Thursday, October 11, 2012


The Scent of RainThe Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes reading a book is like eating a thick, juicy steak. The language is meaty and rich, the ideas are complex and require some time to be properly digested, and the only other thing you need for a perfect evening is a comfy chair and a glass of good wine.

In between those books, I sometimes find I need a palate cleanser: light, easy reading that takes very little effort or time to enjoy. This book filled that role admirably.

Daphne Sweeten (the sweetly punny last name was a little unnecessary, in my opinion) is a professional scent developer who gave up her dream job in Paris so that she could move with her new husband to Ohio. He left her at the altar, though, so suddenly she's in a new town, with a new job, and no friends. To make matters worse, the stress and humiliation have caused her to lose her sense of smell.

This is classic chick lit with a refreshing perfume-industry angle and a sliver of Christian goodness built in. My last brushes with the perfume industry were the much-darker Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and the delightful non-fiction tome The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, both of which I highly recommend.

I'm going to take this opportunity to brag about my blog post title, and to express my disappointment that the word petrichor did not appear anywhere in this book.  If you're not familiar with it, click here.  I'll wait.  Then you can say, "Oh, ha, I see what she did there."

The Scent of Rain does not deal with scents or science in any great detail, but its treatment seemed informed without being overdone, so my mild interest in the subject matter was satisfied.  For 85% of the book, I felt the same way about the religion.  Without the Christianity angle, I might be skeptical that a group of strangers would pitch in to refurbish a dangerously decrepit house for the new girl in town. But it's a church group, being encouraged by the pastor's wife, so it fits the story just fine.  I appreciated that, because overt religion in fiction frequently feels heavy-handed and wholly unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the book went on to prove my point.  The last few pages are forced and do the rest of the book an injustice.  First, there's a hospital scene where the book's Mean Girl gets all weepy and repent-y because good girl Daphne visits her.  I don't disallow that being in a car accident can cause you to rethink your life, but I found her 180-degree turnaround and teary confession to a bitter enemy a little difficult to swallow.  Second, although the love story had a long, slow, fairly believable buildup, the climactic scene where Daphne and the reticent widower realize they have feelings for each other ends with [mild spoiler alert!] the widower proposing marriage and offering to move to Paris with her.  I think a more appropriate question would have been, "Hey, would you like to have dinner with me sometime?"  Not that everyone has to follow conventional dating structure, but proposing to someone you've never dated seemed a little crazy to me.  Especially when, you know, she just got left at the altar by another guy a few months before.  Maybe give her a little time to make sure she's worked through all of that?

Speaking of the ex-fiancé, whom we never meet, I was left with some minor confusion about him. When Daphne moves to Dayton, she tells the widower that her ex is "a brilliant chemist."
She turned in her seat to face Jesse, who looked skeptical. "He really is. But he grew up poor, and he had this deep need to follow the money."
A couple of chapters later, we are reminded of his brilliance by Daphne's best friend.
He may have been a brilliant chemist, but there are laws for a reason. He always thought himself above the rules.
So, I may not know much about the ex-fiancé, but I do know he's a brilliant but unscrupulous chemist. Got it. But then!
Mark was a terrible chemist... He wasn't careful about ratios, not until he understood that ratios and chemistry could make him wealthy.
At first I was confused about whether he was a brilliant chemist or a terrible one.  Then I realized he was a terrible chemist until his greed made him brilliant.
Was his last name Burns?  That would be another suitably punny last name...

Just like I was a terrible writer until I got greedy and wanted people to read my writing. Now that I have a blog, I am brilliant.

Please feel free to agree with me by commenting below.

Disclosure: I received this book free through  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Lauren said...

how do u discern which books will work as a palate cleanser? do you finish those books that never pique your interest?

Lauren said...

ps. it's sad that i now use u and you interchangably w/out realizing it. :p

Reader One said...

I agree. The solution is to stop using "u" unless you're talking about turning your car around.

Reader One said...

Two really good questions! For me, it's usually a pretty safe bet that anything presenting as chick lit, cozy mystery, or young adult fiction will work as a palate cleanser, so I keep my eyes out for books in those genres that appeal to me for some additional reason (like the scent-chemistry angle here, or like a cozy mystery about book clubs).

I really hate not finishing books I've started, but I also try to be honest with myself about books that are going to make me hate finishing them so much that I'll end up avoiding reading altogether just to avoid having to finish them.

Currently I have 11 books on my unfinished list, which I think is pretty good considering I've been keeping track for just a little under 3 years, and consistently read more than 100 books a year. of those 11, about five are books I just lost interest in after getting more than halfway through, two are trivia/reference books that didn't lend themselves to being read straight through, two are books I have apparently misplaced but will finish when/if I find them, and two are books that I realized almost immediately that I wasn't interested in, and put aside after only a few pages.

Linda Sue said...

you were a brilliant writer before the blog! :)

also, seriously, this book is set in dayton? weird.