The Smells of Fall By Sandra Bretting

Now that summer is drawing to a close, it’s time to put away the Coppertone suntan lotion, piña colada air fresheners and watermelon popsicles.

Instead, out comes the smells of fall: pumpkin-spice candles; logs burning in a neighbor’s fireplace; a warm apple cobbler bubbling in the oven.

Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy the scent of coconut suntan lotion and salty sea breezes as much as anyone. But to me, summertime smells compel us to go outside—away from our houses—while the smells of fall bring us back home.

Fall to me is the smell of freshly brewed coffee on a crisp morning. A bowl of popcorn buttered and salted right before a football kick-off. A cinnamon stick placed inside a mug of apple cider.

Did you know cinnamon actually is ranked as one of people’s favorite smells? Researchers at Columbia University in New York did a study, and people gave top billing to cinnamon, pine cones, vanilla and cookies. Notice how two of people’s favorite smells (pine cones and cinnamon) tie into fall?

Here’s a fun fact I discovered while looking up people’s favorite smells: while we’ve always assumed our dogs can smell things hundreds of times better than we can, it only applies to certain smells. With some smells, like bananas, people actually scored higher on the sniff test than their canines. (That study appeared last year in Scientific American, by the way.) Who knew?

But lest we get cocky…dogs also can locate a single drop of human sweat if it’s released in a ten-story building, according to a different journal, called Science. Now that’s a sensitive nose!

Unfortunately, the sense of smell sometimes gets short shrift when we talk about fall. Instead, we’ll talk about the way the apple cobbler tastes; or the warmth of our neighbor’s fireplace; or the sound of a crowd roaring during a high-school football game.

But I still enjoy the smells of fall as much as anything else. Each time I write a new book in The Missy DuBois Mystery Series, I place it in a different season, so I can explore the smells around my characters. Since my series takes place in the South, I have lots of references to gardenias, freshly baked beignets and grassy riverbanks. In addition to describing the way these things look, I like to throw in smells like that to give readers a fuller, richer experience.

The next time you walk into a room that’s decorated for fall, I hope you also enjoy the way the place smells. While smell might not be our most favorite sense, it can make our experiences even better. Here’s a picture of my favorite canine companion enjoying the smell of his favorite tennis ball:

Making Southern brides beautiful is top priority for hat designer Missy DuBois, but sometimes her Louisiana studio moonlights as a crime-solving headquarters . . .

While driving to her hat shop, Crowning Glory, Missy accidentally sideswipes a car parked in front of Dogwood Manor, an antebellum mansion being converted into a high-end hotel by the much-reviled property developer Herbert Solomon. Of course, the car is his Rolls Royce. But Solomon is too busy berating his contractor and interior designer to worry about a little fender bender. When Missy returns to check out the mansion’s chapel where her latest client will be married, she finds the developer dead on his property. After an autopsy finds poison in his body, Missy’s shop is then flooded right before it’s supposed to be featured in an article about wedding-veil trends. Now before everything becomes sheer disaster, she’ll have to train her sights on finding a killer . . .