Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Marie Laval

My Wednesday's Writer is the hugely talented Marie Laval and I know you'll love what she has to say, so no more from me.  Let me hand you straight over to Marie.

Thank you so much Lynette for welcoming me on your blog today to talk about my second historical romance, THE LION’S EMBRACE, which was released by MuseitUp Publishing last month.

Little Time Bubbles

As writers we know how important it is to use the five senses - sight, smell, taste, touch and sound - to bring scenes and characters to life and immerse the reader in the story. The sense of smell is, I think, the most magical, powerful and nostalgic of all senses. A fleeting, ephemeral scent can make us travel back in time and bring people and emotions back to life - if only for a few seconds. It can make us smile or cry, it can be soothing or reopen old wounds. 

There are scents many of us can identify and relate to. A writer uses scents to give the reader a better, more intense feel for a particular place, time or scene. Some smells may be a little 'cliché' but still work: the smell of burning leaves which reminds us of autumn; orange peel, cinnamon and clove take us back to winter and Christmas whereas freshly-cut grass evokes spring and summer. As for flowers and plants, many readers will know the scent of roses, lilac, wisteria, lilies, to name but a few. A scene describing a walk in the countryside will feel more real if it includes scents, for example woods carpeted with wild garlic and bluebells or with damp, rotten leaves; a deep forest of fir trees with pine needles on the ground; the scent of grass and earth after a spring shower...

To help make characters unique and bring them to life we often give them a unique fragrance. As I mainly write historical romances I do confess to a predilection for certain fragrances such as sandalwood shaving soap for my hero (I do love the warmth and spice of sandalwood), and vanilla, rose, jasmine or orange blossom for the heroin. In THE LION’S EMBRACE, Harriet Montague’s favourite soap is a Damascus rose-scented soap – which incidentally is one of my favourite too! -  and in my current work in progress, my heroine is very liberal in her use of her orange blossom cologne, which in the cold, bleak Scottish winter reminds her of her native village in the Sahara.

Other distinctive scents can also help define a character, for example tobacco, cigarette and cigar smoke which cling to their clothes, or the smell of brandy, whisky or mint pastilles which lingers on their breath. And let's not forget leather...

Both the reader and the writer call on their own experiences to remember the scents described or mentioned in a story. And where the reader has no experience of a particular scent he or she will have to resort to imagination. After all, vegetation, climate, animals, seasons and festivals, foods and drinks vary greatly across the continents. When writing THE LION’S EMBRACE which is mostly based in North Africa, where I have never been, I had on a few occasions to use my imagination to describe what certain dishes, flowers or animals smelled like if I couldn't find out myself, although I did go to Chester zoo to get an idea about what lions and camels smelled like!

Perfumes can be associated with happy, traumatic or painful memories and the emotions some trigger are so personal they can be difficult to capture and communicate. To this day I cannot be near a woman wearing Guerlain's Shalimar without feeling my heart breaking. It was my mother's favourite perfume.  Ysatis of Givenchy will always remind me of the year I spent in Paris, or should I say of the year I wasted in Paris, trying to be clever and fashionable, and pretend I was someone I wasn't - so no great memories there at all. Food smells are incredibly evocative too. Tomato and garlic sauce, couscous, jam and freshly baked fruit tarts, especially apricots (we had an apricot tree in the garden), will always remind me of home. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear my mother - my wonderful, funny and loving mother - sing off-key in the kitchen.

So fragrances can be like little time bubbles or time machines allowing us to revisit places and moments in time, whether we want it or not. 


Arrogant, selfish and dangerous, Lucas Saintclair is everything Harriet Montague dislikes in a man. He is also the best guide in the whole of the Barbary States, the only man who can rescue her archaeologist father from the gang of Tuareg fighters that has kidnapped him. As Harriet embarks on a perilous journey across Algeria with Saintclair and Archibald Drake, her father’s most trusted friend, she discovers a bewitching but brutal land where nothing is what it seems. Who are these men intent on stealing her father’s ransom? What was her father hoping to find in Tuareg queen Tin Hinan’s tomb? Is Lucas Saintclair really as callous as he claims—or is he a man haunted by a past he cannot forgive? Dangerous passions engulf Harriet’s heart in the heat of the Sahara. Secrets of lost treasures, rebel fighters, and a sinister criminal brotherhood threaten her life and the life of the man she loves.

