A Quaint Yet Delightful Story About Family & Love Potions: The Secret of A Heart Note by Stacey Lee

A Quaint Yet Delightful Story About Family & Love Potions: The Secret of A Heart Note by Stacey LeeThe Secret of a Heart Note
by Stacey Lee
Release Date: December 27th 2016
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance, YA
Format: eARC
Pages: 384
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Source: ARC received for review purposes

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.

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Stacey Lee has fast become one of my favorite YA authors. She pens stories that are real, raw and hopeful, the kind of stories that anyone can relate to no matter what cultural background they come from. Every time I pick up a book by her, I know I’m in for a treat. The Secret of A Heart Note is a veering from her past historical novels, but it was just as beautiful of a story as Under A Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon were.

Like with Lee’s other stories, there are prevalent themes throughout The Secret of a Heart Note, one of them being family, as you can tell from the title of this post. She excels at developing relationships and at showing all the nuances and complexities there are to relationships. Here, we are privy to the complicated, yet heartfelt relationship between a mother and a daughter. Mim and her mother come from a long line of aromateurs – they can smell heart notes and figure out people’s personalities and make love potions for them. With that kind of family legacy, comes a lot of expectations. This story is about Mim’s struggles with these expectations. While she enjoys creating these potions, part of her desires a normal teenage experience and she battles with that throughout the story. Family expectations can be rough on teenagers and I loved how deeply Stacey Lee explored that here. There were tense moments between Mim and her mother, but there were also those scenes that portrayed the pure love and respect they had for each other. It was a complicated and messy relationship, but it was inherently very authentic.

Mim, herself as a protagonist, was more on the quiet side, her abilities not really allowing her to find her place in life. After a drastic mistake on her part, she goes on an incredibly journey, discovering her true self along the way. I loved her growth throughout The Secret of a Heart Note. She also finds love on her path, with a sweet-hearted boy who challenges her all the way. The romance, while very very subtle, was heartwarming. I would have liked to know Court a little better, but this was Mim’s story and I didn’t really mind that. The love story, while a crucial part of the story, wasn’t the main focus. I have never quite read a story like The Secret of a Heart Note. It was very quirky with all the elixir-making, and surprisingly, those were my favorite scenes of the book. I loved all the descriptions of the scents, the process of making the elixirs and the effect of using these potions. There was something very magical about the whole thing.

With the amount of books I’m lucky enough to read in a year, I don’t remember every story that I’ve read, but I can wholeheartedly say that The Secret of a Heart Note is going to be that exceptional book that I will remember for a long time. If you’re looking for a special YA story, then this magical realism book might be right up your alley.

Have you read anything by Stacey Lee? What are some of your favorite books that explore family?
Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Well, this sounds perfect! I was about to one-click-buy it when I saw I’ll have to wait for December. I’ve recently read a couple of magical realism novels and I liked them so much!

    I like what you wrote about Mim’s relationship with her mother – it’s always good to read about family dynamics if they are done well.

    I’ll be keeping my eye on this one!

    • I thought the book was already published, so I’m sorry! I really don’t like posting reviews too early because if someone reads my review and they decide they want to pick up the book, they aren’t able to!

      But I hope you’ll enjoy it when it releases! I think you’ll really enjoy the mother-daughter dynamic!

  • I haven’t read her other books but this totally caught my eye with the magical realism and elixirs. So glad to see you loved it! Great review!

    • This is right up your alley! 🙂

  • I haven’t read anything by Stacy Lee but I’ve been eyeing her books. and now a new one is here and I really love the sound of it (especially the inclusion of family!!). Great review 🙂

    • Her books are fantastic! So I urge you to pick them up! 🙂

  • This book sounds absolutely amazing Nick, and I’m glad you loved it. Mim’s developing relationships with her family and love interest sounds awesome and like you, I’m fast becoming a fan of Stacey Lee’s books. The magical realism with the love potions also seems like a fantastic addition that I can’t wait to read about. Awesome review!

    – Aila @ Happy Indulgence

    • It was really lovely, Aila, and no doubt it’s a book you will really enjoy! 🙂 Thank you!

  • This is the first time I hear
    about this book. Despite raving reviews from my friends I haven’t picked up Stacey
    Lee’s previous books, mostly because I’m not a fan of historical fiction. This
    sounds so wonderful! I love books with focus on family and character growth. Great
    review, Nick! I added this book.

    • You know, Ksenia, I say give her historical fiction a try. Even though they are set in the past, they read like contemporary books.

