REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley.

Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been high for a while due to Édouard’s distaste for Bastien’s sexuality. When this causes Bastien to move out, the gulf between Clémentine and Édouard seems insurmountable.

Clémentine buries herself in her work, hiring a new shop assistant called Suzanne, but when a high-profile magazine article focusing on Clémentine is published it allows a figure from her past to track her down. Clémentine must learn to come to terms with past mistakes and tackle the problems in her marriage to allow her to turn and face the future.

The main reason that I requested this book was because of the bisexual representation. As far as I can remember, I haven’t read a single adult novel with a bisexual protagonist before, and I was fascinated to see how Isabel Costello would explore the subject. The answer? With aplomb.

The relationship between Clémentine and Racha is stuffed with desire. The sex scenes fell on the right side of descriptive, focusing more on how the girls feel about each other, and this somehow made the novel even more erotic. There aren’t many sex scenes, and the ones that are included are not overly dwelled upon, so if you’re a reader who doesn’t often pick up erotic novels please don’t let this inclusion put you off.

When Racha reappears, Clémentine is certain that she’s out for revenge. Something terrible happened to Racha which caused the end of their relationship, but Clémentine hasn’t seen her since. She believes Racha has been biding her time, plotting her revenge during the intervening twenty years. There is an element of malice in some of the things Racha says, adding a delectable amount of tension to the story.

This tension combines with the non-chronological timeline to give Scent a perfect pace. Although Costello takes her time lingering over the scents of the perfumes in Clémentine’s shop, building a complex and detailed picture of Paris using the evocative descriptions of the smell of the setting, the majority of this book doesn’t feel slow. My favourite chapters were the ones told in the 90s, when Racha and Clémentine meet and begin falling in love. I found it impossible to put the book down as I couldn’t stop wondering what could happen to cause their relationship to go so terribly wrong.

That being said, things fell apart towards the end of the novel. When the alternating timelines cease, the pace slows down dramatically. I found myself wanting to see more of Clémentine in the fallout of the incident, seeing how she came to terms with the end of her relationship with Racha, and I even wanted to see more from Ludo! It made me wish that this book had been a sequel, so that I could have fully experienced their summer of love and gotten to know these characters more intimately.

However, the ending of the novel does focus more on Clémentine’s relationship with Édouard, so if you’re a fan of domestic dramas centred on marriage and parenthood, this will be right up your alley. The characters are all well-fleshed out, and at times Clémentine’s story feels less like reading fiction and more like talking with a friend. This is achieved by layering up the subplots beautifully: none of them detract from the main plot, but instead they add layer upon layer to the lives of Clémentine and all of the other characters, making them all feel like real people.

I wasn’t impressed with the ending of the story, but I can understand why Costello chose to wrap it up the way that she did. It wasn’t what I personally wanted to happen, but I was satisfied to see Clémentine getting to a point where it looked like her life was taking a turn towards the happier.

All in all, this was a highly enjoyable novel. I’m definitely going to be reading more from Isabel Costello in the future!

Once again, a huge thanks to Muswell Press for allowing me to read and review Scent.

Thank you for checking out my review,