Confession time. I love paranormal romance, but I can’t seem to write that kind of book. My love stories, full of romance and passion—not to mention sex and humor—depend only on the magic of love itself. That condition wherein a man and a woman discover that they are made for each other.
That moment of recognition between a man and a woman is true magic. Anyone who has felt it will tell you that. For most people, love comes softly, grows slowly and steadily, and bursts into bloom.
But for some, true love occurs in an instant. I know many couples who have been married for scores of years who said they took one look and knew in that instant that they were going to marry that person.
Head Over Heels in Love at First Sight
Every culture has an expression meaning love at first sight. In Italy, they call it colpo di fulmine which, roughly translated, means struck by a lightning bolt. That’s what it feels like.
Does love at first sight really exist? Or is it a figment of our collective imagination? I think it exists, and there may be a sound physiological reason for love at first sight.
Exploring Love at First Sight
For my Valentine romantic comedy Scents and Sensuality, I did a lot of research about the Science of Smell in relation to Sex Appeal because the heroine, Amanda, is a perfumer by trade. I’ve always been fascinated by smell. Maybe it’s because I had a mother who wore the most wonderful perfume. I can remember thinking she smelled better than any person I knew. When she hugged me, this wonderful fragrance wrapped us in its embrace.
I couldn’t pronounce the name of my mother’s perfume then. I can now, but I won’t be purchasing a bottle anytime soon. Mom’s fragrance was by Lucien LeLong. The parfum came in a bottle as beautiful as the smell. Recently, I priced it online and was dismayed to discover it was $250.00 for a quarter ounce.
Maybe that memory created my love for fine perfumes and my interest in the science of smell.
Smell: Primitive and Powerful
Smell is the most primitive of all our senses. We inhale and odor molecules float into our noses, traveling back to the nasal cavity behind the bridge of the the nose. There, those odor molecules get absorbed by mucosa containing receptor cells on which there are microscopic hairs called cilia. About 5 million of these receptor cells fire impulses to the olfactory bulb, or smell center, in the brain.
If you kill a brain neuron, it won’t re-grow. Neither will cells in the eyes or ears, but you grow new nasal neurons about every month. These neurons wave in the air like anemones in the ocean. When your olfactory bulb detects something, it signals your cerebral cortex and sends a message straight into your limbic system, that primitive, emotional part of the brain that houses your feelings—your desires.
Smell: The Different Sense
If a visual stimulation occurs, your brain immediately starts trying to process what you saw. The same thing occurs if you hear something. Your brain goes to work immediately to interpret the sound. That doesn’t happen when you smell something. You don’t need your brain to do anything. What you smell creates an immediate effect that needs no translation, thought, interpretation, or anything. The primitive part of your brain reacts immediately. You react immediately.
This is why you can smell something and immediately be transported to your grandmother’s front porch when she served a hot apple pie on a Sunday afternoon. Smell is a sensory time machine. You smell. Bam! You remember an event, and the way you felt during that event. You can see it so clearly. Memories triggered by smell are sharper than other memories.
Love at First Smell
In Scents and Sensuality, heroine Amanda Whitfield, is a perfume designer. What a great career for a romance novel heroine because smell is so closely linked to sexual attraction. Scent goes hand in hand with sensuality. Knowledge of smell and sexual attraction is all about the science of pheromones, those below-consciousness odors we all breathe in without realizing it.
When Amanda explains smell and the science of sex appeal to Harrison, her Mr. Right, I hope you’ll find it as hilarious—and sexy—as I thought it was when I wrote the book. It may not sound romantic, but love at first sight has little to do with sight and much to do with smell.
Since we just had Valentine’s Day, I’m giving away a belated Valentine gift: the audiobook edition of my romantic comedy Old Enough To Know Better. To be entered to win, leave your email address (not as a hot link so you won’t get spammed) with a comment. Comments are open until Feb. 24. The winner will be selected and notified on Feb. 25.
Joan Reeves is a bestselling author of Contemporary Romance whose books are available as Audiobooks (at iTunes and Audible), eBooks (at most major sellers), and Print (coming soon). Visit Joan online at her Website, her blog, or on Twitter @JoanReeves and Facebook.
Look for Joan’s new nonfiction ebook: Little Book of Sunshine: For Readers and Writers, an Attitude Adjustment disguised as a book. Encouragement and Inspiration for only 99cents wherever ebooks are sold. (Okay, maybe not every ebook seller on the planet today, just on Amazon until the others catch up!)