How does your Hero smell?

I know… that’s a horrible title. LOL. It conveys so many negative images, doesn’t it?

What I really want to know is, what –for lack of a better word – smell or scents do you use to describe your male characters?

I’ve read heroes defined as smelling like sandalwood, natural musk, earthy, woodsy, piney, and like leather. Okay. So he smells like he’s been tramping about in the woods or forest. These are okay descriptions for lumberjacks and Men in Kilts.   I’ve also read descriptions stating the hero smelled like cigarettes, booze, hay, horse sweat, and even “like a farm.” None of those descriptions made me want to jump into fictional bed with the guy.

I read a very old romance novel once that said this: His clothes had the odor of the fish he’d caught that day on them. Right away I knew I wasn’t going to finish this book. There was no way a hero should smell like stale-or even fresh-fish.


Sensory descriptions are mandatory when you write romance novels. All five of the senses need to be explored. Sight, taste, and touch have their own separate categories and I could blog for days on just those three alone. Sound is also important to put in a narrative or a descriptor. But smell; smell can form an instant recognition and connection of your character with your reader.

Everyone knows what grass, lemons, and the beach smell like. They are sensory memories stored in your brain and olfactory system for life. So if I describe a hero’s aftershave as cool and lemony, you have an immediate reference and knowledge for what it smells like.   If I say my hero brought the smell of fresh cut grass in with him, again, you have an allusion to what I am trying to convey. The line he smelled of sand and sea is fairly synonymous with the fresh smell of a beach. (Note, smelling like the sea is NOT the same as smelling like fish!) These are pleasant scents that, when we read them, elicit pleasant memories.

I’m not big on guys wearing cologne. I’ll put that out there and suffer the wrath of every woman who loves her guy doused in Polo. I tend to favor – and be stimulated by (okay: turned on by!) more natural scents. I love a guy who’s right from a shower and smells clean and fresh; I don’t even mind the normal odor of a sweaty guy – if he’s doing something sporty or physical and working up a nice, decent sweat. This is the smell I usually think of when I hear someone smells manly, or like a man. And there’s something about a guy who’s grilling and the aroma following him that makes my mouth water.

Okay, now that I think about the last one, it could just be the smell of cooked meat I’m getting aroused by.

Speaking of meat, a few years ago there was a study done by some big company about what smell men are most attracted to on a woman. It wasn’t roses, or any kind of flower. It wasn’t the clean, dewy, fresh-out-of-the-bath fragrance either. It was – are you ready for it?- bacon.

I know!

I seems cooking isn’t the only way to a man’s heart. All my single girlfriends out there – invite a guy you like to a meal and then make him something with bacon in it. It’s almost like a guaranteed proposal. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what that proposal should be.

So, when you’re doing due diligence and incorporating those 5 senses into your writing, remember to include something that will stimulate a positive olfactory memory.

And stay away from descriptors for fishy smells.

Best male smell descriptions you’ve ever read…let’s discuss…



Filed under Alpha Hero, Alpha Male, Author, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romance Books

14 responses to “How does your Hero smell?

  1. my guy(hero) smells like coming home..:)
    And your title attracted me..:D


  2. Mary Gillgannon

    When I use scent/taste words for men I tend to use vague but evocative (to me) words. I just wrote a scene love scene where the heroine describes the hero’s taste as “dark, mysterious and male”. He’s a blue-eyed blond Viking so the dark refers to a mood rather than color. And what does “male” smell like? Well, I think most women have a scent memory that works.

    But you’re right. It’s hard to do in a way that is realistic and romantic. I used the scents of leather and soap and referred to “musky scent of arousal”, and “the smell of their sex” afterwards. Because it’s hard to describe pheromones and that’s partly what you’re talking about here.

    There’s all kinds of studies about scent and sexual attraction. For one thing, researchers have found that we tend to choose partners whose immune systems are different than ours (which helps our offsprings’ genetic diversity) and they think we do it by scent. And women are attracted to different male scents depending on whether they’re ovulating or not. So some of it is evolutionarily driven.

    But a lot of it is memory. They say scent evokes memories more than any other sense. So we probably imprint early on in adolescence what we think of as an attractive male scent. For some that may be aftershave. My father wore aftershave, but it never appealed to me when the guys I dated wore it and I married a man who never wears it. So maybe that’s me seeking someone different than my father and expanding the gene pool.

    Fascinating topic, Susabelle, and one I’ve spent too much time on. This is why I have to be careful about reading blog posts! Especially yours!


  3. Loved this post! I tend to use words like fresh and spicy when I describe my hero. His sweater also smells like clean cotton or linen. One of my elderly but spry characters smells like Old Spice. It can be difficult to describe scent on guys, but it’s also fun to explore the possibilities – barring fish, of course. Eww! 😉

    Great subject!


  4. Sandra Dailey

    I most enjoy making up scents for my bad guys: A mean old lady who smells like cat litter, or a lecherous man who smells like a locker room after football practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Peggy Jaeger

    Sandra- I can “See” everyone of those people just by the scents you gave them. Bravo!!


  6. I don’t think I describe how my heroes smell very often. If I do, it is related to their work (he smelled like bacon!) or I refer to male smells like “woodsy” or “piney” or “clean.” I am more likely to describe the smell of my heroines. “She smelled like fresh air and surf” or “she smelled like rain.” I agree, though, smell is just as important as other senses and we shouldn’t leave it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peggy Jaeger

    You know what’s funny, Susabelle? When I think of “piney” for a description of a scent, I always think of Lysol, so the deep woods reference is lost on me!!! lol


    • Haha!! Well, I spend a lot of time in the piney mountainy woods of the Rockies, and I ca tell you, piney smells like CHRISTMAS TREES! Last Monday I tool a well-deserved day off and headed uphill to spend time in my favorite place, and I wasn’t half a mile into the mountains when I was smelling that wonderful scent. It is very clean, earthy, and wonderful!

      Then there’s bacon. Yummo, bacon!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Peggy Jaeger

    bacon…does it every time, doesn’t it!


  9. Pingback: How does your heroine smell? | Peggy Jaeger

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