Oline H. Cogdill

I don’t where I got my love of perfume from.

My mother never wore fragrance, though she had a little cart with mini perfumes that my father brought back from the war. She never opened one of the bottles, ever. That little cart is now on my dresser, still unopened.

But I always loved fragrance. I remember one of my grandmothers occasionally wore it, as did one of my aunts. But I am from a farming background, and perfume wasn’t high on the list.

But in high school I started wearing it, spurred on by the teen fashion magazines I read. I doubt I would ever wear those fragrances now that the teenage me loved.

And many thanks to author Denise Hamilton for re-triggering my love of perfume in her books.

Fragrances can mean many things to the wearer—a memory of an evening, a historical note, a feeling.

Kelli Stanley uses fragrances to establish a mood or a character’s personality in her Miranda Corbie novels, which are set in San Francisco during 1940, the time when war was raging in Europe but the US had yet to enter the battle.

In City of Sharks, private detective Miranda is interviewing potential client Louise Crowley, who is the assistant to ruthless publisher Niles Alexander. One of the first things Miranda asks is if Louise wears perfume.

Louise answers, “Mr. Alexander prefers me not to. He said—he said it distracts him when I take dictation.”

Miranda: “What about when you’re not taking dictation? Shalimar? Joy? Shocking, perhaps?”

Louise: “I wear Fleurs de Rocaille.”

So based on that short exchange, I had to know more about Fleurs de Rocaille.

According to Lucky Scent (my go-to site for all things perfume), Fleurs de Rocaille de Caron was created in 1933. It is a “a joyful, floral, impulsive perfume, which remains one of High Perfumery's great successes.”

Its notes, Lucky Scent states, are rose, jasmine, violet, lily of the valley, Aldehyde, musk, cedar, sandalwood, oak moss.

Later in City of Sharks, Miranda attends a party where “her nose wrinkled at the unholy amalgamation of Shalimar, Joy, and Tabu.”

This isn’t the first time Stanley has used fragrance in the Miranda Corbie novels.

In City of Ghosts, Miranda worries that she is down to her last bottle of Vol de Nuit, and she knows that there will be no more shipments of the perfume until the war is over.

Vol de Nuit is an apt perfume for WWII. Produced by the house Guerlain, Vol de Nuit was created in 1933 as a tribute to flight, celebrating the novel of the same name by pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Air France. The fragrance Vol de Nuit celebrated courage, according to Guerlain.