Shortly after her divorce, advertising executive Lila Nova purchases her first plant. It's a bird-of-paradise, and the seller is David Exley, a rugged country-sexual, who seems to promise a paradise of his own making. Lila is immediately obsessed - with plants and with the man who sells them - but when David introduces her to the myth of the nine plants of desire, and when she meets a man named Armand who claims to own the nine plants, her obsession reaches unexpected heights.
Evangeline grows up understanding the extraordinary effects of fragrance. Her grandmother Louise is a gifted aromata, a master of scent-making and perfume. When Eva was a girl, Louise carefully explained that lavender under her pillow would make her dream of the man she would marry; eucalyptus would make her taller; almandine, fatter; and jasmine, Louise promised, would wrap her life in a mystery. When Eva is eighteen, Louise leaves her the ultimate gift - a scent created just for her.