Published by Katherine Tegen Books on 10/27/16
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Paranormal
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs
Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.
At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.
This utterly unique book would best be described as magical realism: It’s a perfect blend of contemporary romance and a fantastical twist, which makes it appealing to fans of multiple genres (because it never really goes too far in either direction).
The synopsis describes the book well, so I’m going to jump straight to my review!
What Fed My Addiction:
- Everything described in smells. I thought I might get a bit tired of this, but I didn’t at all. Absolutely everything that happens in this book has an olfactory description because that’s how Mim experiences the world. She recognizes emotions through smells (which definitely helps in her line of work), and she recognizes a person’s scent (and, often, an object’s too). I loved imagining how Mim “sees” the world and the descriptions really helped me experience her perspective!
- An adorable romance. If you love a sweet romance with minimal angst (which I definitely find refreshing sometimes), this is the book for you! That doesn’t mean that there weren’t obstacles or conflict in the romance, but this is an overall light read that will just plain make you happy! The love interest is sweet and an all-around great guy, and I couldn’t help but hope that he and Mim would work things out and end up together in the end.
- Complex familial relationships. I understood why Mim was hesitant to tell her mom the truth about what was going on, but since she was playing with other people’s lives, I kind of wished that she’d been more responsible about admitting to her mistakes. But, then again, the way this story developed is probably a lot more true to life than a good girl character who is wholly and completely good. Mim makes mistakes. Her mom makes mistakes. Their relationship is a bit messy at times, and the relationship with Mim’s aunt is even more so. Still, the book shows us how family relationships can be imperfect and still be based on love.
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Tell the truth! Like I said earlier, I wished that Mim would have been a bit more honest about everything since there were people’s lives hanging in the balance. But I get why Mim hid the truth for so long.
This creative tale was chock-full of adorable! I give it an enthusiastic 4/5 stars!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (and a physical copy via the YA Fandom Frenzy @ Anderson’s Bookshop) in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
My name is Stacey Heather Lee and I write young adult books. I’ve dreamed of writing books for a living since I was nine, when I penned my first children’s novel. For four years, I labored to type it on the family Smith Corona (that’s a typewriter, kids). Each time I made a typo, I would retype the whole page. By the time I finished, my fingers flew at 120 wpm. The book became a bestseller amongst my stuffed animals, and baby, I was on my way!
But before I could write for the un-stuffed crowd, I had to make several stops in the real world. Hi Mom and Dad! I studied, got degrees, and earned paychecks. In my spare time, I continued writing. Several years later, I got a wonderful agent, and now I write even when I’m sleeping. I hope you will enjoy browsing my website. All are welcome, stuffing and all.
I am a fourth generation Chinese-American. A native of southern California, I graduated from UCLA then got my law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in Silicon Valley for several years, I finally took up the pen because I wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. I play classical piano, raise my two children together with my supportive husband, and write YA fiction.
What a unique concept! Mim’s talent is definitely something new and different and the way she experiences things would definitely be interesting. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of magical realism but with the mix of a sweet romance and realistic family relationships has me intrigued. Great review, Nicole!
This one reads a lot like a sweet YA romance with the paranormal side feeling almost realistic. I think it will appeal to a lot of people.
Great review! I’ve been seeing stuff about this book here and there and I’m really interested to read it. I think it’s so cool that everything is described with scent. I think smell is the most underutilized sense in writing. I do, however, hate when characters lie about stuff–especially when people’s lives are in danger. As a very straightforward person, it is one of my pet peeves in literature, so I am glad to have the warning.
I suppose I should point out that it wasn’t their actual lives in danger—just their love lives. Still, the stakes were high. 🙂
Thanks for sharing! I like the idea of magical realism, but I don’t know if I’ve read a book that falls under the genre…interesting premise here though!
I’m not sure if the the publisher has labeled it magical realism, but that’s the genre that I felt fit it best. Definitely seems to fit.
AGREE with all the things! I understood why Mim did what she did too- and I can’t even really explain WHY I didn’t give it a full 5 stars. (Because I said so isn’t good enough? 😉 ) But seriously, SUCH a cute book! I am so glad you liked it too, great review!
Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on the difference between a four and five star book except that it just didn’t make you feel that special something.
Yes. Yes. Yes. I loved this story, especially all of the smells. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.
I’m glad you loved it too!
I’ll be reading this for sure. The only smell-based book I read (that I can think of) is The Perfume by Suskind, which is disgusting (but one of my favorite books of all time, give it a go if you can), so I’m looking forward to reading this.
And minimal angst in a romance story is definitely a plus! 🙂 Thanks for the review, Nicole.
I’ll have to check that one out—I’ve never heard of it!
I’m really looking forward to this one, so I’m glad you liked it! I read both of Stacey Lee’s other books this year, and I really liked them both.
I haven’t read anything else by Lee, but I definitely plan to now.
Last year I absolutely adored Lee’s novel Outrun the Moon, so I am very much anticipating this novel. Her descriptions were wonderful in the previous book, so I’m not surprised they are unique and beautiful again here! It sounds like a lovely novel – and I like the cross between magical realism and contemporary. Can’t wait to read it!
I really wanted to read Outrun the Moon, but I never got to it. Definitely need to make that a priority now.