Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly

In Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly a hip NYC perfumer manipulates ingredients (both legal and otherwise) to create scents that trigger memories. Vic now owns Bright House, a small boutique to creates small-batch scents… but he has his own clientele who will pay handsomely to have their needs met. 

A former client comes to him with a job laced with blackmail. Vic realizes that he will be unable to complete the formula on his own, so he enlists the help of a few acquaintances. Using his own blend of sexual manipulation and the weight of good old fashioned American debt, Vic will try to create his most elaborate perfume ever. A scent that will allow anyone to experience an individual memory. 


The writing, the character, the themes. Base Notes is an altogether transformative reading experience. 

The writing: With perfect pacing and expansive research, I read this one in just a couple days making excuses to get back to it over and over again.  

Quick confession: The only scents I knew growing up were my dad’s Old Spice and my mom’s Jean Naté. Somehow I picked up a bottle of Drakkar in my teen years. I still have it and once in awhile I’l put some on just to hear my wife yell, “What the hell is that smell!?!?!”

It goes without saying that Donnelly’s narrative expanded on significantly on my knowledge of the science and art of creating these scents. Vic spends a good amount of time working on the different parts of his perfumes, their notes and complexities. As an added bonus, each chapter begins with a fragrance pyramid, the layers of notes you will encounter…

The Characters: The story is told by Vic as he looks back at this time in NYC from somewhere in the future. He spends his time racing all over Manhattan to try to keep this game going. He needs to expand his business, yet at the same time keep up with his special projects. One by one he uses his sexuality as a tool to take advantage of others. And when anyone tries to dig, to really get to know him, poof, he switches gears and it’s back to business. A hard character to like, but one that the author’s words helped me understand. 

The Themes: Everyone likes a challenge. Especially if it’s connected to our passions. And once Vic gets his new assignment, he knows that he has to get the others on board… an engaged couple who are riddled in debt and a barber whose shop may be taken out from under him. Vic believes he can be the puppet master… but will this show collapse under the weight of his lies?

An incredible read. 

5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Megan Beatie Communications, Thomas and Mercer, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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