Mar 27 2012 3:00pm

The Chemicals Between Us: Chemistry in Romance

Sweet Enemy by Heather SnowToday 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.

Welcome, Heather!

“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

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Awesome post, Heather! I loved reading about both kinds of chemistry and how they work together in romance and romance novels.

But this chemistry of attraction only gets us so far. It can explain what draws our seemingly disparate characters together.

Right on. This is why I read romance. There are romantic relationships depicted in all sorts of fiction, but it's in romance that you get to the heart--ha--of the stories I'm most interested in: how that instant attraction can lead to love.
Jennifer Green
2. jngreenbean
Great post! Sweet Enemy is in my TBR list precisely because I love the brainy, scientific heroines (Bones, anyone?). This article has bumped it to the top of the list :-)
Suzy Brown
3. Suzy Brown
I was a biochem major, & now am starting my romance career, so this really sang to me. The Jung quote at the top is one I say ALL THE TIME. So naturally, now I love Heather Snow.
Suzy Brown
4. HeatherSnow
@redline Exactly! I may geek out about the brain chemistry stuff, but when it comes down to it, the real romance of it is how these two people connect and STAY together. Thanks for stopping by!
Suzy Brown
5. HeatherSnow
@jngreenbean I LOVE Bones! Ironically enough, my next book SWEET DECEPTION, which comes out August 7, features a Bones type character who gets herself mixed up with a Regency-era James Bond. There's a little murder, mystery and crude forensics (I could only use what they knew in 1817, of course) mixed in with a fabulous romance. I hope readers love it!

Thanks for stopping by!
Marian DeVol
6. ladyengineer
I almost majored in chemistry before switching to electrical engineering. In addition to those you mention, I'd be interested in your take as to how affected humans are to pheromones - or are they what contribute to the immune system's "scent"?

Looks like I'm going to have to check out your books! ;->
Suzy Brown
7. HeatherSnow
@Suzy Brown Aww. I love you too! :) Biochem? (shudders) I loved the subject matter but HATED the tests...I had an evil professor. Evil.

Did you know I modeled Liliana most closely as a pre-bio-chemist? One of the things she's really trying to do is blend chemistry with healing and figure out how it all works together within the body :)

Appreciate you coming by!
Suzy Brown
8. Lege Artis
Wonderfull post, Heather!
I got Sweet Enemy as a present from my boyfriend 'cause heroine has same name as I... :) I loved it. Great debut...
And, yeah... Michael Francis put it in a song:
"Let's build the Taj Mahal of pleasure
Follow the blue print to love's treasure
A formula of science should help us
Crystallize into the chemistry of love"
Suzy Brown
9. jt
I completely knew about pheromones and how they emit this attractive/grotesque scent! I knew my fiance was the one when I would snuggle just to smell him. He always smells so yummy (even after working out) and rarely wears cologne. It's just him!
Sarah Hale
10. shale
As a fellow chemistry major (and history major), I am very intrigued by the premise of your book. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!
denise smith
11. denise226
The sounds really interesting. wonderful post heather cant wait to read it.
Lori Dibert
14. Sonata917
Great post Heather. I have added Sweet Enemy to my wish list and am looking forward to reading it!
Suzy Brown
17. dancer
This sounds like such a great premise for a romance novel. Can't wait to read it!
Debbie ...
18. orchid7
I love it when there is more than just a physical chemistry between the hero and heroine. If there is a big spark between them emotionally, and they are witty and snark at each other often, then there is a much greater chance that I will enjoy the story. Especially if there is a smokin' hot physical reaction between them too.
And make the hero have a hidden vulnerable side? And the heroine have a quick wit? Then you've got me completely hooked!
Thanks for the chance to win.
Virginia Carter
19. GuysGirls3
Sounds excellent! Can't wait to read it!!! Will definitely be on the lookout for it!
Suzy Brown
20. SoccerMomKnits
Can't wait to read this one. Definitely going on my to be read list
Lora Patten
22. LadyRed
I can't wait to get my hands on this book! I love your work!!!
Margie Gagarin
23. greeneyes
Chemistry is very important but I didn't quite look at it in the same way. This gave me something to ponder for a while. Opposites attrack for sure, there's that little piece to find then it grows and can be wonderful! This book sounds Fantastic. Thanks
Jordan Heinlein
25. jheinlein18
I love the combination of science and emotion as an approach to writing! Really interesting :)
Maureen Emmons
26. Maureen
It looks like an interesting story and I think is chemist heroine is great.
 Sandra Spilecki
27. Whitney
Chemistry seems to be the answer in so many ways. Love the idea for this book!
Kathy Fannon
28. Kathy F
Sounds like a fun premise. I would love to read this book and see how Heather incorporates all that technical stuff in a historic setting.
LeAnn Knott
30. knottlady
This book sounds like a good read! Do love the historical settings!!!!
Bella Franco
31. BeguileThySorrow
Awesome post! I myself have a love/hate relationship with those kinds of feelings, because they feel great when it's happenening but really suck when everything falls apart:-/
Lorraine Ochoa
32. MommyWoman
Cool, a romance heroine with a brain, not just breasts, what a lovely change!
Krysten Michelsen
33. krysskross
This sounds super interesting! I'm going to love reading this book! :)
Claire Lyn Saxon
34. cozygram
Interesting info about scents - I have often wondered how story characters seem to be drawn to the special personal scents of their eventual 'true loves' - and perhaps that is why we enjoy close dancing so much more than line or random disconnected partnering. ??? !!
Naomi Krstinic
35. naomikrst
@Orchid7: I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! Everything you mentioned is exactly what I look for in a book and Sweet Enemy looks like it has it all!