Does forever lie in the lion’s embrace?


It was a narrow valley where the river curved into a bend, secluded by thick bushes and reeds. After a quick glance around to make sure she was alone, she stripped and walked naked into the water. It was so cold it took her breath away. She gritted her teeth, clutched her bar of soap, and walked into the river until the water reached her hips. Getting rid of the grime and sweat of the past few days was worth the torture…
Holding her breath, she dipped into the water before standing and lathering soap over her body and her hair.
The light was changing. A transparent gold dust touched the hillside, the top of the trees. The sunrise streaked the sky with red, orange, and pink hues, reflecting into the river. She was alone in the world, in a bubble hovering between sky and water.
It was then she heard the growling. Stones tumbled down the hillside seconds before a male lion jumped onto the river bank, sleek and agile. It approached the river and started drinking. It hadn’t seen her. Yet.
Her heart thumping with terror, she ducked under the water very slowly, careful not to make any ripples on the surface. How long would she have to hold her breath? How long did it take a lion to quench its thirst after a night spent hunting? What if it saw her and came after her? Did lions, like cats, hate water? Her lungs started to burn, she felt close to choking. When she couldn’t hold on any longer, she popped her head above the water and took a long, long breath.
The lion had gone.
“You are one lucky woman,” a voice called from the bank.
Still breathless, she spun round. Saintclair crouched near the water, a knife in one hand, a pistol in the other. 
“How l-long have you be-been here?” she stuttered, her teeth chattering from cold and shock.
“Long enough.”
Had he watched her undress and get into the water? Actually, she’d rather not know.
She moved her legs and arms, numb and stiff with cold.
“Is it safe? Has the lion gone?” She looked toward the hillside.
“You’re safe. From the lion, that is.” He narrowed his eyes. “I, on the other hand, might just want to throttle you for disregarding my orders. I knew taking you with us was a mistake. I knew you were stubborn. I didn’t realize just how reckless, how stupid you were. You could have been mauled to death just then.” 
“I handled the lion perfectly well on my own.” She tilted her chin. Her heart had almost stopped with fright, but there was no reason to tell him.
He stood up, put his pistol in the holster on his hip, slid the knife in his boot, and walked toward the edge of the water. His face was so tense, his eyes so steely, that she recoiled. He was going to walk into the river, pull her out and…
“Damn it, woman, you were told not to leave the camp alone. You were warned about lions roaming this area. There are all sorts of dangers here—wild animals, snakes, scorpions.” He looked up towards the hillside. “Raiders.”
She swallowed hard, followed his gaze toward the top of the hills.
He shook his head.
“If that lion hadn’t been so old and half-blind, you wouldn’t be talking to me now.”
“It seemed pretty sprightly to me,” she muttered.
He snorted.
“Get out. You’re freezing, and your lips are blue,” he said without a trace of sympathy in his voice.
She shivered, nodded. “Only if you turn round.”
“It’s a bit late to play the prude,” he muttered, but he obliged and faced the other way.
So he had seen her naked. Well, he wouldn’t see her now. She covered her chest with her arms and walked to the shore. She threw a nervous glance in his direction before stepping out of the water, but he remained immobile, his back to her, as if he had been turned into rock.

More About Marie Laval

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie Laval studied History and Law at university there and developed a passionate interest in historical research and the study of ancient civilizations. The beauty and mysteries of the Sahara desert always fascinated her and provide the background for THE LION’S EMBRACE, a story of adventure and romance set in 1840s Algeria and England. Marie Laval now lives in Northern England with her family.  

THE LION’S EMBRACE is published by MuseitUp Publishing and is Marie Laval’s second novel. Her first novel ANGEL HEART was also published by MuseitUp Publishing.

You can find Marie at

Thank you very much Lynette for welcoming me on your blog today

And thank you, Marie for this interesting post and useful reminder of how to make our writing more immediate for our readers.  Best of luck with this fascinating new release.


Marie Laval said...

Thank you very much Lynette for welcoming me on your blog. I love the photos you have put on! I look forward to reading comments and answering questions, if you have any!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Very cool! How did you develop your love of scents?

Marie Laval said...

Thank you Lyn for visiting. I think we don't always realise how powerful the sense of smell is until we come across at a scent which takes us right back to a certain place, a certain time. It could be freshly baked bread, coffee, a perfume, or the scent of grass being mowed for the first time in the spring time...

Post a Comment