I said I had something exciting for this week and here it is: the cover of my new novel Scent, which will be published in the UK on 1 April 2021. I am absolutely thrilled with it and very grateful to talented designer Jamie Keenan and my publishers Sarah Beal and Kate Beal at Muswell Press for all the patience and commitment that went into the process. My taste always leans towards a clean and minimal look, but we all know how hard a cover has to work to catch the eye and convey the story in an instant. We’ve really had fun working together to achieve that and I can’t wait to hear what it says to you!
This post includes the ‘back of book’ blurb, an early endorsement from Catherine McNamara, whose writing I admire immensely and, for the first time, the opening pages of Scent (Apologies that it’s beyond me to retain the manuscript formatting – I have tried.) Huge thanks to my agent Diana Beaumont at Marjacq and everyone else who has helped bring this novel into being; (the Acknowledgements may end up being the hardest part to write as I only have two pages!) I hope this little taster makes you want to add it to your TBR list for 2021 – if we haven’t met before, you can find out more about me, the blog and my work here.
Scent by Isabel Costello
When Clémentine and Édouard’s last child leaves home, the cracks in their marriage become impossible to ignore. Clémentine’s work as an artisan perfumer is no longer rewarding and her sense of self is withering. Life tilts irreversibly when, decades after the disturbing end of a bisexual love triangle, her former lover Racha resurfaces. But what does she want from Clémentine, if not revenge?
Set in Paris and Provence, this is a captivating and intimate portrait of a woman navigating conflicting desires and a troubled past whilst dreaming of a fulfilling future.
Catherine McNamara on Scent
“Costello introduces an array of characters in a Paris that is fluid, contemporary and flawed, conveying a limpid understanding of the fault-lines and friction within relationships.”
Opening pages of Scent
At times like this, I take comfort in the fact I’ve never loved Édouard. I knew it all along but have never been one to dwell on uncomfortable truths. Frankly, I don’t know what I’ve been thinking for most of our time together. More than half my life. My husband chose me like an item on display, fresh but far from innocent. In fairness, I was willing. I’d seen where love could lead and I never wanted to go there again. When today’s magazine interview comes out, thousands of people will see inside our home and my perfume shop. They’ll look at my clothes, the pictures on our walls, maybe squint at the spines of our books. They’ll think they know about my life, and they’ll be wrong.
I keep fiddling with my hair, debating whether to wear it up or down for the photos. For once Édouard is looking at me. Before I can even attempt to decode his expression, he says, ‘You know, in your line of work certain things could be seen as an investment.’ Our eyes meet and part in the mirror but I don’t release my grip; if anything, it tightens. Without intending to, I’ve been pulling my hair so hard that my face has lost most of its lines, my eyes wide and bright against the unfamiliar smoothness of my skin. It takes years off, just like that. If Édouard had never found me beautiful we wouldn’t be here, but what can you do?
Not what he was suggesting, that much I know. His tone offends me more than anything: studiously uncritical, bordering on sympathetic, as if he thinks I’m seeking his blessing. And so fucking euphemistic – if we’re talking about taking a knife to my face, he should have the balls to say so. I don’t react but the laser-like quality of the moment lets me see myself, the two of us, as never before. It’s been ten years since I looked like that, five since Édouard and I stopped touching beyond the minimum expected by friends and relatives. Which is to say, five years since my husband stopped touching me. I’m not looking for a consolation prize, but I am looking for something. More than this.
With an exaggerated gesture, I let my hair fall with a rush of relief as the blood returns to my cheeks. Édouard starts to make encouraging noises but it’s like trying to blow up a tyre he’s just slashed. He can think I’m doing this interview for him, if he wants. I’ve never made much effort with publicity and wouldn’t be now if Delphine hadn’t been so persistent, mentioning the idea every time our paths crossed. It’s all the same to me that she’s just married a powerful man Édouard wants in his corner with a crisis looming, but I am impressed by her determination to be her own woman, the only way to embark on marriage to a man with big ambitions. It took me a while to figure that out, but the way they look at each other tells me they have more than time on their side. Every day in Paris carries proof that love exists, in the air, on the streets and behind closed doors. Just not mine.
Yet more good news!
Some readers may notice echoes of the gorgeous cover of my debut novel Paris Mon Amour in the new cover – this is deliberate, as I’m very happy to say that Muswell Press have acquired the rights to that book too and will be re-releasing it to coincide with publication of Scent in April. Thanks to Iain Millar and everyone at my original publisher Canelo for their ongoing support and the invaluable role they played in launching my career as a published author.
As we’re already talking about how brilliant my publishers are, I wanted to tell you that Muswell Press have just launched a writing competition, Queer Life, Queer Love, to produce an anthology in memory of Sarah’s daughter, Lucy-Jack. It’s open to writers aged 16 or over from any country and closes on 31 January 2021. Please help spread the word!