Ooh, What’s That Wonderful Smell?: The Secret of a Heart Note

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Hi my pandas! It’s been a long week, hasn’t it? Well, let’s try to end it on a good note. (Was that pun intended? You will never know.) Today I’m going to be reviewing my third Stacey Lee book for the #AsianLitBingo readathon. The Secret of a Heart Note was my choice for the Multiracial Multiethnic Asian MC square, and I’m pleased to say it was yet another delightful read!

I’m giving The Secret of a Heart Note 9 out of 10 stars!

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I’m actually supposed to be writing a history research paper right now (shhhh!), so Goodreads it is. 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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The Secret of a Heart Note had a very intriguing premise, and I’m so happy with what Stacey Lee did with it. The concept of aromateurs as well as each person having their “heart note” of scents, and each emotion having a specific scent, was super interesting to read about. Mim, the main character, had a very grounded personality, and that really helped to make the whole idea of modern day love potions much more real. She was so persistent and willing to go for what she wants, and I really admired that about her. Her relationship with her mother was very complex, and I enjoyed seeing a mother-daughter dynamic so fully explored in a YA novel. Mim’s relationship with Court was also super complicated given the rules Mim has to follow as an aromateur, and it was such an adorable slow-burn romance! Finally, I really enjoyed reading about Kali and Mim’s friendship, although I do wish we had seen a bit more of Kali. The pair are not as close as some other YA friendships might be, but they are still willing to do a lot for each other.

Stacey Lee’s writing is gorgeous and phenomenal as usually. It should therefore come as no surprise that this book is a very sensory book. The imagery is really vibrant in a lot of places, especially in the greenhouses and gardens. The Secret of a Heart Note goes a step even further and includes lots and lots of scents. Now, something to know about me: I don’t really have a great sense of smell, and I always have a really hard time identifying what smells actually are. That being said, while it was a little bit harder for me to visualize the smells (that seems wrong but I’m rolling with it because I can’t come up with a better phrase), Stacey Lee does such a good job with her scent descriptions that I was still able to sketch out a much better idea of the smells than I might have in a different book. She uses very relatable fragrances like fruit rather than more obscure scents (like those ones I see on candles: what exactly does satin smell like? The world will never know.)

All in all, I recommend this book especially to contemporary lovers looking for an adorable and fun read as well as for those strange people obsessed with candles and perfume.

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