      • If you say so, I’ll definitely do it.

  • Rummanah

    Sounds like a great read. There are not too many YA novels that I can think of that showcase a mother and daughter relationship. I will have to pick this one up when it comes out. Great review!

    • I agree! It’s done really well here too because it’s so nuanced. Thank you!

  • I see that I need to really look into this author because I think you just about convinced me I NEED to read this one. Lovely review. I like that it is the type of book anyone can relate with.

    • Yay! Happy to hear that! 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy when you do!

  • Morgan @ Gone with the Words

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! It sounds wonderful and I’ve put it on my holiday wishlist. I haven’t read any Stacey Lee books yet but I clearly need to!

    • Morgan, you really should pick up her historical fiction stories. I have a feeling you will really like them. 🙂

  • I’ve never heard of this author (but I also don’t read much contemporary)! I may have to put her on the list for the rare moment I’m in a contemporary kind of mood. This does sound really interesting. Great review 😀

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    • WHAAAAT?
      Tracy, I think you would love her historical fiction novels!

  • I can’t say I have, to be honest. But I just read a book by Taylor Jenkins Reid that I thought perfectly captures and ebb and flow of a family relationship. I have to look into this one.

    Thanks for the lovely review, Nick!

    • Ooh yes, TJR does family well!

  • Magical realism! One of my favourites genres. I’m taking a class on YA Materials right now and I’m presenting a seminar on YA historical fiction — Stacey Lee is featured heavily, haha. 😉

    My favourite book that explores family this year is without a doubt Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. It’s about this family of Latina women living in Brooklyn…with magic! Who wouldn’t want to read that, right?

    • Oh her historical fiction is fantastic, and totally deserves to be in your presentation! But hey what a fun class! I wish I had been able to take a class about YA.
      I have Labyrinth Lost from the library and I can’t wait to read it! I love the sound of the family!

  • I do like magical realism, it is just well magical 😉

    • True true! 🙂

  • Wonderful review, Nick! I’m seeing a lot of reviews mention magical realism so I’m mighty curious about trying it and seeing if I’d enjoy it myself. I’m thinking yes. I just need to stop being a chicken and get a book read. I’ll try this one out for sure.

    • Thank you, Rowena. It’s an interesting genre, because it’s so weird. This one is a good one to read. 🙂

  • I haven’t read any books by Stacy Lee yet *hangs head in shame* Although I have one of them on my kindle. I’m intrigued by the idea of magical realism so hopefully will get to her one of her books before the end of the year 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Her books are fantastic. I hope you like them when you get around to picking it up! 🙂

  • Aromateurs – wow! What a concept. I have not read anything by Stacey Lee, but I’ve seen some buzz around this book. It sounds wonderful, especially with it being a book of magical realism. There are not many YA books with *good* magical realism!

    Great review, Nick! =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • I agree! I don’t normally read a lot a of YA magical realism, but this was fantastic.

  • Jazmen

    I have this one to read, so I’m glad to see this one went over so well. Nice review!

    • Can’t wait to see what you think of it!

  • This one hasn’t really been on my radar, weirdly enough. But I’ll keep an eye out for it! It sounds lovely.

    • Definitely do that. It’s a really great book!

  • Angel @Angel Reads

    I don’t think I have read anything by Stacy yet – but I think I need to change that. This sounds fantastic! I cannot wait. Thank you for the review.

    • You must, Angel. I see you really enjoying her books.

  • This one sounds like such a beautiful and subtle book, and I love the sound of the elixir making! It kind of reminds me of the Potion Diaries but in a different way. I have to pick up Outrun the Moon from the library now. Lovvely review Nick!

    • It was lovely Jeann. I read The Potion Diaries. That one was a fantasy, but this one is more of a contemporary setting. And definitely pick up Outrun the Moon!

  • Aw yay, I am so glad you liked it! I liked it too, though not as much as Outrun the Moon- but still, a solid book! I still need to read Under a Painted Sky SO badly, I pre-ordered it YEARS AGO. It’s bad haha. Definitely a cute and heartwarming book for sure! Great review 🙂

    • Shannon, read Under a Painted Sky ASAP. It’s fantastic! If you loved Outrun, no doubt you will LOVE IT!

  • Eva

    I haven’t read anything by her! What should I start with? Do you have a favorite? Great review Nick!

    • I recommend any of her books, but I really really loved Under a Painted Sky, so go for that one. 🙂
      Thank you!