Today we welcome author Heather Snow to HeroesandHeartbreakers! Heather’s Sweet Enemy, a historical romance novel, is out now and features a heroine who is a chemist—as Heather once was! Thanks to Heather for offering her own chemical romance. Check at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of Sweet Enemy.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” —Carl Jung
I am a person of two minds. I always have been. So it’s no wonder that this historical romance author chose to study Chemistry at university. If you look “chemistry” up in the dictionary, you get these two distinctly different definitions: 1) The scientific study of structure, properties and reactions of the chemical elements and the compounds they form and 2) the interaction of one personality with another. Can’t get any more diverse than that, can you? I mean, one really doesn’t have anything to do with the other.
Or does it?
I haven’t been in a lab in years, but I’ve recently been fascinated by all of the studies coming out about the brain chemistry of love. I mean, have you ever looked at a particular couple and on the surface wondered what they possibly saw in each other? Or, have you ever been unaccountably attracted to another person, but for the life of you, not been able to figure out why? Or, on the flip side, met someone who on every level would seem to be the perfect match for you, but there’s just no spark there, no matter how much you may wish it otherwise?
Apparently, that all has to do with chemistry of the first kind.
For example, did you know that, like fingerprints, we each have our own unique scent? And what’s more, scientists are learning that our subconscious sense of smell plays a major part in who we choose as our mates? Humans literally sniff out genetic compatibility with a potential partner. The best way to explain it is that we can subconsciously smell another person’s immune system, and will be attracted to a person whose genes are most different from our own—thus ensuring that our children will have great immunity coverage. Even if that person is wrong for us in every other way. Gives an entirely different meaning to “opposites attract,” doesn’t it?
Of course, when we meet that perfect mate, we don’t know that we’re naturally trying to ensure the survival of our species by producing strong, healthy children. We only know that, mmmm…they smell divine.
Another, seemingly obvious, part of attraction is touch. Have you ever met someone who didn’t attract you, but an accidental touch suddenly opened your eyes to them in a whole new way? Human touch, particularly in women, releases a hormone called oxytocin into our bodies. When combined with estrogen, oxytocin creates a desire to be penetrated…and we all know what that leads to ;). Oxytocin is also known as “the cuddle hormone.” It’s the same that is flooded through a new mother’s body to bond her to her newborn. It creates feelings of strong attachment and satisfaction that, combined with the other hormones that flow through our brains during the early stages of lust, can push us over the threshold to love. And if you follow that lust to its natural conclusion, orgasm causes oxytocin levels to spike three to five times higher, further bonding you to that person. In fact, Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist from Rutgers University says, “Having sex can trigger love—probably because after orgasm, there’s a peak in dopamine activity. So watch out if you casually bed down with someone—you might unintentionally fall for them.”
Or how about when you are in the beginning stages of a relationship and your perfectly rational, level headed personality changes into someone even you don’t recognize, and instead you find yourself quite “crazy in love.” Chemistry can explain that, too. During the early stages of lust, infatuation and romantic love, our brain chemistry becomes quite literally like one suffering from addiction…or mental illness.
Yes, you heard me right. Studies have shown that when humans first fall in love, our brains release dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine in great amounts…which in laymen’s terms basically mean falling in love is like a natural cocaine high, producing elation, intense energy/sleeplessness, feelings of craving for that other person, loss of appetite and focused attention. Why else can we stay up all night talking to that special someone, then bounce into work the next day, still walking on a cloud, just to turn around and stay up all night talking to them again? The serotonin levels in our brains fall to about 40% lower than normal—the same level as people diagnosed with OCD—which is also why we seem to “obsess” about our new love.
Does any of this sound familiar? If not from your own life, then from your favorite romance novels? The hero who can’t get the heroine’s scent out of his memory—maybe even smelling her when she’s not even in the room. The heroine who holds a hero in contempt, until she accidently falls against him and that innocent touch awakens desire. The hero who sleeps with a woman he’s attracted to, thinking it’s just sex, but finds himself falling hard. The bluestocking who never wanted to marry who suddenly finds herself obsessing over entirely the wrong sort of man.
Romance authors work hard to create love stories that feel authentic when you read them. Not all of them dig into brain chemistry studies to inform their writing, as I do, but you can be certain they’ve studied body language, or the twelve stages of intimacy, or some other path to the same place. We want to create stories that readers really feel.
But this chemistry of attraction only gets us so far. It can explain what draws our seemingly disparate characters together. And here is where the chemistry of the second kind comes in, and where the real work of writing a romance begins. You take these two opposite people and dig into their souls to find the things they have in common, the wounds each carry, they way that they can help, heal, and make each other a better person…and you help them find it, too.
“The Chemist who can extract from his heart’s elements compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise and forgiveness and compound them into one can create that atom which is called Love...” —Kahlil Gibran
So you see, it takes both kinds of chemistry to create a really good love story. Maybe being of two minds about things isn’t all that bad…
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Heather Snow is a historical romance author with a degree in Chemistry who discovered she preferred creating chemistry on the page rather than in the lab. Her debut novel, Sweet Enemy, features a Regency-era lady chemist who goes undercover as a husband-hunter to discover who murdered her father, and was released in February 2012 as part of the Veiled Seduction Series, featuring science-savvy heroines and a touch of mystery. Find out more at www.HeatherSnowBooks.com or connect with Heather at www.facebook.com/AuthorHeatherSnow and www.twitter.com/HeatherSnowRW