1890s New Orleans Magical Realism - Victorian Pharmacy + Greenhouse, Perfume, Badass Women Breaking Down the Patriarchy
I’m a full-time editor for a female travel website. I started writing a number of years ago—then I moved to Paris, wrote part of a novel there, and finished it in 2018. I’m finishing my second novel, inspired by all the thing I love: history, magic, badass women, and perfume.
I currently live in both Southern California and Australia (spending half the year in CA and half the year in AUS).
I love YA—contemporary, historical, magical realism, low fantasy. Anything lyrical!
Some of my favorite books: BONE GAP by Laura Ruby, THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton, THE SCENT KEEPER by Erica Bauermeister, THE LADIES GUIDE TO PETTICOATS AND PIRACY by Mackenzi Lee. Cat Winters is cool, too.
Nothing set in space, no dystopian, zombies, dragons
When 17-year-old Effie Castellano’s father dies and bequeaths La Pharmacie Française to her, she becomes the only woman operating a pharmacy in New Orleans. However, it’s in financial ruin, and the bank threatens to seize everything, which would leave Effie, her bedridden mother, and disabled uncle on the streets.
It’s 1897, and the city is rife with yellow fever, yet a more pernicious disease plagues it: one of intolerance. Effie’s best friend, Nell Watson, is struggling with her own identity as her father forbids a relationship with her estranged grandmother, Madame Dubois, a Vodou priestess.
Effie finds an unusual seed tucked away in the apothecary cabinet and creates a perfume from the resulting bloom—a scent so unique it brings people in droves and transforms the pharmacy’s future virtually overnight.
“It’s a love potion responsible for eliciting your happiest memories!” at least that’s what the newspapers all say. Effie reasons it’s just scent memory. But not everyone is keen; some protesters claim she is a witch, the daughter of Satan himself. Madame Dubois is wary as only she knows those ‘happy memories’ can flip during a full moon, spurring horrific hallucinations, often resulting in death.
Effie knows nothing of this; she doesn’t believe in magic. But Nell does—the trees tell her it’s real—and she must confront her father to understand the truth about her family. But when Effie, her mother, and hundreds of others suffer from severe hallucinations, some perishing, she must question everything she’s ever known about magic. And Nell must choose between addressing her feelings for Effie or living under the shadow of her father forever.
Scents are a wild and whimsical thing. They can capture time; they can capture a place; they can capture a person—the one thing they cannot do is discern. Scents do not care if they remind you of the day your twin siblings were stillborn, or if they fill you with complete and utter bliss of a shocking first kiss. Scents just are.
“Ophelia, do you remember what was in this?” Theodore walked over to his daughter behind the counter and passed her a brown bottle. She looked up from the journal she was reading and inhaled deeply. Familiar scents flooded her nostrils and lit up in her mind—cassia, angelica root, orange peel, peppermint leaves, and the sting of alcohol.
Either Theodore had forgotten to label the bottle, or it had fallen off, which was one of the most dangerous things that could happen in the pharmacy. It wasn’t one of the studded blue bottles, fortunately, those were purposely poised on the top shelf to denote their poisonous substances.
“Cassia, orange peel, peppermint…” she inhaled once more, “Zedoary and galanga.” There was an assortment of other herbs in it, but Effie already knew what it was. She had a peculiar way of remembering certain days by their aromas, recalling memories as long as she could smell something from that time—and in turn, she could identify ingredients in elixirs she had once learned to make. “It’s a Stomach Bitters.”
“Amazing. It’s truly a gift the way you do that.”
“You’re the one that taught me all about scent memory.”
“Yes, but now you’re better at it than I.”
“I remember the day you taught me to make that concoction is all.” This particular one was from the digestive aid lesson, as well as which elixirs mix well to produce a more pleasant taste. She was fond of this memory from nearly seven years ago, soon after she had started to learn the apothecary trade. She didn’t mind the smell of most bitters, but there were other scents she purposely tried to purge from her memory.
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Happy writing and CPing!