Thank you so very much Heather! It looks great and the preview is awesome! I can't wait for the book to come out! Will it be available on Kindle? Please keep them coming..... your writing is amazing, such a gift!
38. laurenkusa
Thought the discussion of science and how it can affect romance was interesting. Looking forward to the book.
Sharyn Lewis
39. SharDan01
I love when you can read a book and get that same "first love" feeling when the characters first kiss or first realize they understand each other.
Lenna Hendershott
40. Glittergirl
This book has intriqued me since I learned about it at Ing's Blog As The Pages Turn. I'd love to win a copy and become a fan!
L Lee
41. lwl8
Sounds very interesting, I love smart heroines. Would love to win a copy of the book.
Ronni Graff
42. ronnig
As a CPA/MBA who started out as premed, I say, "Bring on the brainy gals like your lady chemist!" Show the dashing, but slightly chauvinist Alpha guys that a woman's place isn't only in the home/kitchen/bedroom, but also the lab, university, workplace, etc. You go girl!
Suzy Brown
43. smfsprout
I'd love to read about a really smart lady and the man who is not intimidated by her brains. Bring it on!
Diane Sallans
44. Di
I love this idea of a female chemist - I'm very curious to see how that is used in the story
Lucinda Canterbury
45. Lucinda0119
I love tbe different twist of this book. The story of a lady chemist in a romance novel
Patti P
46. musicalfrog
This one is already on my wish list.
Thanks for the post I really enjoyed reading it.
musicalfrog at comcast.net
Kimberley Coover
48. KimberleyC
Great interview. I have added this book to my TBR list. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!
51. kochouran
I love reading articles behind the "science of attraction" because it's the only way I can make sense of the emotions of being in love (I'm a biochemist, an overly analytical yet romantic one at that). A lot of my friends write off romance novels as vapid and unrealistic, but you've shown that the familiar tropes have roots in biology, psychology, and sociology.
arlynnette smith
52. aesmith2689
Interesting post! I'm always looking for new additions to my "favorite authors" list and it's always nice to read stories where the woman is as smart or smarter than the male character.....as someone who is slightly smarter than the average bear, i especially like stories where the man is equally attracted to intellegence as he is to other attributes. Is the male character attracted to the heroine because of her smarts or in spite of it? I can't wait to read it!
Sharon Rammage
53. rammages
Can't wait to read it. Everyone wants that special someone.
54. yohanna
This sounds like a great read. I am so glad to see an original and different storyline. Thanks for the chance to win.
Emiley Allen Bowes
55. nanaemmy
nanaemmy@yahoo.com know chemistry can attract, even opposites can be overpowered by that certain, unexplainable zing. I would love to have a copy.
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