Scent is an important part of one of Lilac Girls’ most attractive characters, Paul Rodierre, Caroline Ferriday’s love interest in the book, inspired by her former real-life relationship. To help help create the character of Paul, I used three wonderful French men for inspiration: Alain Delon, Olivier Giroud and Romain Duris. In the novel, Paul, a French actor, is known as The World’s Most Handsome Man, something they actually had at the time. The scent had to live up to this (sadly, fictitious) person.
When I realized during final edits that the scent I’d chosen for Paul, Clive Christian No. 1, was not available in 1939 I had to choose another. Only problem was, most of the scents popular in the thirties and forties are no longer produced. It also had to be a scent available in the United States at the time, since in the book Paul Rodierre lives in New York City.
Luckily, Raffy Perfumery has recreated several once-popular fragrances from the Crown Perfumery Company, long out of production. I contacted them and ordered samples of three of their top vintage men’s scents: Marquis, Sumare and Eau de Russe.
Once the samples arrived I tried them, giving each one a chance to get comfortable on my skin and open up. I knew right away I had a clear winner, since I couldn’t get enough of one of the scents. I then asked each of my three adult children to choose their favorite. Two chose the same one I did and my eldest daughter was initially torn but soon came over to our side.
The winner was Sumare, a heady, leather fragrance with citrus and woody notes. Recently, I anointed my husband’s pulse points with a few dabs of Sumare and a few minutes later he put his nose to the inside of his wrist and said “I think I’m falling in love with myself” The perfect scent for The World’s Most Handsome Man.