The sweet smell of gardenias…or not

In case you missed the big 25 author scavenger hunt last week, I thought I’d post my funny story from that even here for your enjoyment.

Making gardenia perfume, OR: Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work!

EPSON MFP image   Reading in front of bushIn the picture on the left, little Louise (me) is standing in front of a gardenia bush out of season. (It was square dance season.) On the right, my brother is reading under a gardenia bush in full bloom.

When I was in first grade, we had eighteen gardenia bushes growing outside our family home near Theodore, Alabama. Since then, the fragrance of the blossoms has been a favorite of mine, so much so that I often create heroines whose perfume of choice is gardenia. Eleven years ago, my husband and I moved to a home that had a well-rooted gardenia bush that blossoms prolifically every April and May. What a treat this is to me each year!

In my brand new release, Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion (October 2017 LIH), my heroine grew up making her own perfume from gardenias that grew outside her home in 1870s and 80s New Orleans. I decided to give it a try myself. I found a recipe online ( and carefully followed directions. All pictures are my property and subject to copyright laws.

Gathering ingredients and tools. Mashing blossoms. Adding odorless alcohol and spring water.

1 Picking blossoms 3 Assembled Ingredients 5 mashed blossoms 9 Add distilled water

Let sit 48 hours. Strain through cheese cloth. Test the fragrance.

Finished product2

Well, phooey! The finished product didn’t smell pleasant at all, but rather just like musty leaves. I had tried 80 proof alcohol that first time, so after picking more blossoms and repeating the process, I used 100 proof alcohol (the recipe suggests vodka). Neither worked. By then all of my gardenia blossoms were gone for the year. My attempt to make perfume just as a lady of the 1880s might have done just didn’t work out. What secrets did she have that I wasn’t privy to?

IMG_1419  IMG_1420

In the meantime, I tried using gardenia scented essential oils mixed with unscented alcohol. Bingo! It worked, giving off a lovely fragrance. This small amount should last me until next spring. In the meantime, I may continue to research this and try again next year when our bush blooms again. After all, I want to make perfume the old-fashioned way. Why? Just for fun!

CLCR CoverHere’s the story of my perfume lady and her beau:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.
The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love.

Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises.

® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

About Louise M. Gouge

Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical romance fiction, receiving the prestigious IRCA in 2005 and placing as a finalist in 2011, 2015, 2016, and 2017. When she isn't writing, she and David, her husband of fifty-plus years, enjoy visiting historical sites and museums. Please visit her Web site at Twitter: @Louisemgouge
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