woman's latest perfume, HEAT. The ads have already made him a sensation, as he poses in the nude with only a few strategically placed shadows. As Diann tells him, "I guess I just didn't recognize you with your clothes on."

Diann's first impulse is to dismiss him as a dimwitted male trading on his looks because he doesn't have the brains to get a real job. He quickly dispatches that notion, demonstrating a sharp intellect and keen wit. There's definitely more to him than meets the eye. Diann has no idea just know how much. Robert is actually an undercover insurance investigator, and the modeling gig is his cover. Some of the biggest names in the perfume industry are dropping dead under mysterious circumstances, all of them insured by Robert's company. He's been assigned to find out what, and perhaps who, is killing them. So far he's managed to uncover one link among the victims: Diann. After her arrival in Paris, she begins to exhibit some unusual behavior which immediately raises his suspicions. His growing attraction for her doesn't make his investigation any easier. When several more people at the symposium die, it's all the more urgent for him to uncover whether she's the one responsible, or a future victim.

On the Scent isn't as complex as some of Rodgers’s later mysteries. It's a more straightforward whodunit, the kind with a set group of characters who are killed off one by one, and the killer isn't a huge surprise. That isn't to say there aren’t plenty of secrets to uncover along the way. Diann is definitely up to something, and while we know the heroine of a romance novel isn't not going to turn out to be a serial killer, the reader is kept guessing along with the hero as to why she's being so secretive. Like most of Rodgers's characters, Diann and Robert have interesting and unusual backstories that make them more distinctive than many series romance characters. They're exactly the kind of characters I like the most: strong, unique, intelligent people. This isn't one of those romances where Diann is a scientist who acts like a flake. As with all of Rodgers's heroines, she's a smart, confident woman. She and Robert are very well-matched, and the banter between them is entertaining. While the romance is rushed and the final conflict forced, I enjoyed the book too much to care.

The story offers a fascinating look inside the perfume industry. This is a fictionalized version and I have no idea how realistic or true to life any of this is, but Rodgers certainly makes it sound believable. She really brings this world to life, with a multitude of interesting details. One of the best aspects of the book is the way it showcases the author's creativity. As the symposium unfolds, each of the main attendees gives a presentation demonstrating their specialty, whether it's packaging, blending or fragrance diversifying. Each of these presentations is very elaborately conceived, and the author makes it feel like the reader is there, watching these unusual, creative productions unfold.

On the Scent is different, creative, and so much fun that it remains something special...and it's not even Rodgers' best book! Featuring a fresh setting, intelligent characters, and an unusual backdrop in the perfume world, this is a clever and fun romance.

Reviewed by Leigh Thomas
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 16, 2005

Publication Date: 1994/04

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